Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should I Marry My Boyfriend So He Can Get Free Health Insurance?”

Much money 07

I have been with my boyfriend for about a year. He’s a freelance writer who pays out of pocket for his health insurance — he has Obamacare, which is apparently pricey for a man in his thirties. He doesn’t go to the doctor when he’s sick or injured, or see a therapist for his depression, because of high copays. I am fortunate enough to have a job that completely covers the cost of my health insurance, and it would also cover the health insurance of my spouse at no charge.

My boyfriend stresses about money so much that I’m considering getting secretly married so he can be covered under my health insurance. I’d like to be in a committed relationship that lasts the rest of my life, but I actually don’t believe in the institution of marriage as a government entity; I have trouble supporting an institution that still, in so many states, excludes gay couples. It’s silly to me that the government has anything at all to do with love, and it’s crazy that in order to have decent, affordable health insurance, a person either has to have a good job or marry someone with a good job.

I haven’t talked to him about this yet. We haven’t talked about spending the rest of our lives together; we talk about the future, but not that long-term. This marriage would be a financial decision and not a symbol of a lifelong commitment (though I love him immensely and would like to see things head there with him eventually). What do you think? And what should I be considering before we proceed? — Proposing for Health Insurance

I answered a question once from a couple who married early for health insurance reasons, but the difference between them and you guys is that they were actually planning to get married. It was something they had discussed, agreed on, and planned for. That doesn’t describe your situation at all, and you definitely should not marry — or even propose to — someone you haven’t talked about spending your life with. Furthermore, you should think long and hard before ever marrying someone whose financial situation is questionable. Whether you agree with it or not, marriage IS a legal commitment and, when you tie yourself to someone in that way, you also tie yourself to his or her finances. His money problems become your money problems (and vice versa), and it sounds like your boyfriend has money problems. Why would you want to be legally responsible for them if you haven’t even discussed a long-term future together?

Now maybe you’re thinking, “He doesn’t have money problems! He just can’t afford decent health care because he’s a freelancer.” Here’s the thing: the affordable care act (or, “Obamacare”) is set up so that people CAN afford it. I’m no expert at all, but I know a little bit about it because Drew and I (and our kid/s) get our health insurance through the ACA. I’m obviously self-employed, but Drew doesn’t get health insurance through his job even though it’s what most people would consider a “good job,” disproving your statement that to “have decent, affordable health insurance, a person either has to have a good job or marry someone with a good job.” We DO have decent, affordable health insurance, but it’s not thanks to our jobs or our marital status. It’s thanks to being financially responsible and to an improving national healthcare system. (It’s certainly far from perfect and I think we pay way too much for the coverage we do have, BUT this is the best and most affordable insurance we’ve ever had, so.)

Anyway, my point is, if your boyfriend who is single and in his 30s can barely afford what is probably one of the cheaper plans available (I’m assuming this since he’s saying that his copays are so high and, the higher the copay, the cheaper the premium) even considering the various subsidies and refundable credits for lower-wage citizens, then something doesn’t add up. I don’t know what that something is, but I sure as shit wouldn’t marry into it if I were you.

I appreciate that you want to help your boyfriend, but marrying him isn’t the way to do it. Maybe you can offer to sit down and work on a budget with him, help him figure out how to better prioritize his expenses and maybe apply for various tax breaks and refunds he might qualify for, so that he can better afford things like mental health care, which is super important, especially if he’s dealing with depression. When you feel like your relationship is ready for a next step, you could discuss moving in together. I’m sure splitting rent and bills would probably help his financial situation, too, without your having to marry him before your relationship is ready for that.

Bottom line: DON’T GET MARRIED YET. Don’t marry this guy or anyone until you really do want to spend your life together (and have discussed it at length). Marriage IS a legally-binding commitment. The government DOES get involved. You don’t have to like these things to be affected by them, and, the second you tie the knot with someone, you will be affected by them. So make sure you not only love and trust the person you’re marrying, but make sure you know and understand his financial situation and are on-board with being partly responsible for it (including unpaid debts). And make sure this is someone you want to be with long-term because, as much as you hate the idea of government being involved in a marriage, you’ll hate the idea even more when it’s involved in your divorce.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

65 comments… add one
  • avatar

    SpaceySteph June 1, 2015, 8:35 am

    Only barely related, but its a huge peeve of mine when people are like “I have Obamacare.” Just goes to show what a good job the Republican propaganda engine did at convincing people that the government is providing insurance (which they are and have been for DECADES to low income people through Medicaid and old people through Medicare). There is no “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act isn’t a health plan. It just set up a way to buy insurance plans from the same companies that provide insurance through workplaces to people who previously didn’t have an easy or affordable way to do that. It also offers tax breaks for people who have to buy their insurance out of pocket, like your BF, in order to help them afford it.

