January 16, 2012

Book Review: The Ring Makes All the Difference

Posted in Book Reviews tagged , at 10:47 pm by Tamara

Title: The Ring Makes All the Difference: the Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage

Author: Glenn T. Stanton

Genre: Non-fiction, Relationships

Star Verdct:  ***** (out of five)



I’ve often heard my peers say things like that living together is a safe way to “test out” a relationship to see if it is going to work before you make a permanent commitment to marriage, or that they are “practically married” and don’t need a piece of paper to solidify their relationship.  I confess I’ve often been rather tongue tied, not knowing how to respond.

When I saw that there was a book compiling the findings of four decades worth of scientific studies on the impact that living together has on relationships, I was instantly interested.  This fascinating book explains research findings on the effects of cohabitation on a wide range of  relational issues and shows some surprising results, such as that:

  •  Couples who live together before getting married  are 50-80% (!) more likely to get divorced than couples who have not lived together beforehand (l. 949)
  • The rate of violence for cohabiting couples is twice as high as for married couples, and the rate for “severe” violence is nearly five times greater (l. 679.)  Similarly, women living with boyfriends are nine times more likely to be murdered by their partner than married women (l. 695)
  • Live-in boyfriends are nearly four times more likely to cheat than husbands (l. 704), and men who cohabited before marriage are more likely to cheat after they get married
  • Married men typically spend 8 more hours a week helping with housework than live-in boyfriends (l. 753) and contribute more financially  (l.2084)
  • Living together without relational clarity/commitment tends to foster controlling and manipulative behavior patterns, which continue into marriage (l. 1076)
  • Married individuals have health benefits roughly equivalent to being ten years younger than they are, whereas living together shows no such benefits (l. 1641)
  • Although cohabitation was originally presented as a way to give women more freedom and power in relationships, studies overwhelming show that men benefit more from living together than women do (l. 1840)

The book was particularly fascinating to me because it simply focused on presenting research findings from respectable institutions, not on interpreting the results or presenting a religious viewpoint on relationships.  The author does briefly discuss Biblical teachings about marriage and relationships in two chapters, but the bulk of the book examines the scientific evidence from the studies on cohabitation.

The well-documented and overwhelming conclusion from the dozens of research studies is that living together before marriage is one of the absolute worst things a couple can do in terms of its negative effects on their overall wellbeing and chance of having a happy, long-term relationship.  I have seen many times that God knows what he’s talking about and says what he does because he wants me to be happy, but it is fascinating to see so much secular research from well-respected institutions clearly backing up Biblical commands.

This is a great resource for anyone trying to make decisions about their relationships or helping friends do so.   The book points out that, thanks to four decades of research, “couples today considering marriage or cohabitation can make informed decisions about what type of relationship  is more likely to lead to the happiness, intimacy, and longevity they seek.  Smart couples will make use of such an opportunity” (l. 579).


September 22, 2011

Ignoring Conventional Wisdom on Having Kids=Best Decision We’ve Ever Made

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:57 pm by Tamara

Bear, Five Months Old

I’ve been thinking tonight about what an incredible proof Bear is that God knows what He’s talking about and wants good things for us.  When we decided to try to get pregnant, there were plenty of reasons people could have said we were nuts.  The common “wisdom” on starting a family is that you need to a) be finished with school, established in your career(s), and financially secure, and b) have done everything fun that you want to do, because kids are going to tie you down and could destroy your dreams.  We decided to say bah humbug to conventional wisdom, mostly because the Bible is so chock full of statements about how kids are a blessing and a joy.

For example: Psalm 127:3-5 Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward!  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them!  Psalm 128:1-4  How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways…your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table.  Behold, for this is how the man who fears the LORD will be blessed!

If God, the one who created all the incredible things that make me happy (like chocolate, colors, the ocean, back rubs, my husband!) says something is a blessing, then I would like to experience it!  We also trusted that if God instructs us to raise godly children, He’ll give us the financial and emotional resources to do so.

