DEAR ABBY: My son is angry. He demands that I apologize because I said his live-in girlfriend is not really family. This is a girl I would welcome as a daughter-in-law, but unless they marry, I do not consider her one of the family.
They are both divorced and think marriage is just a "cheap license and a few minutes in front of a minister." I disagree. I think marriage is very important. It shows commitment that living together does not.
What do you think, Abby? -- UPSET IN TENNESSEE
DEAR UPSET: I agree with you. The difference between a live-in arrangement and a marriage is the difference between night and day.
Marriage is sanctioned by society and religion in every culture. Living together is not. The right to inherit property, pensions and Social Security benefits applies to spouses -- not live-ins, as many people have learned to their dismay. As next of kin, a spouse can automatically make decisions about medical care should his or her mate become unable to do so.
In some states, living together for a specified number of years constitutes common-law marriage. In those states, it is legal and binding. However, not all states recognize common-law marriage.
If this seems more about law than romance, perhaps that's why another term for "marriage" is "making it LEGAL."