Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Displaced Cousin Crowds College Student

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a 21-year old college student. Recently, my cousin (also 21) moved in with my parents and me because her mom is verbally and mentally abusive. Lately, I’m having issues with her being here. She is in my room, leaving me no time for myself. Often, she ends up napping in my bed instead of hers, leaving drool on my sheets. When she comes home from school, she drops all of her things in my room. My parents have cleared out a room for her, yet most of her stuff is in my room.

She pretty much lives in my room. She’s always getting ready in my room instead of hers and talks on the phone with her boyfriend while I’m studying. She’s constantly complaining about school, her boyfriend -- everything. If I get invited somewhere, she tries to tag along. I don’t know what to do. I need time for myself. I can’t bring these issues up to her because she’s extremely sensitive and will see it as an attack. I don’t know how much longer I can take it because she is stuck here until May. Please Help. -- Leave Me Alone, Austin

DEAR LEAVE ME ALONE: Being clear is your only solution. You must set boundaries with your cousin, even if it hurts her feelings at first. Sit her down and tell her that the only way it is going to work for her to live with you is if she follows house rules. That includes giving you space, living in the room that your family has designated for her and building her own life. She cannot go everywhere with you or inhabit your room. If she cannot abide by those basic rules, she can’t stay with you.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Etiquette & Ethics | Abuse