Q: How can I get my significant other to be fair to my kids at Christmas? He always makes sure his kid gets really nice stuff and then he will get something really expensive for himself, but my kids and me?

For example, last year he got his 10-year-old daughter an iPod Touch that cost $300, but my kids got $50 gift certificates. Then he bought something for his guitar that cost more than $400, and I got nothing. This really bothers me.

A: So often people think we have the magic pill that will make their partner see the big picture, but there is none. You make your life together, starting with having mutual goals for your new bonus family.

That comes from knowing each other, talking about morals and lifestyle, watching how each other handles failure and success, and most of all, being kind and supportive of each other's children.

If he's buying himself presents before he buys you something (forget your kids for a second, he didn't buy you something for Christmas last year?), we see large red flags flapping very loudly at your house.

As much as we hate to say it, we don't think this guy sounds like significant other material, at least not for someone who wants to build a life as a family.

If you have read our column, you know we always say you can't "get" someone to do anything. If it doesn't come from within, your pointing out what he needs to do will fall on deaf ears and probably stir up resentment. You can show him how to be a good bonus parent by demonstration, but you can't "get" him to follow through.

If he acts like this when giving presents, we have to wonder if he is displaying favoritism in other areas while helping to raise your children.

Blatant favoritism can be detrimental to your children's self-esteem and security. It also keeps you constantly running defense in an effort to protect them from being hurt.

Education can help in situations like this, possibly co-parenting classes, although from what you have told us, he may not go. Most classes available center around helping exes parent, but some can be found that aid those combining families.

Unfortunately, that seems to be only half your worry. Even if he starts to understand his position as a bonus parent, he's still buying himself Christmas presents before he thinks of you. You seem to inherently know that a happy life as a bonus family is based on unselfishness.

It doesn't sound like he has the same understanding and that does not make for a well-rounded relationship.

Jann Blackstone-Ford, Ph.D., and her husband's ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com).