Dear Joseph,
I am having difficulty relating to friends and neighbors who are living together outside of marriage. I heartily disapprove, yet I like many of these people and don't want to sever contact. Please advise.
--Unhappily Judgmental

Dear Unhappily Judgmental,
Two very dear friends of mine have lived together for over a decade. They have two children, but no marriage license. The woman, a dyed-in-the-wool 1960s-style feminist, believes that the institution of marriage has been used throughout history to oppress women. In every other respect, they are among the most devoted couples and parents I know.

Do I wish they would get married? Yes, but it's not something I think about much, even though I see them often. So now I have a question for you: What is it that most bothers you about people who live together--that they are not married, or that they seem uncommitted to each other? Or, if they have children, that they are not committed to their children?

If it's that they don't seem committed, I agree with you; you are right to have trouble relating to them (may I add, one would also be right in having trouble relating to any couple who were not committed to their children).

However, if your discomfort is primarily due to their living together without being married, I would simply say, as a rule, I believe it is much better for people to marry, and most certainly, it's almost always better for children to come into the world with married parents.

Having said that, I also believe that it is much better for one's own happiness not to be too bothered by other people's living arrangements.

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