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First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…divorce?

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By: MARRI intern

Growing up, my dad would say that no matter what he would always love my mom. At the altar, many people will say the same thing. Unfortunately, America’s divorce rate is a sign that commitment through thick and thin is increasingly rare.
Most people would agree that in some situations, like infidelity, it is acceptable to seek a divorce. Simply being tired of being with the other person or no longer “feeling” in love, however, are not legitimate reasons. People like to believe that every problem in life has a quick fix. If a pipe is leaking, use duct tape. Or if a vase breaks, grab the super glue. But marriage is neither a pipe nor a vase, as divorce is certainly not duct tape or super glue. Notice that even the easy fix solutions mentioned above were about holding things together, not pulling them apart permanently.
About 40-50% of marriages will end in divorce. This does not reflect a moral understanding of marriage as it was intended to be. In the Bible, the Church is called the bride of Christ. Certainly Christ is hurt by His bride’s failure to keep his commandments, but His love is unwavering. Shouldn’t our marriages imitate that?
Just like any other couple, my parents had their arguments. I can remember the steam coming out of their ears when they were upset at each other, but arguments would always end with the same “I love you.” They are now approaching their 33rd wedding anniversary, and I truly believe that their commitment to each other even in the hard times got them there.
Til’ death do us part isn’t just an idea; it’s a choice. Make your choice before you stand up in front of the church or forever hold your peace.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

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By: MARRI Intern

Frank Baird has taken literally the saying not to judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.  Originally working at the Valley Trauma Center as a Rape Crisis Advocate, Baird also took on a role as a Marriage and Family Therapist Trainee,  progressing to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.  Baird began to see and understand that violent crimes against women, such as rape, do not just affect the individual.   The serious nature of the crimes also affects the entire community: their family, friends, and significant others.  
Baird chose to organize the event “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” where men don a pair of red heels and literally walk a mile.  The event is used to increase awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence, creating a safe environment for preventative education and informing the community about services available for recovery.  
Most people aren’t aware that two thirds of violence against women is committed by someone known to the victim, and that ninety seven percent of the perpetrators will never spend a day in jail because fifty four percent of cases are not reported to police.  
In a working paper, MARRI is exploring the correlation between the type of relationship mothers are engaged in is correlated to intimate partner violence.  Results have shown that married mothers have a lower risk of being abused by the father of the child than cohabitating mothers, dating mothers, or mothers not in a relationship with the father[1].  The research even demonstrates that regardless of whether they are pregnant or not women are subject to the same likelihood of domestic abuse[2].  Furthermore, children who grow up in a home affected by parental aggression are subject to a higher incidence of behavior problems, future perpetration of abuse themselves and generally poorer outcomes than children who do not witness conflict between their parents[3].  MARRI research (slides 2-6) indicates that children who grow up in a two parent family are 33% less likely to experience abuse than a child whose biological mother is in a cohabitating relationship.   
Overall, the increased awareness among communities via the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” is a tremendous step.  Not only is it educating the public on aspects of a culture they are otherwise unlikely to experience, it also educates women about the resources in their community if they are in an abusive situation, or feel threatened and need assistance. 

[1]Rachel T. Kimbro, “Together Forever? Romantic Relationship Characteristics and Prenatal Health Behaviors” Journal of Marriage and Family 70, no. 3 (2008): 750.
[2]Menachem Fisher, Dalit Yassour-Borochowitz, Efrat Neter, “Domestic Abuse in Pregnancy: Results from a Phone Survey in Northern Israel,” Domestic Abuse in Pregnancy 5 (2003): 35.
[3]Cheryl Buehler, Christine Anthony, Ambika Krishnakumar, Gaye Stone, Jean Gerard, and Sharon Pemberton, Interparental conflict and youth problem behaviors: A meta-analysis,” Journal of Child and Family Studies 6 (1997): 233-247;

Adoption: What If?

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By Lindsay Smith, Intern

Have you noticed it’s not always an actual problem which bogs down our minds, bodies and spirits (at least mine anyway), but rather the unknown?  When I’m face-to-face with a problem, my determination kicks in high gear.  I want to find a way over it, around it, or through it, and thanks to God’s grace, I can.  Tangible problems do not burden me as much as those two, little, whispering words: “What if.” 

Perhaps you have felt this way at some point – maybe specifically about adoption.  Having experienced an adoption in my family, I know there can be a lot of “what ifs” throughout the process.  Sometimes those two little words can seem larger than life and greater than any current problem.  However, MARRI’s research brings reality back to these “what ifs,” and the reality is “Adoption Works Well.”
What if we adopt:
You might make fewer trips to the doctor because your child is more likely to “enjoy excellent health” while overcoming any physical delays and even in-utero drug effects as a result of his or her placement.  Adopted children excel academically, even beyond children from biological families, and “eventually, there are no differences between the IQ scores of adopted siblings and those of biological siblings reared together.”  Within a home, family dynamics are also strengthened through adoption: “A study of 450 adolescents found that adoptees communicate more positively and have more positive relationships with their parents than do even biological children.” 
Undoubtedly, parents of adopted children will experience struggles, as do parents of biological children.  Not all family structures are the same, and MARRI explains here the benefits for all children of living in an intact married family.  Based on this research, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that “married adoptive parents adjust more successfully than unmarried parents.”  Research also shows the earlier you adopt a child, the easier the transition and adjustment.  However, “all children will benefit, regardless of their age at placement.”  If children have such a positive response to adoption, perhaps the better question is, “What if we don’t adopt?”
What if we don’t adopt:
All over the world children are aging out of orphanages or foster care systems without a forever family.  Annually in Russia, 10,000 youth like these teens find themselves on their own.  Without a place to call home or a mom and dad to lean on, many tragically resort to crime, prostitution, or simply decide their lives aren’t worth living.  This is the answer from only one country, and sadly many other countries cry out with similar responses.  There are 153 million orphansin the world.  2007 was a record year for adoptions: 133,737 domestic adoptionsand 19,569 international agency adoptions* took place.  Since each of these numbers represents a precious boy or girl who joined a family, we should celebrate them.   However, the sobering truth is these adoptions affected only 0.1% of the world’s orphans.  Many, many more children still need a home, and I would hope Christians are the first to help. 
Adoption in its truest form is a response to the love and gospel of Jesus Christ.  We were adopted into His kingdom, so we in turn adopt children into our homes.  Not just so they will have an earthly room, bed or siblings, but so they may have a chance to know about a Heavenly Father who is recklessly and passionately pursuing their adoption to Himself. 
On Sunday, November 4th, churches all over the United States and the world will be celebrating “Orphan Sunday.”  Started by the Christian Alliance for Orphans, this Sunday raises awareness for the plight of the orphan through local church services. 
And that’s not a “What if.”
* Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2011). How many children were adopted in 2007 and 2008? Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. 14.