Question:

I was looking for a roommate when my boyfriend of two years suggested we move in together. He is a divorced father of two grade-school boys. The boys just stayed their first weekend with us, and afterward he and his ex had a big fight because he never told her we were moving in together. She said she would not allow the boys to spend nights at our place and would take my boyfriend to court.

I did not know until this fight that the custody agreement prohibits my boyfriend from having overnight guests of the opposite sex while he has the kids.

My boyfriend feels she is holding the boys hostage while being unnecessarily dramatic and unreasonable. I'm angry and disappointed in my boyfriend. I don't actually think his ex is being unreasonable: He should have discussed this with her before I moved in.

How do I know if this is a deal-breaker, or if I'm just unwilling to stick through difficult times?

Answer: "Difficult times" are when exterior pressures come to bear on people through no fault of their own - or when their frailties catch up to them despite their best efforts to stay on the high road.

Your boyfriend isn't going through difficult times, he's causing them. He doesn't want the headache of dealing honestly with his ex, so he's dodging his legal, moral, and parental responsibilities.

Worse, now that his character deficit has caught up with him, he's still not taking responsibility, but instead choosing to dump the blame.

Tell him exactly how you perceive his attitude toward his custodial responsibilities, while admitting your lack of vigilance. He'll either own up or pile on - telling you on the spot whether he'll be growing up anytime soon. I hope you've saved some of those empty boxes.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost

.com, or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.