DEAR AMY: I have been divorced since 2010, separated since 2006. I am remarried and have four adult children. My issue is with my family. My ex and I barely tolerate each other. We do not speak except about the children and only via text or email. Even though we are uncomfortable being in each other's company, my sisters and mother continue to invite the ex to family dinners. I have expressed that I do not want him at family dinners. It hurts me to see my ex. He was less than an ideal husband, but my family refuses to believe that. I hid much of his bad behavior from them during the marriage. I can accept that he will be at events for our children and also at holiday dinners. But I do not want to see him every time I go to my family's for a Sunday dinner. My family thinks that I should "suck it up" and "put on my big girl pants" and accept that he is their friend and will continue to be included. They say I am being unreasonable. Am I being unreasonable? Is it normal to have the ex-spouse at all family dinners? My current husband is also very uncomfortable. He and my ex don't speak. I'm not sure how to deal with this.


DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE: When a marriage breaks up, it can be hard on extended family, which form bonds and friendships with an ex. Even so -- it is family members who really need to "put on their big girl pants" in order to realize that family relationships need to adjust when marriages end.

All the same, your family is not respecting your sensitivity and are basically telling you that they have no intention of changing their friendship or social connection with your ex. So now the choice is yours. If you don't want to spend time with your ex (completely understandable), you will also not be spending time with your family.

DEAR AMY: My office hired a new employee two months ago that I'm very attracted to. We have become great friends and enjoy the other's company greatly. I've never been so drawn to someone. I feel like a lovesick kid! I think about him all the time and find reasons to be around him, such as running errands with him or going out to lunch together. The problem is that he has a girlfriend, but I don't know how serious it is because he's never shown me a picture of her or mentioned her name. I've tried to tell myself to get over him and move on, but my affections grow stronger every day. He's everything I've been looking for in a romantic partner and we have such a strong connection. I've kept my attraction for him hidden because I don't want to make him feel awkward, but it's getting harder to do. What should I do?


DEAR HEARTSICK: First, check your employee handbook for guidelines about office relationships. If you are his supervisor, for instance, you should crush your crush and retreat immediately to the friend zone.

If you are not violating any professional rules, then you should gather up the nerve to inquire about his status. You say, "Hey, it's so much fun hanging out with you. Are you available? It would be great to get together outside of work." If he is unavailable or uninterested, he'll tell you. If you've heard he has a girlfriend but he is receptive to you, you can double-check and ask about his relationship status, just to get everything on the table.

DEAR AMY: In your response to "New Stepmom," you stated: "Much of how well this will go depends on your husband." Truer words were never spoken. Writer, please watch your soon-to-be husband very carefully these next few months in how he does/doesn't handle conflict with his kids; in how he does/doesn't discipline; in how he does/doesn't enforce rules. These are signs of what will come in the future. Pay attention. It matters. I have been a stepmother for nine years. It is an incredibly difficult job.


DEAR STEPMOM: Great advice. Thank you.

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