Dear Emuna,

I’m in shock. My wife of two months just told me she wants a divorce. She said it’s not me; she just doesn’t really want to be married. I have begged her to go to counseling but to no avail. I love her and I don’t want to let her go. Also my marriage and my commitment are very important to me. What do you think I should do?

At My Wit’s End

Dear Wit’s End,

You can certainly try to enlist family members, respected teachers and community leaders to try to speak with her and encourage marriage or individual therapy. But it that doesn’t work, I’m sad to say that your options are limited. If she doesn’t want the marriage to succeed, whether her reasons are rational or irrational or even due to a lack of emotional/psychological health, you can’t force her to change or to accept help. It is very unfortunate and your job seems to be to accept the situation with as much calm and lack of bitterness and resentment as you can summon up.

The sobering reality of life is that we can’t change anyone else – not our spouses, not our children, not our parents, not our friends – and we can’t “make” someone else (other than a small child and even then it can be difficult) do something they don’t want to do. The only person we can hope to change is ourselves – and even that requires a lot of work. Since your wife insists that you are not in any way to blame, it seems that acceptance is really the only choice available to you. I’m sorry.

Jealous of Second Child

Dear Emuna,

I have an adorable two- year-old daughter that both my husband and I dote on. She is really the light of our lives. It took us a while to have her and we have lavished her with a lot of attention. Now we are expecting our second child and I’m really worried that she’s going to be jealous and resentful. Is there anything I can do to prevent it?

Growing Family

Dear Growing Family,

While I’m not sure you can eliminate jealousy entirely I do believe that there are two practical things you can do to minimize it. The first begins with you and your attitude. Our children, and especially such young ones, take their cues from us. Did you ever watch a small child fall and then look around to see the reaction? Unless it’s a really hard knock, their crying (or not) is usually based on what they see on the faces of the adults around them. If the adults look upset, they burst into tears. If the adults look calm and happy, the kids brush themselves off and keep playing.

This phenomenon applies here as well. If you expect your daughter to be jealous, if you even “feel badly” for her that she now has to share your attention, she will pick up on that and milk it to the fullest. If, on the other hand, you treat the new arrival very matter-of-factly and without a lot of emotional drama, she will pick up on that as well and respond in kind.

Additionally, most newborns don’t require a lot of attention. Continue to play with her, read with her and give her time – sometimes while simultaneously holding/feeding the baby. Her experiences will therefore stay pretty stable and familiar.

Like most parenting dilemmas, it’s up to us, her parents, to model the appropriate behavior and behave like adults. Don’t let her control the situation; you need to take the initiative.

Let the Baby Cry It Out?

Dear Emuna,

I have a seven month-old baby who still wakes up a few times during the night. I’m exhausted and many of my friends (whose children sleep through the night!) tell me to just let her cry. I can’t bear to listen to her sobs. Am I wrong?

Very Tired Mom

Dear Tired Mom (and who isn’t?),

With many of these parenting questions, I don’t think there is a right or wrong. I think it depends on the mother and what the mother can handle. If it is more painful to you to listen to her cry and you can cope with the fatigue, then take her out of bed and calm her down or give her a bottle or nurse her or lie with her or do whatever it is you do when she cries in the middle of the night. If, on the other hand, the exhaustion has become unbearable and you could cope with the crying for a few nights (maybe with the help of some good ear plugs!) then it is probably okay to let her cry it out. I personally can’t bear the crying, especially when children are too young to express themselves or understand what is happening (I’m letting my prejudice show!) but I really do think it’s a personal decision and that, please God, your daughter will be fine whichever road you choose.