Q: Do you think it’s a good idea for husbands and wives to have regular activities apart from each other with their friends of the same sex? My husband feels a deep need to get together with his guy friends a couple of times each month, but I’d rather spend most of my time with him. I get out with some girlfriends a couple times a year, and this seems to be more than sufficient for me. What are your thoughts?

Jim: Assuming that the two of you aren’t short-changing your time together as a couple, we’d suggest that it’s almost always a good idea for a husband and wife to enjoy a reasonable amount of activity with their respective same-sex friends. Females need other females. Guys need guys. But this isn’t necessarily the last word.

If we were sitting across the table from you and asked you to describe your marriage, what would you say? What are your expectations for the relationship? Are those expectations being fulfilled or not? Give some honest thought to the quality of your relationship. When it is just the two of you, do you enjoy each other’s company, or do you find it difficult to be together? How would your spouse answer that question?

Bottom line: If you’re connecting, enjoying the time you spend together, and striking a healthy balance between friend time and couple time, we don’t think you have anything to worry about. A secure wife who cares about her husband’s enrichment is usually happy to see him forming healthy bonds with other men of solid character. If, however, your husband is deliberately cutting you out of his life or trying to “escape” the relationship, I’d encourage you to give the situation some attention — preferably with the assistance of a trained marriage counselor.

Q: How can I encourage my bashful preschooler to open up and break out of her shell? She’s soft-spoken, reserved, and afraid of walking into a room full of people. Is there something we can do to make it easier for her to interact with others?

Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Every individual is different, and there are some situations in which a child’s bashful behavior may turn into a cause for serious concern. But most of the time it’s simply a question of temperament. In these cases, there’s no need to think of it as an insurmountable problem or to treat it like one. Some kids are just born with a predisposition to be less outgoing than others.

Raising bashful boys and girls is a delicate art that requires discernment, sensitivity and balance. If you have a more assertive, confident personality than your daughter, it may be particularly difficult for you to understand her. If so, your first assignment is to get inside her head and try to see the world through her eyes.

One of the best ways to help a shy child is to show her that you love her unconditionally. Let her know that she doesn’t have to perform in certain ways to be accepted by you. At those moments when she seems paralyzed by her bashfulness, respond with encouragement — a disapproving comment or look will only make her feel even more self-conscious.

At the same time, resist the temptation to make life easier for her by shielding her from new people or situations. Coddling and reinforcing self-defeating behavior will only create additional problems in the future. If you feel like you need more guidance in this matter, you can start with our licensed staff counselors by calling 855-771-HELP (4357).

Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.