To Marry or Not to Marry

QUESTION

Dear Mr. Dad,
My girlfriend and I are about to become parents. She wants to get married before the baby is born, but I don’t really see the point. Can’t unmarried parents be just as committed as married ones?

ANSWER

This is one of these questions that I know is going to generate a huge amount of response from readers on both sides of the argument. I’ve been researching and writing about fatherhood for more than a decade and my main objective has always been to give men the tools and support and encouragement they need to become the fathers they want to be and their children need them to be. Given that so many children are born to unmarried-but-living-together couples, I’ve always maintained that it’s more important to support fathers — whether they’re married or not—than to make judgments about people’s lifestyle choices.

I still believe that's true. However, there are a few compelling reasons you might want to give some serious consideration to getting married:

Unmarried fathers aren't as involved. "Cohabiting partners, even if they are biological father to the child, do not invest the same amount of time with children as married biological fathers," says family studies researcher Sandra Hofferth, "and they are less warm than the married biological fathers."

It's harder to stay involved if the relationship heads south. In cases of divorce, mothers have primary or sole custody of the children about 80 percent of the time. While divorced fathers frequently feel cut off from their children’s lives, unmarried fathers have fewer legal rights and find it even harder to maintain a strong relationship with their children after the breakup.

It's good for your health. Researchers have found that unmarried couples that are living together are more likely to suffer from depression, and have more health problems than married couples. This may be because "cohabitants put up with behavior in their partners which husbands and wives would discourage, particularly regarding smoking, alcohol and substance abuse," according to the Institute for the Study of Civil Society.

It may keep you alive longer. Married men have been shown to have longer life expectancies than unmarried men.

It's good for your finances. A number of studies show that married men earn 10-40 percent more than single or cohabiting men.

Despite all of this research, no one has a solid idea of why being married makes such a difference. But the connection seems to be there. One last thing, though, as long as the topic of marriage is on the table, consider doing it sooner rather than later. Statistically, the longer a couple lives together before the wedding, the more likely they are to get divorced later on.
-- "Mr. Dad"

Comments

I don't think that women

I don't think that women should get married JUST because they are pregnant, but I think you should try and become legally committed before you get pregnant for the added security of the baby. Making the decision to have a baby should come after you've been committed to each other and are married. If you become unexpectedly pregnant, it's up to you to evaluate your relationship and whether or not you are ready to get married and if not, making sure you are getting married for the right reasons, not just the baby. If you've considered marriage before unexpectedly becoming pregnant or have an engagement in the works, why not get married sooner? However, if wedding bells have never been discussed, it's better to wait and get married when you feel you are really ready.

Marriage is not a label

Ok I dont think you have to label the relationship. I have a good friend that has a 3 year old and they are about to have there 2 child. I don't know if they are going to get married but for them it worked and they are both very happy with the way things are.

If you BOTH choose to get married or not to get married it is your choice.

Being married does not make you a better parent or partner. Being married is a announcement to the world that you are together and couples have to be ready for that just as much as being ready for a child.

The father of our child on

The father of our child on the way and I are only engaged. We are not married and do not believe we need to get married before our baby is born. We know that we both love each other and want to be together, but it is just not right to rush into marriage just because you share a child. The child should come first.

Marriage

Yes unmarried parents can be as committed. My husband and I were engaged when we found out I was pregnant. He wanted to move the wedding up. I wanted to cancel it.

To me we lived as a married couple already why did we need a piece of paper and the court house to tell us we were a family.

To him it was much more than that it was spiritual it was his promise to his child and me. It was something I just couldn't understand so I agreed because I saw how important it was to him and we were married quickly when I was 7 months pregnant. It was the best decision I ever made.

If you care for her as much as I think you do listen to her talk to her and think of her feelings not what many people consider marriage to be.

BTW We have been married 8 years and are expecting our 3 child. Having that piece of paper didn't show our commitment the fact that we were willing to do anything to make the other one happy did.

Ummm, I'm going to have to

Ummm, I'm going to have to disagree with you on that lpzm73. I believe that there are laws protecting the WOMAN in a pregnancy where it is up to her whether or not to keep the baby and what she does during the pregnancy. So it is her choice to "give up her life, health, and time to have a child." I honestly don't believe that you need to be married just because you and your significant other are having a child. but if you are planning to marry, it definitely needs to be taken very very seriously. Marriage is not something you can quickly adopt. Its not like picking out an outfit for a night out or which puppy you want to take home from the animal shelter. Marriage is something major.

Are you kidding?

The choice to marry should not be taken lightly, and should not be done only because there is a child on the way. A couple does not have to be married in order for there to be a loving, stable home for the child to grow. Think long and hard before you do something to simply placate your baby's mother. Marry her because you love her and want to spend your life with her.

Are you serious?

What is wrong with you guys lately?

A woman can give up her life, health and time to have your child and you can't give her a ring. Guys nowadays have to get their priorities straight.

Armin Brott

A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the bestselling author of The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-To-Be, The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, Fathering Your Toddler, The Military Father: A Hands-on Guide for Deployed Dads, and four other books on fatherhood. He has written on parenting, fatherhood, and health for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek, and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts "Positive Parenting," which airs on a dozen stations in the US and worldwide on the American Forces Network. Armin lives with his family in Oakland, California. You may visit his website at mrdad.com to learn more.