Monday, February 28, 2011

Her Boyfriend and his Ex are Still Business Partners

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: I've been dating a 42 year old guy who's been divorced for three years. He and his ex-wife are both accountants. They formed a business partnership when they were married, but kept it going even after their divorce. She's engaged to be married this summer, and I believe him when he says they have no romantic feelings for each other anymore. But I get tired of hearing him mention her name all the time, and I feel uncomfortable with the idea that he's spending nine or ten hours a day with someone he used to be in love with. Am I being over-sensitive, or is he being insensitive? ("Ellen" from New Jersey)

DEAR ELLEN: Although it's understandable that you feel the way you do, I think you're being over-sensitive. Your boyfriend's relationship with his ex-wife is unusual, but it's not unheard of. There are more people than you might imagine who run businesses with their ex-spouses. Obviously, it takes a lot of maturity and mutual respect for people to put aside their differences for the sake of the business, but some people have those qualities. I think you're far better off having a boyfriend who respects his ex than one who is constantly disparaging her.

Having had business partners myself in the past, I know how rare it is to find one who is hard-working, honest, reliable, and personally compatible. When you have a partner like that, you want to do everything you can to keep him (or her). My guess is that your boyfriend and his ex each bring valuable and complementary talents to the businesss. Whatever differences they may have had as husband and wife don't seem to affect their working relationship.

I'm not saying it's easy for you to keep hearing the ex's name mentioned, but it's normal for someone to talk about the people he works with, especially if he works in a very small office. Unless your boyfriend is commenting on how beautiful his ex-wife is, or something else that would give you legitimate cause for concern, you shouldn't let it bother you. Try to pretend that the partner is someone named "Joe", and you'll probably feel less threatened about the situation.

Good luck, Ellen, and please let me know if this helps.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Privacy in Her Own Home?

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: Two years ago, I married a widower with a 22 year old son ("Adam") who was living at home with his father but graduating from college and about to move to another state for a job. Everything was fine until Adam was laid off three months ago and moved back to the area. He moved into an inexpensive apartment with an old friend of his, but he shows up here almost every day, without notice, to do his laundry, or watch TV, or see what's in the refrigerator. Half the time, his father isn't even home when he comes---he's just looking for a place to hang out. He still has a key to the house, and a couple of times I was in the shower and never even heard him come in (thank God I was dressed, but it still startled me to see him in the kitchen when I thought I was home alone. And, as a retired teacher, I'm home much of the day).

I've talked to my husband about it, but he doesn't think it's any big deal. In fact, I think he likes having Adam back, because he's the baby in the family and the two older ones are married and living a long way off. Is there anything I can do? ("No Privacy")

DEAR "NO PRIVACY": What you have here are two guys---a young one and an older one---who, in different ways, are clueless about how their behavior or attitude is affecting you. You shouldn't have to put up with this.

I know you've talked to your husband already, but maybe you didn't make it 100% clear to him just how much this is bothering you. You can start in a positive way. Tell him that it's understandable that Adam would still think of your home as his home. And say that it's great that he and Adam have a good relationship, and that you, yourself, would like to have a good relationship with Adam, but that it's difficult when he's constantly dropping by without calling.

Stress to your husband that you're not asking him to discipline Adam, but merely to educate him on some basic facts. And one of those facts is that the "house rules" changed (or should have changed) when your husband married you. When you speak with your husband, you should be prepared to suggest specific ways to safeguard your privacy without making Adam feel like an outcast, such as requiring Adam to call first and not to come over unless he's actually spoken to you (a voice or text message isn't enough) and made sure that the timing is good.

I'm optimistic that, once your husband understands your concerns, your problem should be at least minimized, and maybe solved. Good luck, and let me know what happens.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Her Boyfriend Refuses to Get a Divorce

(NOTE: Jim's blog is now devoted to answering relationship questions submitted by readers. Please send any questions you may have to

DEAR JIM: I'm a 66 year-old widow and I've been involved with a man my age for the past three years. About six months ago I moved in with him, despite my concern that he's still legally married. He's been separated from his wife for over ten years. He tells me he hasn't seen her in all that time, and that the only way he even knows she's still alive is that his daughter sometimes gives him an update on what she's doing. He knows I'd like to get married, but he keeps telling me that he doesn't want to upset the applecart, so to speak. He says that if either he or his wife filed for divorce he'd have to pay her alimony, because his income was always a lot bigger than hers. Is that true? Their daughter was already on her own when they separated, and his wife has never asked him for support. I love the man, but I don't want to be taken advantage of. ("Geri")

DEAR GERI: Let me first point out that every state has different statutes concerning alimony and other financial aspects of divorce, so the only way you could find out with certainty if your boyfriend is correct is to consult an experienced divorce lawyer in whatever state would have "jurisdiction" if either your boyfriend or his wife filed for divorce.

Having said that, however, I strongly doubt that a divorce court anywhere would be likely to award his wife alimony. Nowadays, alimony is not automatically awarded in a divorce. Generally, it's limited to situations in which one spouse (usually the wife) has such limited job skills that she couldn't be expected to support herself without it. Your boyfriend's wife has somehow been able to get by for ten years without his financial help. It would be extremely difficult for her to claim at this point that she's entitled to alimony. I suppose that anything can happen in court, but I think your boyfriend is worrying about nothing.

Of course, your boyfriend may not really be worried about alimony, but rather using it as an excuse to avoid getting married again. Based on what you tell me, I can't say for sure if your boyfriend is being straightforward with you on this issue, but one way to find out is to urge him to consult with a divorce lawyer---ideally, with you present at the meeting---to get all the relevant information. If he refuses to meet with a lawyer, or refuses to let you accompany him, he's telling you, in effect, that the alimony excuse is a bogus one. Even apart from the fact that you'd like to get married, it wouldn't be a good sign if the man you're living with isn't telling you the truth about so basic an issue, or isn't bringing you into his major life decisions.

Good luck, Geri, and please let me know what happens.