Monthly Archives: August 2014

Aug 25

Just Friends: 5 Red Flags to Help You Steer Clear of an Emotional Affair

By E.J. Smith | Help

ID-100237782_zpsdc3e4a28A few weeks ago, I asked a question on my Facebook page:

Once you’re married—What are your thoughts on having friends of the opposite sex? Yay or Nay?

Much to my delight, the responses came rolling in—each with equally unique perspectives and degrees of passion.

One contributor offered a simple “Absolutely not. Completely inappropriate”.

Other’s created some wiggle room by way of caveats for prior existing friendships (“He’s like a brother to me!”), or evolutions of friendships (aka: Jack and Jill may have started off as friends, but then Jack married Jane, and Jill married John. Now all four of them are friends and hang out together, but not 1 on 1 across the genders).

Nature vs. Nurture

At the time, I questioned whether my readers, followers and friends (really, I feel like I surveyed just about EVERYONE) felt that males and females were just biologically hardwired for romance, or if it was the way people were raised to socialize with the opposite sex influenced their thoughts and feelings.

For example, young men and women whose only interaction with each other past puberty was in a romantic setting (i.e. dating, dances) might feel differently than those who experienced more casual platonic interactions, such as working on projects together for class or co-chairing committees.

As always, the responses I received were a lively mixed bag.

Facebook Folly or Social Psychology? 

Some folks might be tempted to shrug this discussion off as social media fueled fluff, but believe or not, cross-gender friendship is actually something that has been revisited over and over again by social scientists. Just the other day, I read an article on Psychology Today that extolled men and women, could in fact be friends and outlined four different types of heterosexual attraction.

And a few years back a study was conducted (you can read it here if you like that sort of thing) that looked at the perceived benefits and costs of cross-gender friendship. Turns out that men and women shared many of the same thoughts for why having a friend of the opposite sex was a good and useful thing! It’s probably worth noting here that none of these participants were categorized as being married.

But don’t worry—for every study that argues for the legitimacy of platonic friendships, there are just as many offer the other side of the debate as well.

Apparently in this instance, social science is no less confused than the rest of us.

So what does this have to do with YOUR marriage?

5 MAJOR Red Flags that You’re Crossing the Line from Platonic Friendship to Emotional Affair

1) You Change Your Appearance.

Our friends are the people who are supposed to enjoy our company regardless of a good or bad hair day, right? But when we’re invested in attracting someone to us in a not-so-platonic way, a common change we make is to our appearance. And please don’t think this is only for females. Women may tend to do it with clothing, and men seem to do it through physical transformations. If you’re trying to look more attractive for your spouse and coworkers/friends happen to notice, that’s one thing. But if you’re trying to catch some side-eye across the cubicle—look out!

2) Electronic Communication Habits Change.

My Facebook followers and friends are so brilliant. Nearly everyone mentioned the issue of electronic communication as a good measuring stick for whether or not a friendship was problematic. Simply stated: If you wouldn’t want your spouse reading your texts or messages between a person and yourself—that’s probably not a great sign.

One time a coworker (male) asked my husband if I knew the password to his phone. When my husband answered that I did, the man asked, “Why would you do that?!” Greg’s response? Because I’m not trying to keep her out of my phone, I’m trying to keep you out of it. (Sometimes he really makes me proud!)

3) You’re Comparing Them to Your Spouse…

Ideally, your spouse and your friends shouldn’t even be on the same level for comparison. That being said, some people seem to view the world through the lens of compare and contrast. The problems only really seem to emerge when the comparisons start, and your spouse starts coming up short.

He’s so much more fun than…

She listens to me more, and understands me better than…

I’d much rather spend time with…

If you find yourself thinking these types of thoughts—resist the temptation to allow yourself to be carried away by the fantasy of someone who is exponentially more fun, more understanding and better to be with. Instead, talk to your spouse about what you’re missing and how to infuse more of those things into your lives.

4) You’re Lying… Yes, Even White Lies

It’s fairly obvious why lying to your spouse is a bad idea. However, I always find it equally interesting and frustrating to hear about the messy calculus people try to contrive to make lies seem like something other than what they are.

