Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Just bought a new house and mom is mad because she doesn’t have a key? Want to marry girlfriend but she isn’t ready?

DEAR NATALIE: I’m currently in the process of building my first house down the street from my parents (the lot was a good deal). Recently, my mom implied that she would like a key so that she and my dad could have access to my house in case of severe weather. We live in the Midwest in tornado country, and the layout and foundation style of my house is sturdier than theirs. When I let her know that I didn’t want anyone to have a key, she got really offended and said, “Fine, then, I guess I’ll just be blown away since no one gives a damn about me, anyway.” Hearing this made me feel awful, but this is my first house, and I feel like if I have to give a key to anyone when I don’t want to, then it defeats the whole purpose of having my own house in the first place. This isn’t the first time that she has used a guilt trip to get her own way, which usually works. I’m currently living with my parents to save up, and she’s used guilt trips against me before. My sister and brother-in-law say that I should not give in to her, but I feel like a horrible daughter for refusing. She’s not the type to snoop, but there have been instances when I’m in my room and she enters without knocking. Am I wrong, or should I stick to my guns and refuse to give her a key? --DAUGHTER IN DILEMMA

DEAR DAUGHTER IN DILEMMA: This is a tricky one because mom guilt is a very real thing. But my question is: Is this really about the key or is this about proving a point? You did choose to buy a lot down the street, so it is only natural that she would inquire about having a spare key. Yet, this is your house and your decision. Part of me thinks you are just so ready to move out having lived with them for a while to save up, that the idea of your mom having access to your new place is making you cringe. Instead, why not just let this simmer for a bit. Wait until you are settled into your new home before you make any decisions. After having some physical distance from them, you may feel differently. In any case, someone you trust should have a spare key for emergencies, whether it is your mom, sister or best case of a twister!

DEAR NATALIE: My girlfriend and I have been dating for about six years now. She is 35, I am 39. We have been talking about marriage for a while, but every time I really broach the subject, she tells me that she just isn’t ready. Well, I am ready, and if we are ever going to start a family, we need to make a decision about what we are doing. The question is: Do I give her an ultimatum? Either we get married or we break up? No, I don’t want to break up, but I feel as though I need to give her a push. What are your thoughts? --MARRY ME ALREADY

DEAR MARRY ME ALREADY: I might get some angry letters, but the next sentence is still true: Starting a family and getting married aren’t one and the same, anymore. You need to find out what she means by “not ready.” Does she mean not ready to start a family? Or not ready for marriage? Are you more traditional in the sense that you need to be married in order to start a family? Perhaps she isn’t. Whatever the issue is, you need to figure out what she actually needs more time for and see if you can live with that. You are both in your mid-to-late 30s, so if you want to get on that baby train, it might be better to board sooner than later, but who knows? Maybe that’s what’s really scaring her and she doesn’t want to talk about it. As far as an ultimatum, I’m not a big fan of those. You don’t want to force someone into a situation they aren’t ready for. She may just resent you later for it. But you also don’t want to resent her down the road, either. Talk it out.  Sounds as though you have a good thing going, so it’s worth fighting for.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Budget doesn’t allow for networking events? There are a lot of free events around communities that you can become a part of to help broaden your social circle. Look on Facebook or other social media platforms for event lists in your community. Put out feelers at the library or other community spots about when networking groups meet, or be bold and start your own!

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email,; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)