Dear Carolyn:

I am in a committed relationship with a divorced man who is the father of two young adults, 22 and 24.

My boyfriend was separated six years ago and has been divorced for three. I did not even know him during this time.

Since we started dating, I have been barred from spending any event with my boyfriend where his children would be present. I have met them only once in the three years I’ve dated their father.

My boyfriend claims my presence would be too upsetting to them.

I have told him repeatedly how much it pains me to be systematically excluded, particularly during holidays. He has, in turn, indicated “his needs are subordinate to those of his children,” and even admitted he is “selfish when it comes to not wanting to share his children with anyone,” including me. He said he will not compromise, so I may be asking the obvious question . . . is it time to let go of him?


Apparently. You can blame the systematic exclusion, but I’ll secretly hope it’s because you fear permanent injury by self-inflicted forehead slap. “[Your] presence would be too upsetting”? To two adults?

But his rationale stands as a badge of courage compared with the likelihood that he doesn’t even mean it: Sounds more to me like a fig leaf for his true reason, that he just doesn’t want you there.

Happiness in a relationship is inversely proportional to the number of self-serving pronouncements your partner generates. Please make my day and tell me you pulled the plug moments after hitting “send” on your e-mail to me.

Dear Carolyn:

A friend often makes remarks about how her ex-spouse’s second marriage is probably as miserable as theirs was. (They are not in touch — it was a contentious divorce, at ex-spouse’s instigation.)

She’s wrong, actually — ex-spouse is quite happily remarried. I keep my mouth shut when she makes these statements, thinking she just needs to believe ex-spouse is still unhappy, but I wonder if I should tell her the truth. It might reopen wounds she’s already picked at (feeling completely rejected by ex-spouse), but is the illusion she’s created any better?

Clarifying Reality

Yikes, no, don’t pop her little bubble. It’s not your job to serve as minion of Truth.

It is your job to be her friend, though, and a friend can rightly worry about the source of a friend’s agitation. The fiction itself isn’t the problem; it’s her need to create and hold onto one. (For what it’s worth — even if she were right about the ex’s marriage, it would still be fiction, given that they aren’t in touch.)

That also suggests the wound can’t be reopened because it hasn’t yet closed.

So, when she brings up her ex again, explain — kindly — that you’re asking as a Devil’s advocate: What does she gain if her ex is unhappy?

Listen carefully to her answer: Your point might get through on the first pass. If instead she tries to argue that she does benefit, then she might also reveal why she’s hanging on. A good friend will call that to her attention, along with the fact that watching his marriage keeps her ex-misery fresh. The life she builds for herself is the only one that counts.

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