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Ask Amy

Girlfriend wants ex-wife to stay in the barn

Q. My boyfriend has a problem — his ex-wife.

He and his family have owned a farm for over a century. During his divorce, he agreed to let his ex-wife have access to the barn so she could continue to care for her animals. That’s OK, I guess. But here is the problem: He got custody of his two teenage daughters.

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His ex-wife stops by the farm every day and feels that because her girls are there, she can come and go in the house as she pleases.

She doesn’t even knock on the door. To top it off, she still has clothes in his closet. We are talking years after the divorce! I say the clothes have to go!

This makes it nearly impossible for me to have a relationship with him at his place.

He says he has asked her to keep her distance, but I say it’s time he take action, as she is just going to use this as another power play to squeeze me out.

I need your help/advice.

A. To review: You are the girlfriend. You’re talking about his house, his barn, his kids, and his ex-wife.

If the children live with him and his ex is on the property every day, then it seems rational that she would come and go freely; after all, that is the setup they have established.

If he wanted things to be different, they would be different. For instance, his ex-wife’s clothes would have been packed in bins and stacked in the barn long ago. Or he would have established and enforced a “knock first” policy regarding her visits to the house.

The decision you need to make is about you. Can you tolerate being a part of this household, just as it is — because this seems to be working for your guy. When it stops working for him, he will take steps to change it.

Q. I’m in high school. We have been friends with “Bill” since freshman year. He used to be funny, kind, and easygoing. He had a great personality until recently, when his mother passed away from cancer.

From that day on, he gradually became ignorant and rude. As the days pass, more and more people have begun to notice his attitude and he is less liked throughout the school.

He claims he acts this way as a result of his mother’s death, and to fill the void he now has.

How can we confront him about his attitude without it being a bad situation and bringing back bad memories?

A. Your friend’s world has been rocked, and he has changed because of it. You can probably imagine that he misses his mother every day. But can you also imagine that his life has been completely altered? For instance, if he has a grieving father and siblings at home, he has lost much more than one parent. All of his relationships have changed.

After a loss like this, it is common for people to act out in socially challenging ways (acting angry or depressed). You can help your friend by not dumping him now that he needs you. It sounds like he is willing to talk about his situation, so encourage him to talk about it.

Be in his corner, even if you don’t always know what to say. If he acts like a jerk, call him on it (that’s what friends do), but don’t give up on him.

Your school’s counselor can be helpful to all of you. I hope you will be a good friend and set up a meeting to talk.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@tribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.
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