Dear Annie: One of my cousins lives about two hours away. Her parents are deceased, and she is estranged from her siblings. She has been in the hospital several times for mental health care. I believe she is bipolar but don't know that for sure. Because she lives alone now, we invite her to family gatherings for the holidays.
About once a month, I will receive a burst of text messages from her, sometimes 20 or more at a time, telling me about something that is going on in her life. Recently, in one of those bursts, she said she wants to move and might like to rent a room from a relative. I reminded her that she has a comfortable home in a place where she already knows people and that it can be hard to establish a new network of friends and support in a new place. She said she knows all of that but wants to move anyway.
I am worried that she is hinting that she would like to move in with my spouse and me. We have a large, comfortable home with spare bedrooms now that our children are on their own. But we enjoy our home as it is and don't want anyone else living here with us. I know that is selfish, but I just don't see how it could work to have my cousin live with us. If she asks directly if she can move in, I plan to tell her no. Am I wrong? — Caring Cousin
Dear Caring Cousin: There is nothing wrong with enjoying a quiet home with you and your husband. You are very kind to invite your cousin over for the holidays and family gatherings. Setting boundaries with family members is the right thing to do. It is your house, and you have a right to keep it as is.
It sounds like she might be experiencing a manic episode. Sometimes during a manic episode, people can experience risk-taking behaviors, hyperactivity or impulsive decisions. Check-in with her and ask her how she is feeling, how life is going and if she is getting treatment for her mental health. Really listen, too. It has to be difficult for her to be completely estranged from her siblings. Maybe this could be an opportunity for her to seek some real help.
In no way, shape or form are you responsible for her. Be kind and loving to her while protecting your personal space. Everyone will be better off for it in the long run.
Dear Annie: "Daughter of a Narcissist," please write a book! Your letter was the best article I've ever read about narcissism. I am going to repeat the "phrases" until they are etched in my mind. — Wife of a Narcissist
Dear Wife of a Narcissist: I am printing your letter in hopes that "Daughter of a Narcissist" sees it and takes you up on your suggestion. Knowing that there are other people out there who understand exactly what it is like to live with a narcissist could be comforting for others.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]