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

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.

Dear Abby:

I am a 24-year-old single mother of a 3-year-old daughter. I was physically and verbally abused by both of my parents. I no longer live with them. However, I try to have a good relationship with them. They are the only support system I have.

I have no one except my parents to watch my child, but I see them starting to yell at her. When I mention that yelling is not good for my daughter, they accuse me of being "overly protective." Can you tell me how to deal with this? I am still trying to overcome the temper I developed while living with them.

In a Bind in Baton Rouge

Under no circumstances should your parents baby-sit your child. It's time for you to find another babysitter and to build another support system. Start by reaching out to fellow church members, other single parents and contemporaries. You could also benefit by attending a parenting class with other young mothers. There you will learn about child development and meet other single parents who are struggling with issues similar to yours.

Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate