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I Love My Boyfriend. But Why Does He Live With His Ex-Wife?

My boyfriend (of eight months) and I are deeply in love. He frequently talks of marriage and our future together. We’re in our late 60s, but because of geographic distance we only get to spend a few hours together every week — and never at his house. Why? He lives with his cruel ex-wife who forbids visitors. They divorced 20 years ago but continued sharing a home “for the sake of the kids,” who are now adults. They host their grandchildren now. My boyfriend wants to sell the house and divide the proceeds, but his bitter ex-wife refuses. (He can’t afford to walk away from the asset.) He’s everything I want, but this is becoming painful. What should I do?


I’m sorry for your predicament. But I think it’s time to examine your boyfriend’s story more critically. Despite his affection for fairy-tale motifs, his ex-wife is not a wicked witch holding him hostage in a castle tower. He has stayed with her for 20 years after their divorce — and continues to stay — because he chooses to.

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He may, indeed, be unable to abandon an important asset such as their marital home. But a divorce lawyer could help resolve this issue, either by compelling a sale or negotiating another fair settlement. This would set him free and give you the comfort of forward motion.

Your boyfriend may know this already. Still, give him the benefit of the doubt and share your feelings, as well as a possible solution. My fear is that he has not implemented an exit strategy because he prefers the known (if occasionally unpleasant) quantities of home and family. Unless you see signs of progress or can tolerate the status quo, consider moving on.

I am a recent college graduate. I don’t have much experience with roommates because I lived at home during college. When I met up with my current roommate to talk about sharing his apartment, he told me he occasionally cross-dresses — I guess to make sure I didn’t have a problem with it. I don’t! But I do have a problem with his going through my closet when I’m not at home. Things are definitely not where I leave them. Otherwise, our apartment share is working well. Advice?


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You make an excellent distinction: Supporting your roommate’s interest in cross-dressing is different from giving him access to your closet. Say: “I like living with you, but you have to respect my privacy — and stay out of my closet — if this apartment share is going to work.” Ask him to promise he will. If he breaks his word or if you don’t trust him, look for new digs. Feeling forced to lock up your room (or closet) from an intrusive roommate violates the safety of home.

My husband and I married two years ago. I chose to keep my name, a decision my husband respects. I have no issue if people who don’t know this call me by my husband’s surname. My problem is that my mother-in-law — who does know — still addresses me by my husband’s name every time she sends a card or letter. My husband spoke to her the first time it happened: He told her I kept my name. She seemed fine with it, but she continues to use the wrong name. (She’s also very sensitive.) Should we raise this again or let it go?


I receive this same question (right down to the mother-in-law’s sensitivity) about 20 times a year. I used to wonder about the motives of these mothers-in-law, thinking that might help crack the case. Because a woman’s decision to keep her name has been common for decades.

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Now, I no longer care about motivation. Your name may be an important part of your identity. And your mother-in-law’s sensitivity does not entitle her to misname you. If this bothers you, call and politely remind her to use your legal surname. (To all the women who did not correct their mothers-in-law and who will write to say it’s not worth it: That was your choice — not the only choice.)

I’ve never enjoyed being around dogs. But last year, I discovered I am also allergic to them. (My allergist performed a skin test.) My brother and his girlfriend worship their dog. At home gatherings, they always ask me if they can bring their dog inside “for a little bit.” I’m afraid if I refuse every time, it will create distance between us. What should I do?


You are allergic to dogs! You’re absolutely entitled to ask your brother and his girlfriend to keep their dog outdoors when you see them. You’re also sadly correct that your refusal to allow the dog inside may make them less inclined to visit you.

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But that’s no reason to subject yourself to known allergens. Let them know how sorry you are that your health requires that they keep their pet outdoors — even if you feel no remorse! That may help.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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