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home : columns : dear harriette May 13, 2021

3/10/2021 8:00:00 AM
Son's girlfriend needs more boundaries

DEAR HARRIETTE: My son's girlfriend is getting way too comfortable at our house. I like to make everyone feel warm and welcome in my home, but she has definitely crossed the line. She'll come over when he isn't even home from work yet and will watch TV loudly in the living room, help herself to whatever is in the fridge and talk on the phone.

She's a very sweet girl, and I love having her over, but I think that boundaries need to be established at some point. I've asked my son to talk to her about it. While he claims that he will, I know that conversation may never happen because he isn't confrontational. I don't want to create hostility by confronting her myself; my son may never forgive me if I make her upset. How do I approach the situation and still maintain peace? -- Knock First

DEAR KNOCK FIRST: Talk to your son again. Express to him what you want the boundaries to be. Be crystal clear so that he understands what your expectations are. For example, if you do not want her to come over before he gets home from work, make that a rule. Go through your list of pet peeves, and make it clear to your son that they have to be addressed. Ask him if he intends to talk to her. Give him a deadline.

If he misses it, tell him that you will talk to her. There is nothing wrong with you establishing the ground rules in your own house. Even if your son does get upset, he will get over it. You can kindly and clearly set the rules and let her know what they are. Talking on the phone and disrupting the household is certainly an issue. You have every right to ask her to speak more quietly. If she can't do that, she can use her phone outside. Really.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My ex-boyfriend just lost a close friend of his very suddenly. When I heard what happened, I instantly thought to call and check on him. He was very appreciative that I reached out, but that was about two weeks ago, and our communication has not yet ceased. We still talk regularly. I had no intentions of staying in constant contact with him after offering my condolences. We weren't on speaking terms before the tragedy, and I didn't plan on getting back on speaking terms with him. He seems to really need someone right now, so I've been there for him, trying to help with his grief, but I fear that it's gone too far. I don't think we need to speak any more, but I don't want to abandon him at a time when he's really hurting. What should I do? -- Empathetic Ex

DEAR EMPATHETIC EX: You can gently start weaning your ex from your constant engagements. Don't make it abrupt, as he is still very tender. Just begin to be less available. You can also recommend that he go to grief counseling. Since his friend died suddenly, lots of emotions will likely continue to swirl for some time. Getting professional help to work through all that he is experiencing would be beneficial to him.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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