Guilty — or Not?

Guilt is a weight that can crush you, whether you deserve it or not. Let’s see what our singles advice guru has to say about dealing with guilt.


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My darling Singularians, there’s one word I say in speeches that will have the entire audience gasp. The word? Guilt. And regardless of your cultural background, it should always be followed by at least one “oy.”

Face it. We feel it, we get it, we give it — some of us hand over our lives to it. Guilt makes us feel quaky at the very thought that we might be or even be seen as disappointing, uncaring, or selfish. On the other hand, guilt can be highly underrated. Just think about the decent, loving, empathetic things we should be doing — but don’t. The issue is to find the balance between listening to humane values, without giving up a lung — or our soul.


Dear Marnie: The problem is my mother. The woman is an expert in giving guilt. She’s needy and controlling (she divorced from husband No. 2 when she was 62). My boyfriend and I are planning a vacation to the Caribbean. When I told mom about it, she suddenly decided to go there “around” the same time! My heart stopped. I told her we wanted to be alone and she swore she’d be gone before we got there. We’re leaving in two days and my brother warned me that mom intends to stay longer, switch to our hotel and surprise us! It will be a nightmare because she’ll stick us with a million plans and my boyfriend can’t stand her. Talking doesn’t work, but the guilt is eating me up and I don’t want to break all ties. —STUCK.

MARNIE SAYS: Stuck? You’ve been bound, gagged and taken hostage by a mulish old beach-jacker in polyester cruise wear. If you frolic in the sand with her you won’t be getting “gritty” with your partner. If you pitch a tantrum or ignore her, you’ve handed her a loaded guilt gun with your name on it. Mom’s stacked the deck so well that no matter how you play it, you lose. So … don’t.

Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:

* First lose the guilts. Shame on her, not you. Second, you could set her wig on fire and you still couldn’t lose her. (Pity.) You’re way too much fun for her.

* Before I get to my real advice, let me disabuse my shocked readers of the notion we can avert this vacation disaster with standard advice, such as, “Call her and again explain. You need to establish bound…” sorry. Fell asleep. Useless universalisms send me into a trance — or the fridge. IT WON’T WORK. Boundaries, shmoundries! This lady could find an underground terrorist bunker in the Sahara desert. “Operation Beach Butt-In” was the whole point of Mama’s nifty surprise.

* Call your brother. Tell him to vault the information he gave you. He’s to zip his lip with mama.

* Change hotels — even destinations. Penalties? Pay them. Champagne for two with mommy in the moonlight is worse.

*Go rest up for your bout with Mom when you get home and then say, “Our first choice of hotel, had a sudden vacancy so we re-booked! …Oh? You were at waiting to yell surprise at the other place?! (TSK) But … I’m sure you still had a great time!”

For your next trip? Make it a secret plan and shout you’re “winging” it.


Dear Marnie: I’m a guy who recently turned 22. I’m attending college and working just under full-time. For the past year I have been paying all my college expenses, with the exception of the current semester which was a Christmas gift from my parents. I live at home, but otherwise take care of my other expenses. I wouldn’t be able to afford rent now if I were to move out. I constantly feel guilty, as though I should be independent and living on my own; but then, I wouldn’t be able to do as much with school. If my parents were to pay for my college, that would help; but I think the reason they don’t is because they think that once you hit 21, you forfeit access to parental support. What do you think? Am I too old to be living at home? Should my parents be obligated to help me pay for school? (I’m not eligible for grant money and I don’t want to get buried in student loans.) —Stuck Student

MARNIE SAYS: Darling, you’re doing the D.A.D.S. — Delayed Adolescence Double Speak. (Don’t get mad. I adores you.) Delayed adolescence is a bigger trend then Reality TV (and way more “real”). “Kids” are staying home, coming home, bringing their offspring home till their 40. (OK, I’m exaggerating — a little.) There are many reasons why this phenomenon has lumbered us with a grab bag of problems. You have several. Let’s sort.

Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:

* D.A.D.S.: “I feel guilty” vs. “Should my parents be obligated?” Boom. Double speak. The adult “you” knows they aren’t obligated to give you room, board, much less a free semester. You feel guilty, which has moved you to some independent action. You’re responsible. The twirl? You don’t want to be that responsible. Get the conflict straight with you first.

* Un-muck. What are you really asking for? More help to do school fulltime? OK.

* Bake a plan. Get inspired! List your ideas and selling points — even the queasy-making ones. Cheaper schools, student loans (within reason). Or how about a personal loan at a small interest rate which you’ll pay back way sooner since you’ll finish school way faster.

* Lay it out with the folks. When you crunch the numbers — figures, timing, move-out savings — your plan may make financial and emotional sense to all.

* Finally, on a personal note, you may want to address that hurt you’re carrying. Your inner voice is crying, “I’m trying and I’m entitled!” Here’s a thought … get a little guilty. You see, your folks are also entitled … to meet their expenses, enjoy a vacation to the Rockies, have enough to take care of emergences after a lifetime of taking care of you (and still doing so). If you can’t muster some gracious guilt, look at it this way: if they spend it all on you now, will you someday have to cover them, when their IRA runs out?

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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