Most recently in the news are allegations that actor Morgan Freeman, who is over seventy years-old, is in love with his step-granddaughter E'Dena Hines, who is still in her twenties. Rumors and allegations include talk of marriage and a baby. 

If this situation sounds familiar, you are right. It is similar to actor/director Woody Allen's marriage and subsequent fatherhood with his stepdaughter Soon-Yi Previn, who is also decades younger than her stepfather.

Forget the age difference for the moment, if you can. And let's not focus on whether or not, in Mr. Freeman's case, the story is true.  It may not be.  But rather than being content with your wrinkling up your nose and rolling your eyes at these exploits of the rich and famous-there is that "Eeuuw-factor" for sure, I'd rather talk about what 's really wrong with these relationships and how families often unknowingly take small steps that cross boundaries.

First, let's look at the issues behind our disgust so we can better understand our reactions.  Here are some of the key factors.

1. Families need rules and boundaries. Family membership is fluid and changeable. Children are born or adopted.  Cousins or grandchildren may leave one family to live with relatives of another. People move away, get married, divorced and remarried.  lended or single- parent families form.

Regardless of the reasons for gaining or losing family members, we have kinship words for each new member: son, stepdaughter, step-grandparent, and so on. These words are more than titles-they are concepts that carry rules and expectations of conduct.  We don't measure in our mind the number of times that step-grandpa spent with his step-granddaughter. We don't wonder or worry about it-or at least we shouldn't have to.

And it doesn't matter whether someone acted like a real grandpa, step-grandpa or step-parent because these family titles usually presume a degree of safety, respect and adherence to the overall family boundaries between generations or siblings.

When relatives cross these lines, they put the family in jeopardy of falling apart. These transgressions make us anxious.  We usually express this anxiety as outrage and disgust.

2. Family authority figures should demonstrate maturity. Caregivers, like it or not, need to be role models. Their mission includes maintaining boundaries and curbing excesses in behavior. Happy and healthy families assume that there is someone of respect at the helm who recognizes problems and develops solutions. In other words, we expect parents and grandparents to be examples and standard-bearers.

3.  Secrets, affairs, abuse and broken boundaries erode family health. Families thrive in an environment of kind instruction, consistency and openness. Some of the most corrosive family behaviors are secrecy and ruptures in the boundaries. People feel frightened, distrustful and disrespected. 

Probably at this point, you are thinking: What does this have to do with me and my family? Step-grandpa is not sneaking around my house with his step-granddaughter.

But not so fast. The guide below shows how these aspects of healthy families may help you. It's too easy-even in the best of families-to take wrong steps and end up crossing boundaries in ways that are both similar and different from Woody Allen and allegedly Morgan Freeman.

Parents should not strive to be the "best friend" of their sons and daughters.  It's great to do fun things with your children and develop personalized rituals and memories. But don't live through your kids and don't recruit your child to forge a relationship that is more gratifying than the one you have with your partner. Keep the parent-child boundary. 

Keep your intimate relationship alive and well. Happy couples have a much better chance of raising happy and responsible children. Establish "couple time."   

Don't air your marital and partner problems in front of the children. Kids grow best where arguments are not intense or violent.  In fact, it is probably wisest to keep your disagreements private. Even teenagers and young adults cannot handle or understand all your issues.

Get proactive if you have problems. If you are unhappy in your relationship, talk it out. Be calm and warm, stay focused on fixing it, refrain from blaming or ignoring, and get professional help as soon as your attempts don't work. Doing more of the same is never a good strategy.

Don't take what seems like the easy way out.  Having affairs, abusing substances, relying on pornography, keeping secrets, living at the office or over-bonding with another family member will keep the peace-but only for a while. These efforts are stop-gap measures that eat away at your self-respect and your family's well-being.

So, the next time you read another fantastic story about a famous person, don't fool yourself into thinking that it has nothing to do with you!