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No chance to meet his children

Dear Carolyn: I am in a committed relationship with a divorced man who is the father of two, ages 22 and 24. He 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. He has admitted he is "selfish when it comes to not wanting to share his children with anyone." He said he will not compromise, so I may be asking the obvious question is it time to let go of him?

-- J.

A: 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 email to me.

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Hoping ex is miserable

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, but I wonder if I should tell her the truth.

-- Clarifying Reality

A: 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 on to one.

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.