    So yeah, don’t marry him. But also, I think both you and your boyfriend need to educate yourselves on the law and how it works. Chances are high that Wendy is right and there are tax breaks or cheaper plans he’s not taking advantage of… or his finances are a major wreck, and if you marry him, you get half his debt and bad decisions along with it.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra June 1, 2015, 8:36 am

    Yeah, I COMPLETELY agree with what Wendy said. I pay out of pocket for my health insurance and there are plenty of different affordable options so I don’t think he did his homework before choosing one. I also definitely don’t think it was smart on his part to choose a plan where his copays are through the roof so he doesn’t go to the doctor. What is the point of having health insurance then?? Makes no sense. I personally pay a higher premium each month because I have a chronic medical issue where I have crazy expensive medication and I have to have annual tests for it. I knew I needed a low deductible so I wouldn’t be caught paying an arm and a leg for my health needs. The fact that he isn’t fully grasping that he should get some help for his depression or even go to the doctor really raises my eyebrows, and tells me that you shouldn’t follow through with this plan to secretly get married.

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    • Lady_Red

      Red_Lady June 1, 2015, 3:57 pm

      What’s the point of having health insurance? You’re legally required to have it, so I can see why someone would go for the cheapest plan available. Though I agree with others, since he should be seeing someone for his depression, he needs to find a plan that works better for him.

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  • othy

    othy June 1, 2015, 8:53 am

    There are also many people whose job it is to sit down with anyone who wants to enroll and help them figure out the plan that works best for them, as well as which tax breaks they qualify for. While the enrollment period is over for 2015, next year he really needs to sit down with one of these professionals (who are completely free of charge) and go over his options. They should be able to help him find something that is more affordable that he will actually use. How to find them varies state to state, but you can usually find contacts through your state exchange website.
    .
    Also, I hate that we live in a country where people are considering marrying just for the health care benefits because we can’t be bothered to make health care easily affordable for all.

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  • Raccoon eyes

    Raccoon eyes June 1, 2015, 8:54 am

    …Slow clap for Wendy… I totally agree that you can have whatever opinion you want as to the government “being involved in” marriage, but you need to think more long term and apply actual logic to the situation.
    *
    In a somewhat similar vein, I know a guy (not exactly a friend, and not really important to the discussion, per se, but he is also extreeeemely cheap) that argues that tipping on tax at a restaurant is wrong because it is Evil Big Brother Crap. Ugh, such a pet peeve of mine. Bc that isn’t, in fact, protesting government involvement, but is penalizing the waitress.

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    • Nookie

      Nookie June 1, 2015, 11:00 am

      The Cockney also feels this way about tipping. But in fairness, he is English. I’ve lived away so long that I find it a pain when I come home but I still cough up the money.

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    • avatar

      Anonymous June 1, 2015, 3:53 pm

      I’ve never heard that you’re supposed to tip on the tax. In fact, I usually use the tax to calculate the tip, since tax is about 9%, so I just double that amount.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray June 1, 2015, 8:57 am

    Why would you want to legally take on this burden? What if you lose your job or get a job that doesn’t offer health insurance? (Also for the record getting married made my husband’s health insurance go way up on the exchange because of the higher income). It doesn’t sound like he even has major health issues. But he does have trouble with money. And if you aren’t marrying for love, then why the hell would you legally tie yourself to him? He’s in his thirties, he is responsible for his life, and he doesn’t need a savior coming in to help him afford health insurance. Your plan doesn’t seem well thought out to be honest. Knowing someone’s financial history and situation is so, so important when you marry. It’s one thing if you want to spend the rest of your life with someone and get married to have better health insurance, but you seem on the fence about the commitment part of the relationship. Don’t get married yet.
    .
    Also, as an aside you mention not wanting not to get married because queer couples still can’t in many states. That’s something I’ve never quite understood when straight people say that and it sounds a little savior complex to me, along with the idea of marrying your boyfriend to help him in the first place.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph June 1, 2015, 9:29 am

      I am torn on the subject of your last paragraph. If you have close gay friends who you are specifically thinking of and don’t want to get married as an act of solidarity, then I guess it only matters what that couple (or those couples) think of the gesture. If they appreciate it, then ok.
      If you’re doing it just as a general boycott then… it’s like a victimless protest. Who are you hurting or helping by not doing it? Only yourselves. It’s not like the state is going to go “oh LW won’t get married because gay people can’t. This is a tragedy we should fix right away by legalizing gay marriage!” They don’t care whether you do or not, so what good is your protest?
      It sounds more like the LW is in the second camp, and thinks she’s so edgy for being against marriage as a legal institution. Besides, the better argument for legalized gay marriage is that it IS a legal state institution and the government is discriminating based on sexual orientation whether citizens have the right to enter a specific legal contract.

