Dr. Mark Creech
I was recently talking with a young woman who was cohabitating with her boyfriend instead of marrying him. She said with some perplexity, “Reverend, what difference does a piece of paper make? You can have the same commitment without a legal document.”
I responded simply, “Then if that piece of paper really makes no difference, why not go get it?” The fact is it does make a huge difference – what it reveals about the reality of the depth of one’s commitment – the legal protections it provides for the woman and any possible children that may come from the couple’s union.
Marriage is not simply a private matter. But it is a covenant made between God, the couple, society, and the laws of the land. Anything short of this between a man and a woman is not marriage, but just something that mimics it.
Glenn Stanton, a researcher, author and speaker on marriage issues has spent years reviewing research from institutions like Harvard, University of Chicago, Berkely and Bowling Green that address the difference between cohabitating and marriage.
Stanton writes, “The reams of research stacked on my desk from various disciplines indicates that the idea that marriage is just a piece of paper or a legal formality could not be further from the truth…Institutions conducting credible research on this issue across the country are finding that in every way we are able to measure human wellbeing, marriage makes a measurable difference. There is a gap the size of the Grand Canyon in the outcomes of married people versus cohabitating couples. Even long-term cohabitating couples look more like single people than married people…When we look at domestic violence against women, how well the kids do in school, the kind of neighborhood you live in, and mental and physical wellbeing, married people are better off across the board. In some instances, two to three times better off than those who are single or living together.”
For the first time in America’s history, more people are living together than those who are married. That’s a tragedy for these couples, the children who come from their unions, as well as the country.
I think it’s especially bad for women because women tend to think cohabitation is something moving towards marriage, while most guys are just hanging out, having fun, and enjoying the milk from the cow without having to pay for it. 
Outside of that piece of paper there is nothing but sexual immorality – a bond without the fullest commitment – a bond with all the privileges of marriage but devoid of its most serious responsibilities – a counterfeit at best.
Yes, that piece of paper does make a difference – all the difference in the world.
 Baumgardner, Julie “Does A Piece of Paper Really Make a Difference?” First Things First, http://firstthings.org/does-a-piece-of-paper-really-make-a-difference