Dear Ann:

I was married for 18 years to a man who cheated on me and left me for another woman. We were divorced five years ago. The divorce was bitter. He now has a new girlfriend, and I am seeing a widower who treats me with great respect and dignity.

During our marriage, my husband and I often went out with my best friend, "Rosie," and her husband. My husband was not particularly close to either of them, but we were a compatible foursome. Since the divorce, my ex-husband has given several parties to which Rosie and her husband have been invited.

Rosie is planning an elegant birthday party for her husband. She has invited me and my boyfriend, along with my ex-husband and his girlfriend. Worse yet, she plans to seat us at the same table. I am dreading this evening, and would like to decline the invitation, but I know it would cost me my friendship with Rosie. She feels that since we both have new companions, everything is okay.

Ann, this is the same friend who commiserated with me when I told her my ex-husband was cheating. She called him a jerk, and gave me advice on how to handle the divorce. Now, he is on her guest list. They see him once or twice a year, but the relationship is not close. Why is she subjecting me to this discomfort? Am I overreacting, or is Rosie insensitive?

-- Unsure in Pennsylvania

Give Rosie a break. She may be a bit of a bumbler, but she means no harm. Go to the party, look smashing, and ask Rosie to please not seat you at the same table with your ex. A good hostess does not create uncomfortable situations for her guests. I am sure she can find a more appropriate spot for you and your boyfriend. When you see your ex, be civil, and let bygones be bygones. Real class is grace under pressure.

Dear Ann:

Are you out of your mind? "Disrespected in N.Y.C." said her father-in-law and his two dogs show up unannounced and uninvited, and stay for months at a time. He demands home-cooked meals every night, and the best you can come up with is to tell her to insist they eat out twice a week?

"Disrespected" should tell her father-in-law it is wonderful to see him, and that she would be glad to call the nearest pet-friendly hotel in his price range and reserve a room for him. If it were me, I would also tell the unsupportive, insensitive clod of a husband that he can get a room right next to Dad.

-- Disgusted in L.A.

Your "solution" to the problem is a lot better than mine, and a great many readers from Maine to Spain wrote to tell me I was out of my tree. Let's call it "work overload," warranting an undesignated number of lashes with the wet noodle.

Dear Ann:

I recently broke up with my boyfriend of four years. During the time we were together, I became close with his family. His mother still calls me several times a week, and his sisters ask me to go shopping with them. I love his family and enjoy their company, but I'm not sure this is appropriate.

My ex-boyfriend is away at college, so he is rarely around. Do I need to "break up" with his family as well? If so, how do I go about it without hurting anyone's feelings? I really care for these people, but I don't want to give my ex-boyfriend the wrong impression. I need some advice.

-- Uncertain in Virginia

If you enjoy your ex-boyfriend's family, it's okay to remain friendly, but keep him totally out of your conversation. And if they have good manners, they will not ask any questions about "what happened."

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