Can Married Couples Have Opposite Sex Friends?

Some friends and I were having a casual discussion the other day and one proposed the question, “Can married individuals maintain opposite sex friendships?” Of course we had some difference of opinions in defining this so called friendship. I personally believe that married couples can be friends with individuals of the opposite sex without them being a both married individual’s friends. For example, let say you have a childhood friend of the opposite sex who is single and you are married but your spouse is aware and okay with the nature of this relationship, then I say yes, it is absolutely okay. However, if for some unforeseen reason your spouse begins to have difficulties accepting this relationship then you and your spouse should decide how to proceed. After this conversation I began surfing the web and I found the following article regarding married couples and opposite sex friendships. The article was written by Athena Staik PH.D. titled 12 Warning Signs That It’s Emotional Infidelity-And ‘Not Just Friendship’.

A new sort of infidelity has been on the rise for decades, and it’s one of the biggest threats to marriage: ‘emotional affairs.’ Today’s workplace has become the new danger zone of opportunities for ‘emotional affairs,’ surpassed only by the Internet.

A relationship without sex can be just as intense, or more so than a sexual one. Not surprisingly, in most cases, approximately 80% according to Dr. Shirley Glass, author of Not Just Friends: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity, the dynamics of these platonic liaisons crosses over into sexual love sooner or later.

Why the crisis?                                                                                                                            

To understand the intensity of emotional infidelity, it helps to see the dynamics as an addiction, a form of addictive love. That’s because it’s easier to let go of a toxic pattern when you depersonalize the experience. It’s not about ‘how’ special the person is or makes you feel, it’s about the neurochemicals that get activated when you think and behave a certain way that keeps you stuck in the damaging pattern! It isn’t a coincidence, for example, that persons with alcohol and other addictions are more likely to get into toxic relationships. Seeing the problem as an addiction also gives you access to proven steps to identify and break free of the toxic patterns.

Why addictive?                                                                                                                                                 

An addiction to an activity, person or substance puts a person’s brain and body in an intoxicating trance that, on the one hand, does not allow them to think clearly and make informed choices, and on the other hand, ‘rewards’  them for the toxic behavior with the release of certain chemicals that provide quick-fixes of pleasure in the body. Albeit temporary, there is also pleasure from lowering or numbing pain, shame or guilt, as it provides distance from taking responsibility to resolve the real issues of life and marriage (which risk failure).

In the The Addictive Personality: Understanding the Addictive Process and Compulsive Behavior Craig Nakken provides the following definition for addiction, as: “A pathological love and trust relationship with an object [person] or event … the out-of-control and aimless searching for wholeness, happiness, and peace through a relationship with an object or event.”

There are at least 12 warning signs to alert you to take action to protect yourself and your relationship from ‘emotional infidelity.’

1. Thinking and saying you’re ‘just friends’ with opposite-sex.

If you’ve been thinking or saying, “we’re just friends,” think again. If it’s a member of the opposite sex, you may be swimming in treacherous waters. The very words are dangerous to your marriage. This rationale allows you to make excuses, or more plainly, to tell lies (to yourself and others) about something you know in your gut is wrong. Regardless how strongly TV and entertainment promote the idea of opposite-sex friendships (and this is part of the problem!) as not only ‘okay,’ but also ‘right’ to demand unconditional trust, in most cases, an intimate friendship with a member of the opposite-sex that you find interesting and attractive poses risks.

2. Treating them as a confidant, sharing intimate issues.                                                  

Sharing thoughts and deepest concerns, hopes and fears, passions and problems is what deepens intimacy; it builds an emotional bond between two people, time better used in marriage relationship. Giving this away to another person, regardless of the justification, is infidelity, a betrayal of trust. This is especially true when you consider that emotional intimacy is the most powerful bond in human relationships, much stronger than a sexual one. 

3. Discussing troubling aspects of your marriage and partner.    

Talking or venting to a person of the opposite sex about what your marriage lacks, what your partner lacks, or what you’re not getting to make you happy sends a loud message that you’re available for someone else to ‘love and care’ for your needs. It’s also a breach of trust. And, like gossip, it creates a false sense of shared connection, and an illusion that you, your happiness, your comfort and needs are totally valued by this person (when, in truth, this has not been put to the test!). 

