Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dismaying Story #5: Hot & Cold Buttons

Dear Andrew,

I am expecting my first child in about three more months. I have always been athletic and I've continued to do aerobics and lap swimming during the pregnancy. I joke with my husband sometimes that I feel like a beached whale, but the truth is that I feel good. A few days ago my husband and I were in the pool and he was clowning around. He flipped over on his back underwater, then surfaced near me and blew out of his mouth as if he was a whale. I cracked up, but when I told my girlfriends about it, they all thought he was a jerk. They said they would have been insulted if their husbands did something like that when they were expecting.

Is my husband really a cad or are my girlfriends just overly sensitive?

Signed, Happy Mom-To-Be

Dear Mom-To-Be,

I don't believe your husband is a cad, nor do I think your girlfriends are overly sensitive. Let me explain.

It is possible, I suppose, that your husband was being insensitive in the pool and he just got lucky -- he happened to hit a topic that does not upset you. More likely, though, is that your husband knows you well. He understands the emotional areas in which you are fragile and in which others you feel secure and resilient. He has heard you joke about your increased size and can tell this doesn't bother you. I suspect he pulled his little gag in the pool with great confidence that this would not upset you, and it turns out he was right. In other words, he knows where your hot buttons are and he knows this isn't one of them.

Many women, on the other hand, are exceedingly sensitive about their weight when they are pregnant. This seems quite natural, given all the attention our society pays to the relationship between a woman's weight and how well she fits with our collective image of what makes a person attractive. Mother Nature takes over during pregnancy and adds pound after pound, which must make many women feel out of control and emotionally vulnerable. In that state, they would be crushed by the kind of stunt your husband pulled in the pool. Your girlfriends' reaction is entirely justified and understandable. It doesn't surprise me that it would never occur to them that some women (like yourself, apparently) might be more secure in that situation and would be unfazed by his actions.

In every type of relationship, we should learn about the emotional needs of others and act accordingly. Be gentle when dealing with their "hot button" topics, and realize a subject that is fair game for one person might be a highly sensitive area for another. This is true whether dealing with a boyfriend, your children or your work colleagues.


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  1. I would have blamed the girls as insensitive.

  2. Useless Man points out a strategy that is sure to get results ... they may not be good results, but he will get results!

  3. He sounds endearing to me - it seems sweet that he was miming becoming a whale too.

  4. Anonymous1:03 AM

    Your husband is a very cool dude! He is a keeper!