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      • mylaray

        mylaray June 1, 2015, 9:37 am

        I’m queer and I see far too many people who boycott marriage as a way of wanting special recognition of being an ally, when it’s not even about them. I do agree that LW is overall probably just being edgy in being so against marriage, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom June 1, 2015, 9:14 am

    No, don’t get married for health insurance.

    Get married because the two of you are committed to spending your lives together. Get married because the two of you would be together whether marriage existed or not.

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  • avatar

    TheGrumpapotamus June 1, 2015, 9:14 am

    I don’t understand when people say “I don’t want to marry until everyone can get married” as a way to show solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community. It makes it seem like marriage is unimportant enough that you can easily defer or decline marriage without any negative impact, which works against the people trying to get the right to marry. Marriage is incredibly important in a lot of ways and Dan Savage said it best when he described it as the right to determine who your next of kin is. It gives you the ability to say this person here is the one I choose, they are my person and in time of crisis, they are the one I want by my side and making decisions if I am unable.

    As a person whose decision on when to get married was influenced by gaining health insurance for my spouse, do NOT get married just for that reason. The decision on the timing of when to get married in my case was influenced by the need to get my husband covered, the decision as to whether or not to get married was not and should not be.

    Also, community property laws ain’t no joke and you better know for damn sure what the laws are where you live now and anywhere you may want to live in the future before doing anything like this. In some states, you can be held liable for any debt your spouse incurs, even if you are not joint on the account, did not benefit from it, and had no knowledge of it. Marriage is a powerful legal institution. Whether or not you buy into the societal importance we place on it, you need to educate yourself on the legal importance we place on it.

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  • mandalee

    mandalee June 1, 2015, 9:17 am

    I am commenting as someone who did get legally married prior to my wedding due to losing my job and my health insurance which I desperately needed for some chronic health care issues. However, we were already engaged at that point and thoroughly discussed the idea and were on the same page. Also, this was prior to the ACA going into effect and there was very little affordable options I qualified for and that forced our hand a bit more.
    .
    Having said that, I would never encourage a couple that hasn’t discussed long-term commitments or seriously considered the legal/financial ramifications of getting married besides getting your boyfriend health insurance. Regardless of your feelings of the government’s involvement in love and marriage and how health insurance works in this country (which I agree sucks in its current state, but that’s beyond the point), marriage is still a serious legal commitment that is not easily undone if something were to go wrong with your relationship.
    .
    I agree with Wendy that your boyfriend may have not done his research regarding health insurance or you may reside in a state that hasn’t fully signed on to the ACA, which I can’t speak to fully since it confuses the hell out of me, but I know the plans and options that are offered vary from state to state. I would recommend that he look into it more and see if there are any more affordable options available. He may find a plan with a higher premium but smaller or no copays for certain services.

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    • avatar

      MsMisery June 1, 2015, 11:54 am

      My uncle got married after losing his job to be on insurance, but like you, this was before the ACA was even a thing and he’d been with his wife FOR YEARS (we were like just do it already).
      .
      I’m not necessarily opposed to getting married for “business purposes,” whatever they may be. Once upon a time people DID get married to join households, land, countries, etc, and not even for love. It’s a relatively new concept. But you both would have to be on board (i.e. talk to him about this!!!) and would need to get a lot more of the details worked out. That said, I don’t think this should be your first option either. If he’s working freelance, can he pick up more jobs? Can he change his plan at the new enrollment period to something that better suits him? Maybe you both need to work out a household budget so he doesn’t feel the constant stress of this (which will affect his health, creating stress, vicious cycle, etc).