For example, “I had to work late…” when in reality, you chose to work late because working late meant you could see a certain person.

Or “The team grabbed some food after the game…” when really, only 2 of you went out get something to eat after the game.

If it were as innocent as you claim, you wouldn’t have to lie about it, would you?

5) You Light Up Like a Christmas Tree When They’re Around (and you shut down just as quickly when they’re not).

I’m not sure this one requires a whole lot of explanation beyond the obvious. When the state of your emotions is directly tied to any person, it’s probably not healthiest of habits. However, it’s easy to understand why when your spouse is having a rough day, your emotions might dampen as well.

But when that person isn’t your spouse?

Or if your entire mood for the day is based on whether or not you’ve seen, spoken with or texted this “friend”?

Watch out! That’s a sign of some serious emotional investment.

Your Turn!

I want to know what you think! Can men and women just be friends? Are there any other red flags that you would add to the list?



Aug 18

Wives: Why Being a Little Selfish Will Lead to Better Orgasms

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

It seems a bit counterintuitive.

a wife's orgasm

This idea of being selfish in bed.  It even — dare I say — seems to fly in the face of that beloved Christian platitude of being self-sacrificial in marriage.

But ladies I gotta tell you — if you aren’t experiencing and enjoying orgasm in your marriage bed, then your marriage bed (and your marriage) is likely suffering.

Big time.

(For you husbands reading this, pay close attention.  I have gems in here for you too.  And hopefully by the end of the post, you and your wife will both run with abandon toward her orgasmic pleasure).

No surprise to anyone who has ever had sex that a wife having an orgasm (statistically speaking) is not quite as sure of a thing as a husband having an orgasm.

The clitoris just isn’t as predictable as the penis.

Yes, I’m painting things in somewhat broad strokes here. The truth remains, though, that if you asked 100 people who is more likely to have an orgasm in every sexual encounter in a marriage — the husband or the wife — I’d bet my last $1 that all 100 would say “the husband.”

Women sometimes ask me how to have an orgasm.  (You just can’t offer a class on that at the local community college, but hey…if I could, I probably would. Orgasm 101.)

In all seriousness, I believe wives who see the value of sex do indeed want orgasm to be a part of it — they often struggle, though, with knowing how to get there.

This is especially true if they have never had an orgasm, but even for wives who have known sexual pleasure, there still can stumbling blocks that thwart their pleasure.

The solution? Enter selfishness, stage right.

Here are three tips I suggest:


1.  Stop thinking that sex is all about him.

This one little lie fuels a wife’s lack of orgasmic pleasure more than anything else.

Somewhere along the way, she bought into the lie that her husband’s need and desire for sex trumps anything the sexual encounter could offer her.  Sadly, this thought seems most pervasive in Christian circles, where wives are subtly or not-so-subtly told “sex is what you have to do.”

But what if you viewed sex instead as something you “get” to do?  Something that is as much about intense pleasure for you as it is for your husband.

When both a husband and a wife are more intentional about pleasure for both of them being a priority, it’s not really selfish.  It’s a true reflection of what God intended sex to be in a marriage.

When God said that a husband and wife should not withhold their bodies from each other, that wasn’t just for a husband’s benefit.

It was for her benefit as well.

2. Stop assuming your husband knows how to help you climax.

In one regard, husbands are at a disadvantage sexually.  A woman’s body is bewildering landscape. What seems to turn her on one night doesn’t really do much for her the next.

Add to this that she often doesn’t know what turns her on, and it is no wonder that her likelihood of reaching orgasm starts to feel like climbing Mt. Everest.  Nice in theory, but completely impractical in reality.

There is a better way.

Wives, you need to coach him on pleasing you.  Husbands, you need to invite her to coach you — and then respond accordingly to her direction.

If you as a wife do not know what it will take for you to orgasm, I will give you a little insight.  Your clitoris likely needs more stimulation than you realize.  Whether it be through intercourse, oral sex or use of hands, you likely need to try different techniques to get the rate and firmness of stimulation just right.