Zooming Around on Daddy’s Shoulders

Tonight I was doing homework and my husband put Bear in his PJs and then was jogging around the living room with Bear on his shoulders.  The sight of our little baby in footy teddy bear pajamas, grinning from ear to ear as he clutched fistfuls of Adam’s hair and “drove” his daddy around the room was too adorable for words.  They stopped by the table where I was working and Bear gave me a squeal and a huge smile before they zoomed off again.  My heart just melted.  I can’t even begin to describe how happy I am with our little family.  My husband and Bear have brought me so much joy—infinitely more than I can ever imagine getting from the things we gave up to have him.

Certainly, it’s hard too.  And there’s no guarantee that parenting won’t involve heartbreak (in fact, it probably will at some point).  I have friends who have experienced terrible heartache, whether in raising their kids or in trying to have kids.  My heart bleeds for them, and I don’t understand the unfairness of it.  I don’t understand why good parents have children who rebel, or why evil people harm their children while wonderful couples have no children.  Amazingly, most of my friends who have experienced this have still told me that God has brought good things even out of their pain.  In fact, witnessing firsthand the pain of our friends who wanted kids and were struggling to have them really drove home to my husband and I that kids are a blessing we shouldn’t take lightly or make a low priority.

Melts My Heart!

When I look at Bear, there just aren’t words to describe how fiercely I love him, or how fulfilled and joyful he makes me.  And tonight it hit me again: God is right.  He is really, really, right.  He knows what He’s talking about.  Bear will always be a great reminder to trust God when I’m faced with things that God says but I don’t think make sense.  I SO wanted to have a baby, but it was still a leap of faith for us, one we made because we trusted (and still trust) that God knows what’s best for us, knows how to give us REAL blessings, and will take care of us.  God has provided for and blessed us more than I could ever have imagined, and He always will.   I am SO thankful, and so blessed!!

November 29, 2010


Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , at 10:30 pm by Tamara

Why, hello, blog!  Who knew you were still hanging out here?  I thought you were just a little bookmark that made me feel guilty every time I saw it.  Huh!

I’d love to say that I haven’t posted because this month has been so full of exciting things, but…I can’t.  It has, however, been filled with one time-consuming, energy-sapping, stress-inducing, sleep-stealing, insecurity-causing, too-many-sugary-stress-snacks-eaten activity known not-so-fondly as “NaNoWriMo.”  The point of National Novel Writing Month is to somehow bleed out a 50,000 word novel (oh, I use that term so loosely) in thirty (count ‘em: thirty!) days.  The focus is not quality (!) but quantity: to stop making excuses for why you don’t have time to write and force yourself to pound out (or slowly, painfully, agonizingly plink out) a minimum of one thousand, six hundred and sixty seven words every. single. day.  The organizers also pointed out that signing up for it would give a “rock solid reason” to not do dishes for thirty days (or clean the house, cook, bathe the dogs, bathe myself, etc).  Adam was very supportive, in spite of suffering through the above abuses and usually coming home from work at night to hear “Hi, Love!  How was your day?  Now please don’t talk to me, I have to write at least one thousand more words and I can’t think of a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g to write!” (right before I banged my head down on the keyboard with a wail and would only be pacified by massive amounts of chocolate).  Poor, poor husband!

While the NaNo “pep talk” writers helpfully encouraged us that “the looming specter of public humiliation is a wonderful motivator” and suggested we tell everyone we know that we were doing it, I was too scared that I wouldn’t finish to announce it to the world.  But—wonder of wonders—I have!!  And not only have I done it, I finished a day early!  I am incredibly proud of myself (hopefully in a good way).  I have spend years praying about writing, asking God if it’s something he would let/help me do, and usually I feel like the answer has been “Yes, but are you willing to put in the work it would take to do it?”  And there’s ALWAYS an excuse not to, or not “now,” anyway.  Maybe next year….  So, when this opportunity came up I finally said “Alright.  This is a chance to make myself work really, really hard.  I had better stop saying no.”  So (gulp) I did.  And I managed to finish!  Now…I’m much more proud of all the work I put in it than of what I actually wrote, but that wasn’t the point.  Now I can breathe a huge sigh of relief, banish the file (heavily encrypted and password protected) to the darkest depths of my hard drive, and see how long it takes me to recover enough to ever want to write again.  Heh.

