09/27/2007 08:53 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Dr. Mona Knows

Q: My girlfriend tells me that Christine, my husband's best friend since college, is a danger to my marriage. My husband spends every Thursday night with Christine playing poker. I enjoy this night to myself, but my friend says my husband and I are actually cheating on each other. Is this "emotional cheating"?

A: Is your friend married? Does she have any experience or expertise in this area? Who is she in your life? In other words, why are you taking her so seriously? Could it be that you are already worried about your marriage, but expressing your concerns through her? So, let's analyze
this question by first isolating its separate threads. In the first place, you are asking the question through your friend. It seems that your relationship with your friend could be as close as
the one your husband has with Christine. Analyze what your definition of a best friend is and then compare it with relationship you have with your spouse. Maybe the focus needs to be shifted - away from your best friend and on to your spouse. The primary focus of privacy, intimacy and trust ought to be with your primary relationship-your spouse. Perhaps you and your husband need to learn how to communicate your concerns to each other instead of with your best friends.

Then, after understanding and appreciating what is the paramount relationship --the one where you seek sustenance and security -- one can more fully understand "emotional cheating." If there is something missing in a relationship, and one has the need to go elsewhere to fill that
gap, that would amount to "emotional cheating." That would mean it's time to do the hard work of rebuilding an important part of the relationship. But if the couple is openly aware of each partner's need to sometimes have time alone and the couple can share with one another what they have been doing and saying with their best friends, then there is nothing to be wary of.
These friends represent just something else they can share with one another.

And, how about learning to play poker and hosting a poker party?

Q: As my mother-in-law and I sat watching my 3-year old son enjoying a classical music workshop, she asked me if it is possible to offer a child too much intellectual stimulation. Can this be? I started to feel guilty!

A: Are you feeling your mother-in-law is being intrusive or are you actually listening to what she is asking? Because what she seems to be asking is whether you have over-scheduled your child. And the reason you started to feel guilty is that you are in fact feeling overwhelmed by all the classes, workshops and other activities that every parent nowadays feels are the essential prerequisites for the child's later success.

Actually, there is no way to over-stimulate or overwork your 3-year-old's brain. But there is a possibility that you are forgetting the old adage that "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Everyone needs down-time, time for our imagination to roam free, time to absorb what we have learned, and time to get emotionally connected. Some parents in their enthusiasm to have their child succeed, forget that while intellectual stimulation may load up the kid with knowledge, other intellectual or emotional dimensions are just as necessary.

For instance, the child who is over-scheduled with workshops, has little time to learn how to use their imagination, coupled with their curiosity, to discover and to enjoy the world. To be a self-starter and to solve problems by oneself is critically important - a path to knowledge and, in this sense, more important than knowledge itself.

In addition, time with a warm and accepting parent/caregiver, gives the child other tools that are important. A sense of one's worth, an appreciation of one's power or position, a sense of security and trust, can give us the courage to use other the tools we need to grow and to succeed.

Please send your questions to me, Dr. Mona Ackerman, by posting them in the comments section below. I look forward to answering them and continuing our conversation!