And consider various positions, such as the wife being on top, where she usually has more control over angles and rate of movement.   Missionary position is not the only way to have sex.  I’m not ruling it out, of course, but for a wife to achieve orgasm this way, her husband usually needs to be further forward with the shaft of his penis in more direct and firm contact with the clitoris.

Talk to each other and welcome the opportunity to be teachable.  This principle is foundational in marriages where there is amazing sex. (I have a whole page on my site with links about orgasm, if you want to check that out as well).

3.  Start leaning into pleasure.

This is probably the most difficult one for women to embrace.  Like I’ve already mentioned, if she thinks sex is just for him, she has gone to great lengths to downplay the significance of her own orgasm.

Also, she has like a gazillion details running through her mind at any given time. And unlike her husband, she’s not able to put all of them on the back burner when she crawls into bed — and into sex — with her spouse.

Good news is that you can learn to lean into pleasure.

Spend more time on foreplay. Stop telling yourself you don’t deserve sexual pleasure.  You do deserve it with the man you married.  The clitoris was God’s idea and it serves no other purpose but to allow you to experience indescribable orgasmic pleasure.

When you are feeling aroused — and especially when you feel yourself getting close to having an orgasm — focus on the pleasure.  On the surface that may look like pure selfishness, but ultimately it will do your marriage a world of good.

If you’ve made it this far in the post, my guess is you are either a bit nervous. Or a bit aroused.   Or maybe a lot of both.

A little sexual selfishness goes a long way to better sexual intimacy in marriage.   Sex doesn’t have to be a battleground. And it doesn’t have to be a bleak boring tundra.  It can be a playground of sacredness, oneness and pleasure.

What do you want for your marriage?

Aug 11

The Safety Net of Romance

By Debi Walter | Communication , Romance

Cultivating romance into your marriage on a regular basis helps you stay connected heart-to-heart when you don’t see eye-to-eye.

Every marriage goes through seasons of conflict, and it’s usually quite intense when it happens. Things can be going along really well and your spouse says something that doesn’t sit right in your mind.

So, you ask a question that leads to more tension because either the question isn’t heard clearly or it isn’t understood.

So, the answer isn’t at all what you wanted to hear, which leads to more tension and more conflict. It’s a downward spiral that’s hard to correct once it begins.

Smart couples choose to go to their separate corners when tensions mount in order to think and pray before continuing the conversation.

This is a good idea, especially if you’re prone to fits of anger. Giving yourself time and distance allows the Lord to help you think with wisdom, instead of reacting with foolishness.

What does this have to do with romance?


A couple who never takes the time to romance each other when things are going well, are going to have a harder time believing the best about their spouse when things are hard.

Romance acts like a safety net when you’re balancing on the high wire of conflict.

You know it’s a dangerous place to be, but the romance you’ve enjoyed together insures that you’ll make it through safely and together.

Romance gives you a tangible reminder of why the relationship is worth fighting for. It helps you remember the good times when the bad times are screaming at you.

I remember a time when Tom and I were going through a really difficult conflict that had no quick resolve. It went on for months, but our commitment to each other never wavered. We knew we were in this relationship together–for better or worse–and just because this was a “worse” part of our marriage, we weren’t going to give up.

The best was yet to come. It might surprise you that our lives continued on as normal; I was homeschooling our three children, Tom was leading a small care group in our home on a weekly basis, Tom had work commitments that required us both to attend with smiles on our faces, and all the while our hearts were hurting.

We did what we knew to do, which even included some romance here and there, because this was our norm. Sort of like a default setting on a computer.

It was while we were doing a normal romantic thing–slow dancing together at a work dinner–that God broke through our conflict and helped us resolve the issue once and for all.

It started with tears that lead to repentance and then, total and complete forgiveness. Had we not taken the steps to do something romantic that we both enjoyed would we have ever found resolve to our conflict?

I’m sure we would have, but because we did, it may have happened sooner because we were willing to do what we knew to do, regardless of how we felt.

Was it easy? No. Would we wish this kind of conflict on anyone? Absolutely not!

