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I consider “intimacy” to be code for In-To-Me-See. This is an invitation to share all of who you are with another person who may or may not be your sexual partner. Intimacy begins the moment you encounter another person and how much of yourself you are willing to give and share. You may become intimate with someone on Day 1, or it may take you until Day 42 to trust yourself or him or her enough to fully present and reveal all of who you are. Nonsexual intimacy depends on the condition of your heart, meaning how willing you are to be vulnerable. Intimacy happens in the communication process. It is deepened by how much of yourself you share and how well you listen. Sexual encounters are physical acts that may or may not be intimate. True intimacy requires that you experience spiritual, mental and emotional safety to such a degree that you are willing to tell the absolute truth about who you are. Only in this way can the physical act of having sex become an expression of intimacy. If you want something more concrete, go with the 90-day Rule: For the first 90 days, you remain in contact and communication in an effort to learn as much about one another as possible. But remember: The focus is not on what you do not do in that time. The focus is on what you do and how you do it. Are you opening yourself to this person in acts of nonsexual, nonphysical intimacy? Are you learning about each other’s visions? Do you share ways to keep yourselves uplifted spiritually, mentally, emotionally, etc.? As you learn these things, you will be clearer about when you choose to share yourself in a sexually intimate way.

Q What should a newly married woman or man do when she or he doesn’t like the way a spouse disciplines his or her new stepchildren? 

Beloved, the real issue here is the relationship the stepparent established with the child prior to the marriage and what the conversation and agreement about discipline was before the wedding. One huge mistake a partner can make is failing to establish a loving, trusting relationship with a mate’s children prior to joining the household. Another is for the partner to fail to discuss how to handle things such as discipline and decision-making where the children are concerned. Without these two important understandings being in place prior to the wedding, you are in many ways shutting the barn door after the bull is out terrorizing the town. If there was a conversation about this before you got married, you must get into alignment with that agreements you made in the conversation. If not, take a few steps back to create an agreement. After marriage, all the children must become “our children.” To hold on to “my children,” “her children” or “his children” creates a recipe for disaster and an issue of separation rather than unity. Once the marriage occurs, it is no longer about “my spouse” or “me.” Marriage is about “the family.” Both partners must trust that what is being done to, with and for the children is for the good of the family. If you trust your spouse and know he or she has done the work to create a relationship with the children and if you believe your spouse has the children’s best interest at heart, you need not like the discipline. You will, however, need to accept it is for the good of all involved. If you have suggestions about how discipline can be administered differently or better, have that discussion in the privacy of your bedroom with your spouse, and be willing to disagree and make compromises.

Q  Family members think I’m rich because I’m gainfully employed, single and don’t have any kids. They constantly ask for money because I’m generous. Now, I’m ready to stop something I’ve started. How do I end my days of being Mr. Moneybags?

Beloved, stop giving out money. It’s that simple. It is critical that you recognize you are responsible for starting the pattern and that you also have the power to stop it. Also, make the clear distinction between generosity and guilt. Very often when one family member becomes more successful or stable than other members of the family, she or he experiences guilt about having what others do not. In addition, it is customary, particularly in the African-American community, that when we “make it,” we reach back and help those who have not. This is a powerful cultural principle; however, it must be practiced with wisdom. Money never solves a money problem. When people ask for money, it is an indication that they are not handling some underlying issues in their lives. Here is a simple rule I use to address the