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  • avatar

    SasLinna June 1, 2015, 9:26 am

    Sometimes getting married for reasons other than wanting a lifelong romantic commitment is a practical solution to a problem. But I don’t think that’s the case here: There are easier alternatives out there that your boyfriend could pursue in order to get better health care, and it’s not really your responsibility to help him out here, especially since he has not even asked you to. Don’t take marriage lightly, even if the symbolism doesn’t matter much to you. You’d still run a significant risk by marrying him.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph June 1, 2015, 9:43 am

      “Don’t take marriage lightly, even if the symbolism doesn’t matter much to you.”
      That’s really the perfect answer! You can keep saying marriage is a stupid institution and you don’t like the government in your peanut butter, but whether you like it or not it’s a complex binding contract.
      You marry him, he can choose to take you off life support in the event of a major injury or accident. He can rack up credit card debt and then give you half of it in the divorce. He can apply for joint credit in your name without your knowledge. You need to know who you’re handing the reins to, and it doesn’t seem like you do.

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    • Raccoon eyes

      Raccoon eyes June 1, 2015, 10:42 am

      Agreed. Stupendous, concise statement to the bottom line, be it as it may.

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B. June 1, 2015, 9:28 am

    The only reason you should think about marrying someone is because you really love them and want to spend the rest of your life with them. Getting married just so someone can have insurance, or get a green card, or escape from their parents’ house (I know someone who did this) will doom the marriage from the start. You will end up with so many more problems to deal with. Wendy’s right. His debt will become your debt. Do you want to deal with that? A better plan is to do as Wendy suggests and sit down with your boyfriend and help him figure out ways to better manage his money. This is something he’s got to learn anyway. There are financial advisers out there who can help. They are not free, but since you’re are willing to marry him to solve his problems, maybe you’re willing to pay the consultation fee instead? It’s cheaper than a divorce.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom June 1, 2015, 9:47 am

      I agree completely.
      .
      If she was doing it only to help him out financially so that he could afford his health insurance she would probably do as much good by giving him money for his copays rather than marrying him. Her insurance will go from an individual policy to a family policy so she’d be paying more out of her pocket to get him that insurance coverage. Why get married and have the higher cost when she could give him the money directly and not be legally tied to someone she otherwise isn’t wanting to marry. Also, most companies are reassessing their health insurance coverage every year and most are cutting the benefits their employees receive. So she might marry him only to find that her coverage goes to a very poor plan next year and his copays are still too expensive.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph June 1, 2015, 9:58 am

        I was confused by this, too, because she said her company offers insurance for spouses at no charge. I have never seen a company health plan that didn’t take more from a paycheck for a couple/family plan than for a single plan… but if it’s true then it is a pretty sweet deal for married people and kinda sucky for single people who are paying into the same pool.
        .
        But you are absolutely right that they could change it all for next year and end up making it worse. You marry him and add him to your plan, and then next year they could charge you $300 a paycheck to keep him on your plan. You don’t know.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover June 1, 2015, 10:05 am

        My company doesn’t charge extra for adding your spouse, and neither does my husband’s. This is in Canada though.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph June 1, 2015, 10:17 am

        I’m confused by Canada’s healthcare system. I thought it was universal, not through work? I’ve maybe been lied to about how good Canada was compared to us, then.

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      • avatar

        Vicki June 1, 2015, 10:37 am

        We have universal health care, but insurance through work is more for dental and eye care, and life/death insurance. Also reimbursed for massages. This is also if you want to go through private clinics; I could get blood work and ultrasounds done for free at hospitals but I can also go through private clinics, pay more, but will get reimbursed through work.

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      • avatar

        MissDre June 1, 2015, 11:10 am

        Yes, healthcare is free here. Like, you can go to the doctor or hospital and it doesn’t cost anything. Blood work, ultrasounds, an extended hospital stay, etc. No charge. But things like prescriptions, the dentist, getting your vision checked, a registered massage, physiotherapy, etc aren’t covered by your health card, so most employers offer benefits that reimburse you for those things.

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      • avatar

        memboard June 1, 2015, 11:18 am

        Canadian plans are supplemental, through work, and usually there isn’t a choice (or much choice) involved. You can certainly decline a work plan.
        .
        In Canada you will certainly leave a hospital without any medical bill. That’s the norm unless you upgraded to a private room or rented the TV or whatnot (I wish there were a premium meal plan, some of those mashed potatoes are very forgettable).
        .
        Having compared with US colleagues, a Canadian plan typically is about 1/5 to 1/10th of the typical US premium. That’s expected, it covers a lot less.
        .
        Last I checked (a Frontline episode on PBS) Canada spends about 9% GDP and covers everyone while the US spends 12% GDP and doesn’t cover 10% of the population. Service levels in the US can be better though. You are a paying customer after all and you have the ability to choose in some cases. That same episode also compared against Europeans and some Asian plans. Here again the US comes out unfavorably due to coverage and costs.
        .
        The big difference is that in Canada Healthcare coverage is never a concern (of registering, paying or loosing). It’s not a factor for getting, loosing or changing jobs. You don’t see people staying at their jobs so they can keep there medical coverage. No marriage for coverage (like the LW here). There also are no ambulance chasing lawyers, no malpractice lawsuits (to speak of anyways). The big difference is that there is no billing department and checking with the insurer before treatment. There are, on the other hand, waiting lists and delays and hallways can sometime be crowded. Salaries for most medical professions are much lower than in the US.