In addition to the damage the month has wrecked upon my housecleaning routine, it has also been brutal on my reading goal—I only finished one book during the entire month.  Now I have five weeks to read six books if I’m going to meet my goal for the year.  I think, think, think I can do it.  I just need to stop picking 1,000 page Dickens tomes to read.  Too bad I can’t count kids’ picture books.

July 6, 2010

My Birthday (Or, Knightley Eats Cake)

Posted in Water Droplets, Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 10:15 pm by Tamara

My birthday was last week, and I have officially obtained the ripe old age of twenty six.  (Whew!)  Adam made it a great day, although we missed our family terribly!   This was the third birthday I’ve spent away from my family (I spent my 20th birthday in Russia and my 24th birthday in Afghanistan), but it was the first time I was stateside and not with them.  I share a birthday with my wonderful Father-in-law, Rick, which has been a lot of fun and also earned me the nickname “Tami-Ricky.”

We went to see an acoustic Jonny Diaz concert (he sings “More Beautiful You”), which we really enjoyed.  He not only put on a great show musically, but he was hilarious.  There was a comedian there, too, but he was honestly funnier!

Jonny Diaz singing "More Beautiful You"

Jonny Diaz

Adam, sweet man that he is, bravely ventured to make me my birthday cake.  Knightley helped by keeping the floor clean during the process.

Adam and Knightley make the cake

Mr. Knightley

Ran out of frosting for "Happy Birthday," so he abbreviated. lol!

He was worried

But it was wonderful!

Adam was really concerned about the edibility of his creation, but I can attest that it was wonderful!

Mr. Knightley apparently was very sure the cake would turn out wonderfully, and also very convinced that his hard work helping make it deserved a sample.  I think the following picture sequence speaks for itself:

"That looks good. Can I have some?"

"Just a little taste--" (Notice the tongue!!)

"Knightley!" "...What?"

"But, but, but...."

"You...ate it, Mom!" I've never seen him look so disappointed!

He got to lick my fork at the end. I'm a sucker.

Such a funny puppy–he always keeps us entertained.  It was a fun birthday, and God even sent me this beautiful present to end it:

May 22, 2010

A New Saga

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 10:37 pm by Tamara

It may be a little bit dramatic, but I can’t help thinking that tomorrow will begin a new saga of my life.  Hopefully, prayerfully, oh-PLEASE-fully, it will involve some “margin.”  Last Friday I officially finished/survived/collapsed at the finish line of my term of full-time work and full-time school at the same time.  I was able to get everything done, but it left me with NO margin.  No time to make new friends, be involved at church, cook meals, sleep, or deal with unforeseen issues (for example, I just about had a breakdown when Knightley needed to be taken to the vet last week, right in the middle of my big research project.)

One of the things that has been the most distressing to me is that I’ve felt like I haven’t been able to “be a wife.”  I don’t want to get into a big discussion of women’s roles here, and please don’t misinterpret me and think I subscribe to the “barefoot in the kitchen” model.  But, what I will say is that it was very distressing to me to head off to work leaving a half-folded tower of laundry, a floor carpeted in dog hair, and a note for Adam that there was canned soup in the cupboard (“Oh and could you please clean the toilet because you’re so wonderful?”), and then come home and immediately lock myself in the office with my textbooks (and my bowl of soup).  Adam, wonderful man that he is, very graciously picked up my slack, cleaning the house and even cooking.  But it still made me feel frustrated, stressed and unfulfilled.