4. Comparing them verbally and mentally to your partner.                                             

Another danger sign is a thinking pattern that increasingly finds what is ‘positive’ and ‘just right’ about the friend and ‘negative’ and ‘unfulfilling’ about the partner.  This builds a case ‘for’ the friend and ‘against’ the partner. Another mental breach of trust, this unfairly builds a physiologically felt case ‘for’ the friend and ‘against’ the partner, forming mental images in the brain that associate pleasurable and painful sensations accordingly. 

5. Obsessively thinking or daydreaming about the person.                                                        

 If you find yourself looking forward to seeing the person, cannot wait to share news, think about what you’re going to tell them when you’re apart, and imagine their excitement, you’re in trouble. This sense of expectation, excitement, anticipation releases dopamine in reward centers of your brain, reinforcing toxic patterns. Obsessively thinking about the person is an obvious signal that something is wrong. After all, you don’t do this with your friends, right?

6. Believing this person ‘gets’ you like no other.                                                                                   

It always appears this way in affairs and romantic encounters at the start. It’s an illusion, and in the case of emotional infidelity, one that is dangerous to a marriage because the sense of mutual ‘understanding’ forms a bond that strengthens and deepens emotional intimacy, with the release of pleasurable neurochemicals, such as the love and safety hormone oxytocin. This focus also puts you in a ‘getting’ frame of mind. It means you are approaching your marriage in terms of what you’re getting or not getting, rather than what you’re contributing.

7. Pulling out of regular activities with your partner, family, work.                                    

Being absorbed with desire to spend more and more time talking, sharing, being with the person, it’s only natural to begin to resent time you spend on responsibilities and activities at home (and work?). As a result, you begin to pull away, turn down, or make excuses for not joining regular activities with your partner and family. Family members notice you are withdrawn, irritable and unhappy.

8. Keeping what you do secret and covering up your trail.                                                     

Secrecy itself is a warning sign. It creates a distinct closeness between two people, and at the same time grows the distance between them and others. Secrets create a special bond, most often an unhealthy one. For example, there may be a false sense of emotional safety and trust with the person, and an unwarranted mistrust and suspicion of the partner, or those who try to interfere with the ‘friendship.’

9. Keeping a growing list of reasons that justify your behaviors.       

This involves an addictive pattern of thinking that focuses your attention on how unhappy you are, why you’re unhappy, and blames your partner and marriage for all aspects of your unhappiness. It builds a dangerous sense of entitlement and forms a pool of resentment from which you feel justified to mistreat your partner or do what you need to increase your happiness without considering the consequences.

10. Fantasizing about a love or sexual relationship with the person.                                      

 At some point, one or both persons begin to fantasize about having a love or sexual relationship with the other. They may begin to have discussions about this, which adds to the intensity, the intrigue and the intoxicating addictive releases of neurochemicals that make the pattern more entrenched.

11. Giving or receiving personal gifts from the person.                                                     

Another flag is when the obsession affects your buying behaviors, so that you begin to think about this person when you are shopping, wondering what they like or would show your appreciation. The gift choices are something intimate items that you would not give ‘just’ a friend. Gifts send clear messages that the two of you are a ‘close we’ set apart from others, and that the relationship is ‘special.’

12. Planning to spend time alone together or letting it happen.               

This is the warning sign that, when not heeded, most often pushes partners to cross the line from a platonic to a sexual relationship. Despite good intentions and promises to one another that they would not let ‘anything’ happen, it’s a set up, a matter of time, when opposite-sex friends flirt with the availability of time alone.

My beliefs, It is only a problem if it makes you or your spouse uncomfortable!!! After all shouldn’t making your significant other happy be a priority?

So what do you think?

                            

                            

                               

                                     

Communication

Communication

In the movie White Men Can’t Jump, the two main characters get into a philosophical discussion about one of the character’s inability to hear certain music even though he really enjoys listening to it.  The argument that is presented is that presented is that just because he is “listening” to the music does not mean he is “hearing” it properly.  The argument is lost on the receptor because in his mind he does not discern any distinguishable difference between hearing and listening because they define the receiving of an auditory message.

I bring that illustration up because I think in one sense the writers of that script were on to something.  However, when it comes to the the way we communicate with each other I believe the above scenario has it backwards.  I think we are really good at hearing things that are said to us, but perhaps listen to what was said and interpret it correctly is where we all fall short.  If we were to define communication I think we would all have a general sense of the process and be able to explain it well.  That is why when I share this upcoming definition of communication you might read it and think to yourself, “Duh… obviously!”

