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

Readers Get Bed Bugs From Family

DEAR HARRIETTE: How do I address a situation following a visit with some relatives? We enjoyed a wonderful visit, and they were kind to put us up in their guest room. Not long into our stay, I woke up with strange, itchy bites on my legs and shoulders. When I mentioned it to our host, she quickly supplied me with some itch cream and changed the subject.

Once we returned home, we met a few of our relatives, and they mentioned that this particular household was experiencing bedbugs. I was shocked and insulted that they didn’t mention the infestation or warn us ahead of time. We’re now in the process of making sure we didn’t bring any bedbugs home, and we have hired an exterminator as a precaution as well as replaced some furniture. We’re now in a financial bind. What would be the proper way to address this, and should our host feel some responsibility for costs? -- Bedbug Warning, Shreveport, Louisiana

DEAR BEDBUG WARNING: You should call your relatives and address the situation directly. Remind them of the bites you experienced and how they brushed it off. Tell them that you learned from other relatives that they have bedbugs. Express your disappointment and anger that they didn’t tell you. Ask them to reimburse you for the expense you have incurred in order to prevent an infestation at your home.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Etiquette & Ethics | Health & Safety