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      • avatar

        Vicki June 1, 2015, 1:32 pm

        I need to look into whether we can decline parts of the work plan. We have dental and the like, but I don’t want the life and death insurance. (Our company recently switched insurance providers.) I already have that privately, and have been paying crapload per month for the past 10 years. I don’t need another one through work. But our HR department says I have no choice, but one part of me thinks they’re lying…

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover June 1, 2015, 11:20 am

        What Vicki and MissDre said. The basics are covered. Your work can give you extra coverage on top of what the govt gives. You can also buy extra coverage if your work doesn’t give it and you want it.
        .
        There are a lot of people who think some of the “extras” should be basics, particularly prescriptions, dental (partially covered under basic but not fully), and visual. There hasn’t been a huge push to add it though. As the population gets older maybe there will be.

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      • Nookie

        Nookie June 1, 2015, 11:22 am

        I’m confused by it too and I’m Canadian. After I quit my job and left the country, they sent me a bill for medical coverage (I think because I wasn’t technically working or on benefits?) that I never got and went to the bailiffs. Finally they contacted my family who put them in touch with me and I told them that I had left the country, the bill was torn up.

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      • othy

        othy June 1, 2015, 10:54 am

        My company’s insurance costs me next to nothing (and it’s only about $10/month for a spouse). But, I’m employed at a state university, so our benefits are awesome (they put an additional 14.2% into my retirement, no matching required!). Some companies are just much better about benefits than others.

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      • avatar

        Mango June 1, 2015, 5:20 pm

        I’m in the US and my company completely covers health insurance for the employee, spouse, and children. So I have medical, dental, and vision at no cost. When I got married I added my husband and still had no cost. I’m assuming the LW is in a similar situation.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray June 1, 2015, 9:51 am

      I disagree. You assume it will doom the marriage from the start, as you say, because you assume they are getting married for the reasons you think people should get married. But if they’re not, then who’s to say?
      *
      That said, I do agree that the LW should consider all the other implications that marriage brings. And consider other more efficient ways for them to get what they want without getting married if the legal implications are not something they want to deal with.
      *
      (Also, for the record, I highly doubt that getting married is the most efficient way to get LW’s boyfriend better insurance. If that’s the only reason they want to get married, there would seem to be a lot better ways to get it – ways that won’t require the LW to be financially responsible for her boyfriend and other potentially negative legal consequences.)

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover June 1, 2015, 9:57 am

        I see what you’re saying, but it looks like the LW is thinking that way too. She doesn’t actually want to be married to him at this point. So she has one single reason to get married, and a bunch not to (including not wanting to be married). I do think that will doom it. It would be one thing if she didn’t want to get married for love, but had a lot of other reasons for it. Then I agree, that doesn’t doom it. But not even wanting to, with such a weak reason… no. I don’t think it’ll be successful. Unless her definition of successful is just that it gives him insurance for now, and later on if they get divorced that’s fine.

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  • avatar

    RedRoverRedRover June 1, 2015, 9:42 am

    I don’t understand complaining about government being tied up in marriage, when the only reason you’re thinking of getting married is to gain a government benefit. Huh?
    .
    If you don’t want government involved in marriage, then just have a private ceremony and don’t get legally married. Being legally married HAS to involve the government, because that’s literally what it means. Being married in eyes of the law. Sorry, pet peeve of mine, I just don’t get the complaint. If you don’t want government involved, don’t get government-married. If you want the government benefits, get government-married. The end.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna June 1, 2015, 9:57 am

      Well, it’s possible to think that the government benefits in question should not be limited to married couples, and still get married because you personally need those benefits. There’s no contradiction in that.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover June 1, 2015, 10:02 am

        I just don’t see how that would even work though. Take the one she’s talking about, health insurance. What would be the line to say that this person gets to use my health insurance? Do we have to be together for a certain amount of time? We have to live together? We have to sign a document that says we’re at a certain level of seriousness in the relationship?
        .
        The government has to draw a line somewhere. They draw it at marriage. We can argue about where the line is drawn, and in some places the line is common-law instead of marriage. But there has to be one somewhere, or else you could just put anyone on your insurance.

