No one hatched from an egg. Even when you’re living single, there’s bound to be issues with family members who go against your grain.

Family Matters

No one hatched from an egg. Even when you’re living single, there’s bound to be issues with family members who “egg” you on. What to do? Ask Marnie.

No one hatched from an egg. Even when you’re living single, there’s bound to be issues with family members who go against your grain.
George Tsartsianidis /123RF Photo

We adore them. We loathe them. We get ticked off at them. We do “guilt-a-whirls” over them. Yet, we need them. Family. Parker Bros (or alternatively Mark Burnett) could make a bundle on “Games Families Play” – and I don’t mean Monopoly. Shall we venture forth together? A helmet wouldn’t hurt.


Dear Marnie: I am 32, single, and recently got laid off. I moved back in with my family a few months ago after living on my own in a different town. I love them but want to get my own place. Right now I’m working part-time and can’t afford a decent one bedroom. In the meantime, I have this feeling that my life is on hold. My folks still treat me like they did when I was 15, and I’m starting to act that way! It’s almost surreal how much I have regressed! What do I do to get rid of this feeling?  P.S. Most of my friends have left this town. —Bagel32

MARNIE SAYS: Years ago, after a similar ill-fated return, I found myself sticking my head in an Easy Bake oven and dialing Shrink Barbie. I was 24.  (Unfortunately, it was August and Shrink Barbie was at her Swiss chalet dealing with her multiple personalities.) Returning to the primal nest after you’ve had your own space is like trying to fit into your third grade ballet costume. Even if you get the silly thing past your knees, you’ll wind up with a hernia. You’ve grown, babe. But the dance between you and the folks hasn’t changed because you don’t know any other. Now, I could bore us both into some “blah” zone by telling you to work on new rules with the folks. But that could take until you’re in “the home” as in Shady Rest. So let’s get practical!  

Getting It!  Your Personal Strategy:

* Decide to get outta there! Give yourself three to six weeks.

* Down- “site!” You don’t need the condo with the indoor waterfall. Consider a studio or double up with another in-betweener until you’re better situated. 

* If you choose the roomie route, place ads, or better yet, ask safe (rich) people to recommend their nieces from out-of-town. Interview and check out everyone who comes with their own furniture and isn’t on a Post Office wall.

* In the meantime, move your sheets into the family room, the attic, the garage, any place where old Mr. Fuzzy Wuzzy Bear isn’t winking at you from the dresser.  Perhaps this small change of venue will give you a new view. 

Then, start getting cartons and stop carping about how you can’t afford it. The way I sees it, you can’t afford not to. Another few months of this “Very Bagel Reunion” and all they’ll find of you, is a few pathetic chips and an empty box of adult-sized Pampers.

So stop clacking your woes, and go sweetheart. You’ve got picking and packing to do.


Dear Marnie: My boyfriend’s father died recently after a long illness. His mother is very private and has never been that interested in socializing. My parents live 300 miles away and are very social. They took it upon themselves to attend the funeral and brought my niece, their four-year-old grandchild with them. (My parents think a funeral is a family reunion.) I was very busy helping my bf and his family and could not visit with them. Was I wrong for not wanting them there? —“Me or Them?”

MARNIE SAYS: My condolences to you and your boyfriend. Tending to his father, then grieving is terribly difficult and exhausting. Take good care of both of you.  That said, as you’ve read my advice you know I rarely do “right” and “wrong,” except in the matter of how to eat an Oreo. However, in your case, the help you seek isn’t a judgement. It’s how to enforce your own.

Getting It! Your Personal Strategy.

* Know what you’re enforcing. Your parents presence (especially with a grandchild) at this particular funeral, given that the grieving family prefers privacy, and your parents were there to “mingle” was a rotten, insensitive idea.

* Talk your walk. If you’d said: “Mom, Dad … thanks for wanting to come, but these are private people. A fruit basket would be so appreciated,” before they journeyed might have solved the problem.  Is it because: a) they won’t listen anyway; b) they’ll be furious; c) you’ll hurt them; d) you’ll feel guilty?

* Your “true stew.” I choose guilt. You live with or near your boyfriend. Three hundred miles isn’t Mars, yet your families rarely get together. My hunch is, it feels to you as though you’re not giving your own family enough attention. And this is why it’s hard for you to level with them.

* Do “enough,” so you can straight-talk. By my reckoning “enough” visits are someplace between making them happy and you crazy. If there are other reason(s) why you couldn’t be honest with them, work them through.

Finally, learn how to talk so people will listen, without anger. It takes a little creativity and reassurance you haven’t abandoned their nest entirely. Listen …  “Mom, Dad, the funeral’s going to be private, but I’d love it if you came in two weeks so we can spend real time together. I hear Seinfeld’s in town. I’ll get tickets!”

And that, sweetie, is how you turn a “No” into a far superior idea.


Dear Marnie: I’m a 46-year-old single man who owns a small but successful business. A few years ago I moved to a great home in the Hills with a pool. Now that winter is coming, there’s an exodus of requests from family members from back East that will keep me hosting guests until spring! Distant cousins seem to think, “Well, he’s unattached, gorgeous home, pool … why don’t we visit?” Some of these people I’ve only met once years before. Look, I don’t mind family. What I can’t stand is the mess, meals, driving, and the like. Tell me Marnie, how do I complain without causing a war? — Not-so-Sonny

MARNIE SAYS: Want to keep your “Sonny Side-Up?”  (OK, pelt me with an omelet pan.) As of this instant, you’re no longer running the Patsy Palms. You’re to think of your home as the Sonny Hilton, and run it like a rabid Conrad.   

Getting It!  Your Personal Strategy:

* Prep: Go to an art supply store and pick up: 1) medium weight colored letter-sized construction paper; 2) a simple yet elegant wood frame.

* In BOLD at top — clack the following:


I love you to visit, but due to high volume …

Here are our rules, So I don’t feel like a fool;

Follow them to the letter, We’ll get along better;

Then after you pack, you’ll be asked back.

* The RULES:

I AM NOT A BUTLER: Room, bathroom to be kept clean. No towels, clothing, food, on floors, in hallways/kitchen/pool area.

I AM NOT A LIMO SERVICE: Unless otherwise specified, guests are expected to provide their own transportation to/from airports, hotels, Disneyworld. If in my car, guests should contribute to gas, tolls and parking.

I AM NOT A CATERER: Unless otherwise invited, guests are expected to contribute reasonably to purchase, preparation, clean up of meals.

I AM NOT LINENS ‘R US: I do count towels.

I AM NOT A LONG-TERM FACILITY: Unless otherwise invited, four days is maximum stay.


I assure you the combination of pith and wit will protect your boundaries with just the popgun force you require.  They’ll hee and haw, but they’ll heed, especially if you hang it in a conspicuous place in the guest room (across from the bed is nice) so they’re forced to see it more often than a Gideon Bible at a Motel 6. Trust me. Do this and they will forge a more reverent path to your chaise lounge.

Copyright © Marnie Macauley / 2015 Singular Communications, LLC

Marnie MacauleyAdvice guru Marnie Winston-Macauley — therapist, author, speaker — has been a radio, TV, and syndicated advice columnist and counselor for over 20 years. Witty, wise and totally irreverent with a self-professed loathing for psychobabble, she’s written over 20 books and calendars, along with  hundreds of relationship columns and features for prominent publications.  She has her MS degree from the Columbia University School of Social Work.  In media, her work has garnered her Emmy and Writer’s Guild Best Writing nominations. She is widowed and now living single. For personal advice, you can also find Marnie Macauley on or on Presto Experts. She invites you to join her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 
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