Several years ago, while my boyfriend was out of the country, his then wife withdrew half their savings from the bank and moved to another state in secret. They divorced, and we met. Last year, his ex-wife decided to move back to our small city and bought a condo across the street from my boyfriend’s house. She changed her mind, though, and sold it quickly. Last month, she bought another house on the street a bit farther away. (Sigh!) She also initiates contact with my boyfriend. He and I had decided that I was going to move in with him this fall, but should we choose another neighborhood instead?
I get your frustration. But in my experience, a wife fleeing in secret and feeling ambivalent about her return may be grappling with a really bad relationship. There’s no evidence of wrongdoing on either side. The ex was probably entitled to half of their savings, and now she is free to come home. (It’s her neighborhood, too.)
And that is where my interest in the ex-wife ends. The rest of the story is for you and your boyfriend to work out. If you are bothered by his contact with his ex-wife, tell him. He can speak to her about it. If you don’t want to risk seeing her when you are coming and going from his house, tell him that, too.
It’s perfectly reasonable for us to discuss the terms of our partners’ relationships with their exes. Be straightforward about it. If you feel threatened by her proximity, though, examine that feeling: Is it about the ex or your faith in your boyfriend? You are probably going to bump into her occasionally no matter where you live. The trick is making that OK between you and your partner.
Is It the Thought That Counts? Depends Who’s Counting.
My daughter got married last month. My husband and I paid for the wedding; my daughter and son-in-law are not big earners. It was a lovely affair. My sister and her husband came with their two children. They are extremely wealthy — like, flying-on-private-jets-to-expensive-vacation-homes wealthy! (We are not.) I assumed they would give my daughter a generous cash gift to be used as an eventual down payment on a home. Instead, they gave her five place settings from her gift registry that cost $500. I am hurt and angry about their lack of generosity. My mother thinks I should talk to my sister about this so it doesn’t affect our relationship. Your thoughts?
MOTHER OF THE BRIDE
You love your daughter and want the best for her. That’s terrific! But it doesn’t entitle you to commandeer other people’s money. Your assumption that your sister and brother-in-law would write a large check to the bridal couple for a hypothetical real estate purchase seems odd to me (in the absence of discussion).
Where I come from, $500 is not a chintzy wedding gift. And you didn’t say anything about your daughter’s relationship with her aunt and uncle. So I disagree with your mother for now: Don’t talk to your sister about her gift until you have made peace with the fact that it was hers to give.
Severing Ties on Independence Day
My parents hosted a party on the Fourth of July. I invited a close friend of 20 years, and she brought her new boyfriend. He was nice when he showed up, but after a few drinks, he started using vulgar language around my mother (even after I asked him to stop), began a loud argument with the neighbors and harassed people who were walking on the street. The next day, I called my friend and told her I don’t blame her for her boyfriend’s behavior, but since he disrespected our guests and I feel unsafe around him, I never want to see him again. She told me I was overreacting. Am I?
Well, “never” is a very long time. Clearly, the guy behaved terribly. It may have been a one-time disaster, or he may have a chronic problem with alcohol and anger management. It’s your call whether to see him again. (And if you feel unsafe around him, it sounds like an easy decision.)
Still, announcing your position pre-emptively — there was no plan to see him again, right? — sends a hard message to your friend. It may have been more supportive to ask what she made of his bad behavior and take it from there.
Eyes on Your Own Glasses
You may tell me to mind my own business, but my intentions are pure: My sister’s fiancé is a handsome guy, but his glasses are too small. The arms don’t reach the back of his ears. This is an unflattering look. Should I say something to my sister?
Get in line! Many of us would love to tinker with the aesthetic choices of our friends (and strangers). They are none of our business, though, and we may hurt people’s feelings. So unless you are asked for your opinion, limit your input to problems that can be solved on the spot: spinach between teeth, for instance, or skirts hiked inadvertently into underpants.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.