Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been dating someone for a month, and we have a great connection and communication. He seems to be very comfortable sharing and being vulnerable with me; however, he seems to have sudden mood swings, gets snappy and distant, and withdraws suddenly. I know he's having (un)employment issues and often talks about his difficult upbringing, which he is trying to forget, but I don't know how much of this behavior to deal with before I am putting myself in too much emotional danger. We have talked about it before, but it has happened again. How do you know when to continue being patient and when enough is enough? -- Where to Turn, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR WHERE TO TURN: One month is not long enough to truly know a person. You are still in the early stages of learning about each other. What you have described sounds like depression. There are different types of depression, sometimes caused by circumstances, sometimes based on neurological challenges. If possible, recommend to your boyfriend that he go to the doctor and get a physical. Point out that you have noticed that he has been going through major mood swings and you are concerned about it. Remind him of how much you care about him and that you want him to be healthy. A mental health evaluation could be very helpful.

Encourage him to get that help. If he refuses and continues to be emotionally volatile, you may have to distance yourself from him for a period of time. You need not threaten him. Instead, let him know that you care about him and that you care about yourself. Make it clear that it upsets you when he is so emotionally unpredictable.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My male friend is gay, but I think he is interested in having a relationship with me. I am female. He seems jealous when I mention other guys. What's the best way to initiate a conversation about this without embarrassing him or myself? (Maybe my gaydar is off.) -- Off-Kilter, Jersey City, N.J.

DEAR OFF-KILTER: This would not be the first time that two friends -- heterosexual and homosexual -- could fall for each other. While I am not an expert on this, I have witnessed a number of friends who have found themselves in a space of intimacy that grew out of their genuine love for each other. Unfortunately, the instances that I have witnessed did not turn out well, mainly because it was almost a suspension of reality for them to be intimately engaged for the long haul.

That said, you can't know unless you talk about it. Be brave and ask your friend what's up. Point out that you are getting the sense that he is interested in you romantically. Tell him you thought he was gay. Ask him to define what is happening. Talk about where you both are and what you want for your friendship. Do know, however, that it is unlikely that love, no matter how real, can trump nature.