How would you define communication?  Dr. John Trent, president and founder of StrongFamilies.com says it is a process that is best understood and analyzed in its 5 parts:

  1. a message from on person or group
  2. is sent in verbal or written form
  3. to another person or group
  4. who receives the message
  5. and understands its meaning in a certain way

Do you agree or disagree with his analysis?  Was it similar to your definition?  So, what do I want us to do then?  Good question… instead of just reading the definition and saying “Yes, I know that” think of a time where you have had a miscommunication (with your spouse, parents, siblings, friends, boss, co-worker, customer, etc.).  Think about that time and try to locate where in the spectrum of communication there was a breakdown.  If I had to guess, I would say that the miscommunication happened in step 5.  People say things to us all the time.  We hear/receive those messages all the time.  However, the mishaps in communication happen when we understand the sender’s message incorrectly.  I submit to you that this happens when we fail to fully engage and listen to what is being said to us.  I think all too often we, for numerous reasons, just assume that we know what the other person is trying to say, and therefore we do not bother to understand outside of what we want to understand.  And even though we know what happens when we assume… we save time… all the saved time in the world does not mend things that get broken by miscommunication.

We all know how important communication is.  We all know the value of keeping the lines of communication clear and open.  If we know how critical communication is, why then do we treat with such flippancy?  I challenge us all (myself especially) to spend more time listening to what is being said to us, and having the humility to ask for stuff to be clarified when we do not understand what is being communicated.

Less Talk and More Actions!!!

Relationship how to know if he's cheating or not

Last week while surfing the web I came across this article written by Jennifer Deberry Mann, titled Rules For Happy Couples: Less Talk and More Actions!  Mann base most of her findings on books written by Susan Page. According to the article couples need to find new ways to do what they say. Here are some ways listed in the article:

Her key beliefs: that the usual fix-it techniques (like the “Honey, we really need to talk about this” conversation that leaves you both feeling worse than ever) couples resort to are best dumped in favor of compassionate, loving actions that help you both learn how to compromise equally at every stage of a relationship’s progression. We asked Page how combining that kind of compassion and a few loving actions make for better dating — and ultimately, better relationships. Here’s what she told us.

Q. Talking is supposed to be the cornerstone of forming and strengthening a couple’s bond and addressing relationship issues as they arise. How, exactly, does it typically fall short?

A: The proper role of communication in a relationship is to express love, make plans, and share dreams. It’s not the best tool for solving relationship problems because most people don’t know how to use their communication skills very well. And the giant problem here is that there’s usually a hidden agenda: “If you could just do things my way — as in, if you would just change a little of who you are to become who I want you to be instead — this relationship would be better for us both.” Using communication to try and change your date or long-term partner is a fundamentally flawed approach to making any relationship better.

Q. Then how do you achieve the goal of creating a better relationship from the outset (or strengthening the one that you already have)? A. The goal of your relationship isn’t to, say, make sure that your partner plans as many dates as you do or that he or she shows you the “right” amount of affection. The goal is to support each other, to feel good when you’re together, and ultimately just to be happy. Instead of trying to problem-solve your way into a better relationship, shift your focus to your own path of spiritual and emotional growth. Identify and cultivate those thoughts and actions that give you more moments of feeling connected to each other — and move away from any moments of divisiveness. Ask yourself, “What would I do right now if I were going to behave according to my highest core values?” Q. And the answer is to turn to loving action, right? A. Right! In my books, I talk about the eight loving actions that can be generally perceived as expressing good will and maintaining a generosity of spirit toward the other person. Here’s one loving-action exercise to try for one week: practice restraint. Refrain from saying anything negative, critical, or demanding to this person. The first thing you may notice is how often you start to say such a thing, often without intending to or even realizing it. When you’re first dating someone new, you tend to naturally refrain from making negative comments. If that’s the case, congratulate yourself for it and remain aware of it as things progress.

Remembering Our “Fallen Heroes”

FFC image for Remebering our fallen heroes

As being a 13 year veteran of the US Armed Forces, I wanted to take this time to remember our “fallen heroes.”  There are hundreds and thousands of soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors that have sacrificed their lives for this great country that we live in.  Many have fought in wars far and near with dignity, pride, and respect, only to meet their demise.  There are some that we know, some that are not known, and sadly, there are some that are forgotten.  Sometimes it is hard to make sense of the reasoning to send our troops to fight in the many different foreign nations.  However, it is a job! And with this job comes sworn obligation.  Most people who enter into the Armed Forces never give it a thought that they may very well lose their life while serving.  As for me, I never gave it a second thought until I found myself on the battlefield.  It is normally the battle grounds that bring the reality check that there is a possibility of not returning home alive.  So during this season, remember our “fallen heroes.”  Give memory to their legacies, their families and their dedication to our country.  In doing so, we continue to preserve their dignity!!!

