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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I just had surgery, and my boyfriend wants to leave for the weekend with his friend. I feel very hurt. Is it just me?

GENTLE READER: One of the duties of a boyfriend (a girlfriend, too) is to demonstrate a more-than-passing interest in the object of his affections.

Miss Manners uses the word “demonstrate” advisedly. She has no objection to his feelings also being genuine; that is merely outside of the realm of etiquette. But no matter how deep his love, you cannot reasonably be expected to appreciate it while he is away skiing and you are eating applesauce through a straw.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am fed up with my fiance’s parenting skills of his 20-year-old son. This son lives with us in the home we bought together, as do my two children, ages 11 and 14. His son makes over $30,000 a year, does not contribute to one bill in our home, and does not have one chore to do.

I am a clean freak and I keep my home actually spotless, and his son is a complete pig with his room. He has been told a million times not to eat upstairs, as we just replaced the carpet, and he still continues to bring food upstairs.

I know it’s his room, but it is still my house, and he shows no respect as to the rules of the home. He comes and goes as he pleases, and never asks if he can help with anything. He won’t even take his own garbage out, nor does my fiance tell him to. We are even paying for his son’s cable that is in his bedroom.

My fiance is a wonderful man, and I don’t want to jeopardize what we have over this adult kid, who hopefully will be moving out soon. His other children are not speaking to him, and I feel that he does not want to make his son mad by giving him chores or making him pay a bill.

So, before I lose my mind, can you please tell me how I can close my eyes to all of this and live happily in this home with my fiance while his son resides there?

GENTLE READER: Second families face challenges that first families are spared, but one hopes that second family members also have the benefit of having learned something the first time around.

Your stepson’s age is both an asset and a liability: an asset because he will most likely be moving out soon, a liability because his interactions with his father are long ingrained.

Miss Manners can offer two starting points. First, identify some areas in which you are willing to recognize your stepson’s autonomy: perhaps at the door to his bedroom. Second, discuss the situation with your fiance, explaining that, as his son’s primary parent, he may have to be more active than in the past -- while also recognizing the effective limits of your own authority to make change directly.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)