DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my husband and I go to his ex-wife’s home to visit his children, she likes to tell me stories of his supposed infidelities during their marriage.

I don’t know what to say, so I say nothing. We go to her home because she does not want the children to stay with us. The oldest child told her mother that she wanted me for her mother. This upset the mother.

My husband doesn’t want to start trouble, so he does what she wants. How do I handle this?

GENTLE READER: You are handling it by not reacting, but Miss Manners supposes that you want to get her to stop. Then say sympathetically, “Well, then, I’m lucky I got him after he sowed his wild oats.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am 23 years old, just graduated college and have a full-time job at a great company. I have a strong work ethic and worked hard to get here, but I still count myself very lucky, considering today’s economy.

I also have a boyfriend. He is truly a wonderful person with a good heart, and we have a deep emotional connection and an adventurous love.

However, recently during an extensive conversation, he told me the following: “Sometimes I feel like the success of your career will be more important to you than your relationships. ... I’m not saying I want a housewife in 30 years, but I just don’t want my kids’ mother jet-setting around the country, missing out on their lives.”

I was hurt because he brought up my grand ideas, saying that although a lot of them are exciting, with these things he didn’t think I would be able to fit him into my life.

Honestly, at the end of the day, family, love and friends trump all. But I certainly deserve the right to dream and the right for those dreams to come true. Now, when I tell him that, he says he completely understands and wants me to be happy and wants the best for me — but we might need different things.

Do I need to “choose” between being the modern woman or accepting traditionalism? How do I even figure out which it is that I want to be, and if it’s a mix of both, how do I find that balance?

Or, is he right? Do we simply need different things?

You know the drill ... I feel, so often, that we are perfectly in tune; it’s as if we invented love. But being realistic, I wonder — is it worth it?

GENTLE READER: Fortunately, this is an etiquette column, so Miss Manners doesn’t have to weigh your romance, which an outsider cannot do anyway, nor enter into the question of how to balance work and family, for which there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

The etiquette question — and it is an important one, as you are presuming eventual marriage — is whether he will treat you with the respect and trust necessary for a good partnership, and which you are presumably prepared to grant him. Miss Manners suggests continuing to discuss his concerns about those hypothetical children to find out what limits he expects to put on his own dreams for their sake.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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