But now this story is part of our testimony, and it has helped hundreds of couples understand that a good marriage isn’t without difficulty.

In fact, if you’re doing things right, it’s not to prevent trouble, but to prepare the ground so that your love is supported through it when it comes.

What trouble are you facing today that causes you to want to pull away?

How could doing something romantic and thoughtful for your spouse help you get through the worst part to a better tomorrow?

Pray and ask God to help you come up with a plan, and then watch what He does. If He can turn water into wine, then certainly He can turn our trouble into something good.

A testimony that will help us help others who may be struggling in the same way.

Now that’s a love worth celebrating!


(photo source)

Aug 07

Faithfully Fit: How Exercise Can Keep Your Marriage Healthy

By Dustin | Communication

Faithfully Fit: How exercise can keep your marriage healthyThe American Journal of Epidemiology monitored the health behaviors of nearly 8,900 adults over several years and found that both men and women who got married during that time tended to lose a significant amount of their cardiovascular fitness.

Most husbands and wives don’t need a study to tell them that being married might derail their fitness regime. As a seasoned personal trainer, I’ve listened to many men and women stress over balancing their career, marriage, family, and health.

Though it may be difficult, staying fit is a most worthwhile endeavor for married couples. Research suggests that couples who stay fit experience benefits that contribute to the success of their marriage.

Three years ago, during a premarital counseling session with our pastor, my husband-to-be and I made a commitment to one another. We promised to make our health a priority in our marriage – we jokingly call it our “fatty clause.”

I will never forget the look of surprise on our pastor’s face when we brought up the role of fitness in our marriage. She said we were the first couple to ever select health as a priority.

At the time, I thought our “fatty clause” was just a sensible measure to help us avoid lifestyle related disease and a spreading midsection, but our mutual commitment to health has become so much more.

As a young married couple, we’ve made lots of plans. Some have worked out and others didn’t.  As I am writing this we are living in Costa Rica – that was never part of our life plan, but here we are!

Even when the world around us feels like its upside-down (a common occurrence when living outside your home country), we’re able to ride the storms of life out together. Research would suggest that our commitment to physical fitness has contributed to our healthy marriage.

  • Regular exercise can help you and your spouse maintain a healthy self image. According to a University of Arkansas study men and women who are physically fit tend to feel more sexually desirable (Penhollow & Young 2004).
  • Couples that are physically fit are more likely to respond to stress better. The American Physiological Association suggests that exercise gives your body a chance to practice responding to stress. Thus when you encounter the emotional stress of day-to-day life, you’re physiologically better at handling those stressful experiences.
  • Exercise can enhance a couples sex life. Engaging in intense physical activity can stimulate blood flow and nervous system activity that can boost sex drive.
  • Couples who share new experiences together, stay together. A study published in 2000 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, demonstrated that sharing in new and exciting activities is consistently associated with better relationships (Aron 2000). Try mixing up your workout routine by going on a weekend hike or bike ride together.

Whether you use working out as alone time or as a time together, the benefits to your well-being will affect your marriage in surprising ways. I want to encourage every couple to use physical fitness as a way to keep their marriage in shape.

After 3 years of marriage, I’m more committed to my husband and my health with each passing day. Making room in our life together for regular workouts is the second best decision we have ever made.

What role does fitness play in your marriage?

Erika VolkErika Volk is a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach who has a passion for helping people make their everyday lives just a little bit healthier. She specializes in TRX training, fitness travel, and online coaching.

Erika lives with her husband in a beautiful little beach town somewhere in Costa Rica. Visit her website at to learn more about how Erika can help you make the most out of your workout.

Aug 04

6 Questions to ask before saying “I Do!” to college loans

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

6 Questions to ask before saying I Do to college loansHow is it possible you are thinking about and discussing college preparation, possible school choices, and potential education costs with your children?

Didn’t you just graduate?

It may seem like just yesterday you were considering those decisions for yourself, but times have changed, and so have the stakes:

College costs have risen dramatically—1,220% in the last thirty-five years.

Only a little over half of first-time, full-time students—59%—graduate with a bachelor’s degree, and they do so within six years, not four.

