Dear Carolyn:

My (very serious, live-in) boyfriend had what I consider to be inappropriate, sex-related chats with his most recent ex early in our relationship and again while we were going through a really rough patch a few months ago. He has mentioned once or twice since we moved past the rough patch that he hopes to go visit her at some point in the future (he would spend at least one night on her couch), and that he wants me to be okay with this and trust him.

I don’t see how I’ll ever be okay with this. It hurt me deeply when I found out about these chats and he has barely acknowledged that it was wrong of him in any way, referring to it as “harmless flirting” and claiming they’d never follow through on anything.

Is this something I have to just get over? Do I insist on being introduced to her first? Is this an even more serious breach of trust than I’d been considering it, and should I attempt to make him see that?

The ex hasn’t really left our lives

“Have to get over” according to whom? Your boyfriend? Me? Elvis?

You have all the information you need to make your own decision about your feelings. Will he “follow through” when he visits this ex? Maybe, maybe not; you can’t know. Will he consider your feelings when he decides how to act with this girl?

No. That you know, because that’s the precedent set by his actions. You’ve given your heart to him and he has been careless with it, at least twice, without apology.

So instead of falling into the cool-chick trap (“I won’t be tagged as the jealous, clingy type, even if it kills me” — ensuring that it will, at least metaphorically speaking), explain that if he values visiting the ex above showing regard for your feelings, then you’ll be grateful for his honesty so you can quit pretending you share a meaningful life with him.

Killing an ant with a blowtorch? Confirming every stereotype of the territorial female dog? Nope, sorry, don’t buy it; if he hadn’t crossed any lines with her, then you’d presumably have no problem with his keeping her as a friend. He’d have introduced the two of you by now, in fact, unless she lives a prohibitive distance away.

But he chose to ignore the lines, forcing you to highlight them. If he pins that responsibility on you, too, then that foreshadows a lifetime of his granting himself license to do as he pleases — and the attendant lifetime of second-class status for you.

Dear Carolyn:

My in-laws had a family portrait taken with spouses and grandchildren. Then they wanted a picture with just their nuclear family — again, no problem. But then they wanted another portrait with their nuclear family plus the grandchildren MINUS the spouses. I thought this was incredibly insensitive and hurtful for the message it sent.

Third tier

“Incredibly insensitive” is leaving spouses out of every shot. Taking several shots organized by category — nuclear family, blood family, full extended family, single generation — is a smart way to scratch the varied itches of a big crowd.

Not for nothing: Those who harrumph the most tend to anchor group photos the least.

More from Lifestyle:

Ask Amy: ‘Ticking time bomb’ may explode relationship

Miss Manners: Astonish your guests by drinking the soup

Hints From Heloise: Seasoned salt

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at