Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My wife is five months pregnant. This is our first baby, and we are very excited. As of late, my wife is having mood swings that I do not understand: She is smiling and happy and the world is a peaceful place one minute, and in the next breath she begins to cry for no reason. I do not know how much longer I can take her mood swings. They are driving me crazy. What should I do? -- Having a Baby, Memphis, Tenn.

DEAR HAVING A BABY: The wonder of pregnancy affects both the pregnant mom and the father of the child. It is natural that your wife is going through mood swings. Her body is changing rapidly, and her hormones are responding to the pregnancy, causing all manner of shifting in her body and being.

Some women go through these changes dramatically in the first trimester; others experience them through the entire pregnancy. Either way, it is important to understand that your wife is not taking anything out on you intentionally. To the extent that you can remain calm and supportive, the better off everybody is.

To protect yourself, you may want to institute personal timeouts when things get volatile. You can also be extra supportive. Help her with a task that may seem like a burden to her. Show her that you love her in small ways that allow her to notice your help without having it seem like you are meddling.

For more ideas (many of them fun) go to:

DEAR HARRIETTE: I loved your response to the man feeling out of place with his wife's powerful co-workers: Start up a discussion with other spouses. I also had a few suggestions to help him feel more comfortable with himself. He could try taking an etiquette course to reduce the chance of embarrassment at fancy functions, as well as taking up some hobbies of his own that others will likely also have an interest in, such as golf, tennis, sailing or even joining a book discussion group. With a little more knowledge, he may gain a great deal more confidence! -- Nicole, U.S. Virgin Islands

DEAR NICOLE: As one who teaches etiquette, I am a huge fan of people brushing up on their etiquette skills. You are right. Knowing which fork to use, what to wear to a formal and what the various codes of conduct are for different situations can be enormously helpful in getting someone to relax in an uncomfortable situation.

Your ideas about hobbies are great. In general, when you have a passion that you are pursuing, you automatically have a topic to discuss. When your heart is in it, you come alive when introducing the subject to others. This is a fantastic idea on many levels, including the fact that it gives the spouse a chance to find independent fulfillment that he can, in turn, share.