DEAR ABBY: My ex-husband and I have been divorced for five years. I have sole custody of our 6-year-old son, “Charlie.” My ex lives five hours away with his current wife and her four children. He makes time to see our son only a few times a year.

Anytime he drives down to see Charlie, he always brings someone with him, whether it’s his wife or one of her kids. He has never once come alone to spend quality one-on-one time with his son. I have asked him several times to come by himself so he can bond with Charlie, but he refuses.

Charlie is having foot surgery next month and will be in the hospital overnight. My ex wants to be there, which I agree with. But he insists that his wife be there, too. I understand she’s our son’s stepmother, but she doesn’t play an active role in Charlie’s life, and I don’t think it’s her place to be there. Our son needs his mother and father and immediate family, not the “step” family.

Am I wrong to not want her or any of her family members there? I feel it’s inappropriate and that my ex should do this on his own. And, no, I don’t have any feelings for him, and I do not want him back. I also hold no ill feelings toward his current wife. — STRUGGLING IN THE SOUTH

DEAR STRUGGLING: Your ex, his wife and her kids are a package deal. Accept this and be glad he visits his son. Surgery is no fun and can be intimidating for a child. When it’s time for the procedure, your son may need all the moral support he can get. So take the high road and be warm and welcoming. Your function is to support your boy, not be his gatekeeper. And if history is prologue, I doubt they’ll stick around long.

DEAR ABBY: I recently went skydiving with my beautiful best friend, “Brenda.” At the airport, she overheard the skydiving instructor say he wanted “the pretty one.” He was talking about me.

Brenda took me aside and complained to me that he found me more attractive than her. Abby, usually she’s the one who gets all the second looks from guys. She was really annoyed that I got that kind of attention. This has left me wondering, what kind of best friend is she? I have never competed with her. What should I do? — BESTIE IN KANSAS

DEAR BESTIE: Take a fresh look at your relationship with her. Recognize that although you have never competed with Brenda, she appears to feel competitive with you. If the subject of the incident at the airport comes up again, remind her that although she is usually the one who gets the attention from guys, this was your turn. A true friend would be happy to share some of the spotlight.

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DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend and I are both 34 and have been dating for eight years. I love him, but I’m tired of him being so selfish and self-centered. His free time revolves around hockey games on the ice and on TV, baseball on the field and on TV and football season TV. Basically, his butt is glued to the couch.

Every day when I get home from a 10-hour day at the office, he’s sitting there watching a game on TV, getting ready to watch a game or getting ready to go to a game. I’m lucky if I get a kiss on the cheek and a five-minute “hello” before he’s gone or his eyes are glued to that damned TV.

He complains because he wants me to watch with him or join him. Occasionally I will, but honestly, it’s not my thing, and I have no interest. I do it just for him, but when it comes to something I want him to do with me, he makes a fuss, doesn’t want to participate and makes me feel bad for even asking.

My life consists of spending time alone at the mall every Saturday or Sunday to get out of the house and just get a day of sunlight, or reading a book upstairs in our room. If his weekend games don’t start until the afternoon, he literally sleeps in until an hour before.

I’m tired of him being lazy, inattentive and making no effort in our relationship. We are both adults, no kids. We love our freedom, but I still want to do things sometimes as an actual couple. Our lives are boring, sad and depressing. Please give me some advice on how to change this, or do I change alone and finally move on? — AFTERTHOUGHT IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR AFTERTHOUGHT: You cannot change another person, but there is still time to make some positive changes in your life. I think eight years of this — I hate to call it a relationship — is enough. You have wasted enough time trying to get through to this very limited individual. Find a man you have something in common with to spend your life with. You should have moved out and moved on years ago.

DEAR ABBY: For some strange reason, my sister-in-law “Yvonne” doesn’t want gifts. She has done a lot for us (baby-sits, etc.), and when we try to give her a little gift, she says she doesn’t want anything. She loves growing herbs, so we gave her an herb-growing kit. She refused to accept it and made us return it to the store. It hurt my feelings deeply.

My husband and I have decided to not get her any more gifts. Her birthday was last week, and we didn’t do anything for her. It made me feel terrible. Why would someone not want to receive anything? I feel we are being robbed of the joy of giving. — GENEROUS IN GEORGIA

DEAR GENEROUS: Not knowing Yvonne, I can’t explain her personal reasons for not wanting gifts. I do know that some people are uncomfortable receiving them because they consider it to be an obligation — plus they don’t like to shop, have no use for the item or it is not their taste. Rather than be upset with her for being honest with you, respect her wishes and on her birthday, send her a card.

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Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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