I love my girlfriend of eight years very much, but I\’m at wits\’ end over her (nonromantic) relationship with her ex-boyfriend, who lives in another state. To her, he\’s a helpless 37-year-old boy who needs constant motherly supervision so he doesn\’t get taken advantage of. They talk on the phone multiple times daily, and she sees every problem he calls about as a catastrophe that MUST be handled immediately (he needs a doctor or a house to rent or to vent about a driver who cut him off). I\’m bothered to no end when she leaves the table during dinner to go talk to him or gets up when we\’re watching a movie, leaving me to pause the DVD for 30 minutes until she returns.

During eight years of this, I\’ve asked her not to talk to him while I\’m around since we have conflicting schedules and limited time together. She\’ll agree, but nothing changes. I do my best not to upset her, but sometimes I let it be known I\’m ticked off, and she flips out, and says she\’ll leave me if I can\’t handle her \”talking to (her) friends.\”

— A Sap

Well, you got the sap part right. It\’s only taken you eight years with this woman to begin to suspect that the actual saying is \”I am my kid\’s mom,\” not \”I am my ex-boyfriend\’s mom.\”

There are times to interrupt a meal with your partner to take a friend\’s call, or even an ex-partner\’s call — like when it\’s coming from the emergency room, the bail bondsman, or the space shuttle: \”Houston, we have a problem …\” \”This is Houston. Say again, please.\” \”Well, this big meanie just refused to pull up in the left turn lane, and I was stuck there for three whole lights!\”

Don\’t mistake this \”Girlfriends Without Borders\” act for some kind of selfless humanitarianism. She might care for him, but her real motivation is probably being too busy with safe, ego-boosting mommylove to risk real attachment in grown-up love with you. Meanwhile, if she takes over for this guy much more, he\’s likely to devolve into a giant amoeba with one big finger for telephone dialing.

But, let\’s give credit where credit is due. You can\’t have \”Girlfriends Without Borders\” without \”Boyfriends Without Boundaries.\” (That would be you, Mr. Poodle.) It sounds like she\’s not the only one with abandonment issues. Why else would you sit there like a big ventriloquist\’s dummy while she regularly dumps you in the middle of dinner or a movie to go off on a phone date with her ex? (And, what is it this time, cancer of the hangnail?)

If you insist on being treated like you matter, there is the danger that she\’ll leave you for good. (That\’s worse than being left daily?) Time to go rent a pair of snap-on testicles. For operating instructions, buy the book \”No More Mr. Nice Guy,\” by Dr. Robert A. Glover. Tell her what you need to be happy, and if she screams and yells and says she\’s leaving, say very calmly, \”That\’s really a shame, I\’ll miss you.\” Let her know that the next time she gets up from the table to take his call, you\’re not waiting around for her, you\’re going out to the bar. And then do it. Grab your cell phone, take a stroll to the corner, and ring in on call waiting: \”Your mashed potatoes are getting cold, and so is your boyfriend.\”

The rest of the story

My 40-year-old girlfriend and I travel to spend most holidays at her sister\’s. We have a good time. Everyone\’s gracious. But, because my girlfriend and I aren\’t married, at bedtime, I\’m sent to the basement. It\’s cold. The air mattress leaks. The sump pump runs noisily. The family cat walks across my face. Last time, I said, \”Forget this, let\’s go to a motel.\” My girlfriend said that would lessen the \”joy\” of the family visit, and that I don\’t understand her family\’s Lutheran ways.

— Basement Bob

You two \”live in sin,\” yet, at 40, you\’re expected to vacation in hypocrisy. Her family knows you\’re having sex, but they\’d rather pretend you\’re not. Your girlfriend knows you\’re uncomfortable cuddling up to the sump pump, but she\’d rather pretend you\’re not. You\’re the only one who\’s having difficulty keeping up the pretense — probably because you\’re the only one whose \”sleep number\” starts out air mattress and ends up cold concrete. Don\’t be all \”let\’s go” to a motel. Tell your girlfriend that a good night\’s sleep is non-negotiable. Either she goes with your work-around, the motel, or she goes visiting alone. Much as you enjoy spending holidays with her family, you have a hard time feeling the \”joy\” when the cat\’s using your face as a treadmill.