Many graduates struggle with loan payback because the relationship to the earning power of the degree or finding a job wasn’t considered.

Large amounts of education debt are keeping first time house buyers from stepping into home ownership.

About a third of millenials regret their decision to go to college.

Given this bracing splash of information, don’t launch that “Where do I sign?” ceremony just yet.

Instead, here are 6 questions to ask before you say “I Do!” to college loans.

A disclaimer: My husband and I believe children need to be financially responsible for a major portion, if not all, of their education, as there is a lot to be said for having a stake in the game. We also believe there are ways other than college to accomplish learning and skill-building, especially since debt-freedom helps provide a firm foundation upon which to build their lives. Finally, we believe a typical higher education doesn’t automatically provide a good value, and/or may not be the best path for a student. That’s why asking quality questions and doing your due diligence is so important.

1.  Who is ultimately paying for college?

Student? Parent? Are you sharing the responsibility? Whose name will actually be on the dotted line?  Instead of being the borrower, you can be the lender to your children, but be aware of the potential it has to cause some serious relationship and monetary problems. If your children are young and you’re thinking ahead, kudos! Dustin shares about investing—or not—for college here.

2.  What is the total amount of the school loan?

Equally important, what will the payments be? To get an idea, use an online loan calculator. If your debt load is average (2013), you’ll owe about $35,000 beginning six months after you graduate or quit school.

That translates roughly to between $400-$500 a month for ten years, based on interest rates that range from 6.9% to over 11%. Your actual total payback would average around $48,000 to $60,000. You wouldn’t finance a $35,000 car for ten years. Why would you consider financing your education for that long? Think about how, where, and even if this expense will fit into your overall budget.

3.  Where will you choose to go to college?

With over 7,000 establishments of higher education in the U.S., you have a veritable cornucopia of choice. Each has their benefits, depending on your needs and wants, and all of that comes at a cost. Many students spend their first two years at a community college because of the proximity to home and lower tuition, then spend their last two years at a larger institution.

You can do what my sister, the math teacher, did for her daughter when she was considering different schools. Take the total cost, fees and all, for the year, and divide that by the days in the academic calendar, which is usually around 150-160 days. That figure is the cost of the education per day. I think you and your student will find this a real eye-opener for helping to determine value, just as my niece did.

4.  When is the money needed?

Usually the first term’s full payment is due just prior to the start of the school year. But, step back for a moment and think about this: Does college need to start right after high school? Your student may opt for deferred admission, sometimes called a Gap Year. It allows time to work, save, travel, volunteer, and especially, mature.

Your student can be a Feb, a nickname given to students who begin in the spring term. When Middlebury College in Vermont studied freshman who started in the fall vs the spring they discovered, “The Febs not only had higher GPAs, but the positive effects lasted all four years.”

5.  Why are you going to college?

This is the biggest question of all, because you are paying a very high premium for those formative years: money out, typically no real-world work experience in. The hope, of course, is that the value of the degree will accrue as the years pass.

Here are what I consider bad reasons to say “I do!” to loans and college: your family expects you to go, your classmates are all going, your teachers tell you to, the world shouts you’ll be a failure without a degree, and you don’t have any idea what you want to do with your life.

If you’re not sure where else you’d go or what you’d do instead, consider these interesting eleven alternatives, or read Better Than College: How to Build a Successful Life Without a Four-Year Degree. To help get to the bottom of your Why, go through this exercise here.

 6.  How will you pay for the education?

Your choices are many: private or public lenders, scholarships, grants, and your own savings. Here’s a thought: What if it were possible to pay as you go, and graduate debt free? This young man explains how he did, and how you can too, via his book: Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents. It’s important that your financial plans not be dominated by education financing at the expense of other goals, to quote one of the book’s reviewers.

Going to college is taking a leap of faith that the time and money you spend will result in greater future personal, financial, and career success.  Asking these 6 questions before you say “I Do!” to college loans will help you make the right decision, at the right time, in the right place, and for the right reasons for your family.

Question: What have you used to help make decisions about paying for college?

Photo credit: Ano Lobb