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Dear Abby: I am in my late 20s and have been with my boyfriend for more than two years. We are serious, having lived together for a year, and we discuss marriage often. We make all our major decisions and purchases together and are generally very happy.

The problem arises when his children from a previous relationship are around (he shares custody with his ex). I am overwhelmed by them. They are very needy and have some minor manner problems. I am uncomfortable with all the attention they demand of me. They literally are always in my space, trying to sit on my lap or show me something, etc. It gets to the point where I just want to get away.

Sometimes they’re OK and we have some fun, but it’s the downtime at home that is annoying. I am ashamed of writing this, but I need some advice because the kids obviously are not going away. Will they grow out of this? It’s making me question if I can remain in the relationship.

– Bothered in Buffalo

Dear Bothered: You need an attitude adjustment. I don’t think you realize what a compliment it is that the children compete for your attention and want to be close to you.

A way to deal with this could be to arrange to have one-on-one time with each child while your boyfriend spends time with the others. It is very important that they spend quality time with their father. If you and he agree that their manners need tweaking, it shouldn’t be too difficult to set a good example, and praise and reward them as they improve. When they grow older, they will develop interests of their own and be less needy.

But for now, it is important you work on being patient, show the children you care about them – and let your boyfriend know when you need a timeout. Everyone does.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Email her at www.dearabby.com.