Children's arrival ends independent lifestyle: The birth of their son changed a couple's views. Esther Oxford reports

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MARIE BERRY, 37, knew at 16 that she did not want to get married. 'The white dress and walking down the aisle scenario didn't appeal to me,' she said.

Ms Berry, manager of social work teams, has been with her partner, John Page, for 10 years. Two years ago they had their first child, but it was not until last year that they decided to share a home.

'I've always valued my independence. I had my own house when I met John. I never considered living as a couple,' she said.

For the first nine years they lived separate lives. 'I like that feeling of independence - of being a whole self,' Ms Berry said.

After their son, Matthew, was born the couple lived between two homes. Marriage was discussed but neither agreed with the institutional aspects. 'We have no religious beliefs and our families have never pressurised us to get married,' said Mr Page, 40, manager of a children's home.

The couple eventually moved in together for their son's sake. 'Once we had Matthew everything changed. You have to give so much more when you have children. You cannot preserve your independence,' Mr Page said.

Their second child, a daughter, was born five days ago. Both children have taken their mother's name, but the couple say they would consider marrying if the children were thought to be suffering from the arrangement.

(Photograph omitted)