I always knew I wanted to be a wife and mother (among other things) but I’ve actually been a little surprised by how fulfilling I find the “homemaking” tasks the feminist movement has made sound so negative.  I kind of thought other things would fulfill me and the homemaking stuff would just be work that had to get done.  But not only am I realizing how much satisfaction I get out of crafting our home, what has been more apparent of late is how UNfulfilled I feel when other life demands keep me from being able to actively create our home environment.  I can’t say I get big kicks and giggles vacuuming or cutting the fat off chicken breasts for dinner.  But, I love the total affect.  I love when the place we come home to at night, the place that envelops the most personal and cherished parts of our lives, can be described with words like restful, warm, nourishing, created, orderly, inviting, etc.

The shocking takeaway?  God knows what He’s talking about.  (Whoa!)  No matter what the world tells us, His instructions for roles are GOOD ideas.  Ideas that fulfill us and bring us peace.  And, here I have to give credit to my amazing mom, because I’ve spent my whole life watching her beautiful illustration of what this looks like.

So, after many talks with Adam, we decided it was time for me to cut back to part-time at work.  I should note that the reason we’re able to do this is because wonderful Adam is working two jobs right now to provide for us.  I feel a little scared and a little guilty: scared because this involves both a pay cut and an hours cut, and guilty because part of me is still saying, “You’re just too lazy to be able to handle it all.”  But, I’m holding on to two truths: first, God has been INCREDIBLY faithful to provide for us financially.  Adam’s second job was just dropped in his lap, for example.  And second, I believe God is happy with my desire to take care of Adam and our home, and if this is what He’s asking me to do, He’ll take care of burdens I can’t shoulder.

And last but not least, not only will this allow me to oversee my little home domain again, but it will also give me time to be involved in other things that fulfill me, like ministry and (dun dun dun!) THIS BLOG!!  So let the new saga begin, and may I protect it a little better from now on.

March 3, 2010

Big Knives and Marriage

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , at 11:53 am by Tamara

My dad spoke at our wedding about “cleaving” in marriage.  I’ll be honest, the day was a bit of a blur, but I THINK he talked about how cleaving could either mean something to do with a large, sharp knife, or to stick with and be united with your spouse.  Some might argue that both are possibilities in marriage, but let’s go with the second definition, shall we?

The reference in Genesis 2:24 says a “man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”  (The word “united” was “cleave” in early English translations.)  It’s amazing to me how I can “know” what a verse means and then have God make it REAL, and I realize how much more depth was there than I ever imagined.  I think that concept is why the Bible is limitless—why there’s always something deeper to learn from it.

This move has been a living lesson for me in what it means to cleave, and why the Bible says the process of being united involves leaving.  Adam and I were both pretty independent and secure in our environments, friends, etc when we got married.  We have WONDERFUL parents who have beautifully handled the balance between giving us freedom to start a new family while still loving and supporting us.  I’d say Adam and I relied on each other during our first year of marriage, but it was nothing like these past few months.  When we got here, we had no one to lean on but each other and Christ.  The result is that, through leaving our comfort zones together, I feel closer to him than I’ve ever felt before.  In the first place, we’ve been together nearly 24-7, which I’ve loved.  In the second place, I NEED him now, whether it’s to save me from the multitude of mini handyman-emergencies we’ve had with the house, to get away for a cup of coffee and chat, or just to know that someone else knows exactly what going through all these new experiences is like.  “Leaving” has been a hard thing, but it’s been a wonderful thing for our marriage.  I respect, trust, love, and admire him more than ever before.

Today is the first sad day when Adam’s shift ends at the same time that mine begins, meaning we won’t see each other all day.  On the bright side, he got a job!  He’ll be working at Panera (one of my favorite places!) and continuing to take seminary classes.  As stressful as it was before he had a job, the upside for me was that he was almost always home when I was.  And I just love having him around.  I’m so thankful for these past few months of learning to rely on him more than I ever have before.

It’s amazing isn’t it, that the Bible actually knows what it’s talking about?  I wonder how many other things the Bible says to do that I’m brushing over without thinking of actually applying them to my life.  God really, really knows what He’s talking about.  There’s never been any command that I’ve obeyed and had it not turn out for my good.  That should be something to remember when I don’t understand what He’s doing, or just plain don’t like it.  He knows what He’s doing, and what He’s doing is good!