DEAR ABBY: "Alex" and I have been together for almost eight years. We love each other and recently had our first baby. Our little family gets along great except for one thing. I'd like to be married, and Alex is dead-set against it. He says he wants to "be with" me forever, and his aversion to marriage has nothing to do with me.
I think it's important for our daughter to have a traditional family. I love Alex with all my heart, and I hate having to accept that we may never be married. I have dreamed about being married ever since I was a little girl.
Have you any ideas on how I can either cope with never being a bride or convince Alex to change his mind? -- IN AN "ALTAR"-CATION IN PHOENIX
DEAR IN: Counseling may help you to cope, but there are solid reasons why your boyfriend should change his mind. When children arrive, it's time to be practical. A marriage certificate is more than just a piece of paper. It entitles couples to certain legal protections such as the right of inheritance, the ability to hold title to community property, health insurance benefits, and when you are older, Social Security and pension benefits.
If something were to happen to Alex, with no marriage certificate, you would be left with nothing -- and that includes a voice in his medical treatment or even a claim to his body.