Q: I always laughed when people shared their animals after a breakup. But here I am, three months after my breakup with my longtime girlfriend, and I miss my dogs.

She kept them because I didn't immediately have a place to stay, but now I do and I'd like to adjust our agreement. She won't hear of it and says, "Suffer! You left, the dogs stay with me." She's holding my dogs for ransom!

What's good ex-etiquette?

A: It sounds as if she's holding your dogs as ransom in hopes you will return. However, manipulation rarely works in the long run. Sooner or later, the other person resents the need to control, and that's additional fuel for another breakup.

First, you have to decide if seeing the animals is worth the stress of seeing your ex. If it is, then you could approach this like a custody agreement and share your dogs. Another possibility is splitting the dogs — one with you, one with her.

If your dogs are old or sick, you have to take a look at what is the most humane way to approach the back-and-forth life. If you don't want to split up the dogs, you may want to consider each keeping them for a month or so — but all this boils down to getting your ex to consider your suggestions.

Negotiation is crucial. Is there a bargaining chip that will help facilitate a discussion? The key is to talk, listen and, as ex-etiquette rule 10 says, "Compromise whenever possible." Don't be afraid to call in a neutral third party. That's good ex-etiquette.