When It’s More Than A Problem!!!

 

As parents we sometimes find it difficult to discipline our children but we know that it helps in molding them morally and in being productive citizens. What happens when you have tried several methods and you realize that your child’s defiance is completely out of control. Your child may be suffering from a childhood behavior disorder such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Per the DSM-IV the following are a list of diagnostic criteria for ODD. Keep in mind that four or more of these symptoms have to present for six months or longer:

Diagnostic criteria for 313.81 Oppositional Defiant Disorder

A. A pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least 6 months, during which four (or more) of the following are present:

(1) often loses temper (2) often argues with adults (3) often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ requests or rules (4) often deliberately annoys people (5) often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior (6) is often touchy or easily annoyed by others (7) is often angry and resentful (8) is often spiteful or vindictive Note: Consider a criterion met only if the behavior occurs more frequently than is typically observed in individuals of comparable age and developmental level.

Children with oppositional behavior pose a unique challenge to parents. These parents must learn to view their child from a whole different perspective. In essence, they must learn the motivations and unconscious intentions of their oppositional child. This task can be made even more complicated when there are additional children in the household who are not oppositional. Parents then are faced with the difficulty of understanding the difference between their oppositional child and his/her siblings. According to an article written by Janet Lehman MS here are some ways to assist in dealing with the ODD child.

Here are four things you can do as a parent to effectively manage your child with oppositional Defiant Disorder:

Respond without anger: It’s important to respond to your ODD child without anger—try to be as calm and matter-of-fact as possible. Just acknowledge the behavior, state it as you see it, explain how it will need to change and then remove yourself from all arguments. You really have to pick your battles and decide what’s most important to you—and ultimately to your child.

Be clear and consistent: The nature of oppositional defiant behavior is to wear parents down so that they eventually give in. You need to be strong, clear and consistent in your follow through.

3. Do not take things personally. Do not take your child’s behavior personally. When your ODD child acts out, as hard as it might be, stay as neutral and objective as possible. You need to be clear and concise and not get pulled into a power struggle—it’s really not about you, it’s about your child and what he needs to learn. We as parents sometimes need to be great actors and actresses with our kids. The key is to keep practicing calm, consistent parenting and following through.

Don’t be your child’s friend—be his parent: Remember, being a parent is not a personality contest. There are times when he won’t like you—he may even shout, “I hate you,” or call you foul names. But if you keep setting limits with your child and follow through by giving him consequences and holding him accountable, then ultimately you’re doing the best thing for your child.

Believe me, I know from experience that it’s difficult to manage ODD behavior. It takes work and support from partners, friends, and the school system; it requires all the important adults in a child’s life working together to help change the behavior, but it can be done.

 

Watch Your Mouth

Watch Your MouthOne of my favorite things Jesus ever said was, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). Now, whether you find yourself leaning towards the camp of Christianity or more towards thinking “the Bible… Psssssh” you have to admit that what He said does make a good deal of sense. Seriously, think about it. The premise behind His remark is that our speech is motivated by something internal. Have you ever told someone, “I wish you would think before you speak”? Have you ever been told that? Of course the answer to both is yes, and sometimes we have moments brilliance where we do pause to reflect on what impact our words will have in the moment. However, those times where we just say something or respond instinctually to a given situation with our mouth… that speech is not random… it comes from somewhere.

The question then becomes, “If the words that come out of our mouth have an origin, what then produces them?” The short answer to this question is our character drives our vocal responses. Earlier in that Matthew 12 passage Jesus uses the fruit analogy in that trees produce specific fruit (good tree good fruit, bad tree bad fruit). Basically, if our natural response to situations is to say something negative, bitter, hurtful, or the like I am not going to say in a “matter-of-fact” sort of a way that is who we are, but maybe those tendencies are there in us. On the flip side, if our responses are filled with optimism, hope, encouragement, and the like then perhaps our character has been shaped to reflect such.

The overall challenge of this post is to take some time for internal perspective. Our thoughts and our attitudes are most assuredly reflected in our speech. Are we happy with the way we talk to, about, and around people? All of us could us improvement (especially me), and so what I am not saying is the answer is simply “if you don’t have anything nice to say blah, blah, blah.” What I am saying is that improvement starts with us changing our character, and then our mouth will follow suit.