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      • avatar

        SasLinna June 1, 2015, 10:11 am

        I personally believe that health insurance should be entirely independent of marriage (and it is in my country), but I would possibly get married for these benefits if I had no other choice. There are countries that do use factors like whether you live together to draw the line in various social security benefits matters. The special role of marriage in this is US specific. But my general point is that getting married is not an endorsement of all present marriage law in a given country at a given time. You can be critical of many aspects of the law and still get married.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover June 1, 2015, 11:18 am

        I agree health care should be available to everyone (it is in my country too). It’s just weird that THAT’s not what she’s complaining about, and instead she complains about govt being involved in marriage, which is exactly what she’s trying to exploit.
        .
        Anyway, it’s a general thing that people complain about (the LW is complaining about it generally too, not just in regards to health care). I just don’t know what marriage would be if the govt wasn’t involved. Obviously for religious people there would be the religious part of it. But what else? Nothing. There would be no such thing as secular marriage if the govt wasn’t involved. That’s my point.

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      • avatar

        SasLinna June 1, 2015, 11:27 am

        I guess I don’t see it as exploiting the institution when you need to do it in order to get a benefit that the government should anyway be giving you, regardless of marital status. LW did include a complaint to the effect that she doesn’t think healthcare should be dependent on marriage, which as you say is really the issue here.
        As for what marriage would be without government involvement, it would become totally up to individuals to define its meaning. I think that could be kind of interesting to see if a unified concept of marriage would survive if government stopped being involved. I believe that the legal aspects of marriage should become detached from the symbolic meaning.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover June 1, 2015, 12:04 pm

        “I believe that the legal aspects of marriage should become detached from the symbolic meaning”.
        .
        But you can do that right now. Plenty of people have commitment ceremonies where it’s not a legal marriage, but it’s a symbolic one. There’s nothing wrong with that. But without legal marriage, things like next of kin and inheritance would be harder to deal with. What would be the rules on who your next of kin is (who makes life and death decisions for you if you’re incapacitated)? Who would inherit your assets when you die? I don’t think it’s impossible to get rid of, but you’d have to institute a system for changing your next of kin, and the rules that go with that, and in the end I believe you’d end up with something extrely similar to what civil unions are right now. So we might as well keep them.

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      • Portia

        Portia June 1, 2015, 3:04 pm

        I don’t know anyone getting commitment ceremonies.
        .
        Me and Bassanio didn’t get married but legally signed paperwork for a domestic partnership a few months ago. It allowed us to get some of the legal benefits of marriage (health insurance, hospital visitation) without getting our finances tied up together. The health insurance bit worked because he worked for a government entity that lets you put domestic partners on your health insurance (not free but greatly reduced). This has worked out great for us, and we made the decision before getting engaged.
        .
        That being said, the reactions from people we’ve told? Not great. Before we were engaged: “why didn’t you just get married?” After we got engaged: “what’s the point? You’ll get married soon” And a lot of people would just end up confused because we’re a hetero couple. Needless to say, we stopped spreading the word… I don’t know, there’s not a lot of options between nothing and everything and I’m not a fan of one-size-fits-all.

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      • avatar

        RedRoverRedRover June 1, 2015, 3:40 pm

        Isn’t that more an issue with people’s reactions though? It seems like the govt gives options – domestic partnership, common law, civil unions, marriage – some or all of these are available depending where you live. It’s society’s reaction that’s the problem, as you experienced. The government can’t do much about that.
        .
        Like I said, we could wipe all these out and start fresh. People would still hang on to the concept of “marriage”, and would end up requiring the government to do something very similar to what they’re doing today. I agree with adding more options (as has been happening), but beyond that, I don’t know what else they can do. If the government abolished marriage people would go insane. Same with if the government removed marriage benefits. Coming up with different kinds of partnerships is the best way forward, I think.

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      • Portia

        Portia June 1, 2015, 7:50 pm

        I would totally agree with a larger variety of partnership types! As it is, though, even my insurance situation only worked because the circumstances lined up just right. If Bassanio hadn’t been working for the government but instead a company that doesn’t extend benefits to domestic partners?
        .
        And honestly, when it comes to hospital visitation, I’m not so convinced that a hospital would recognize our domestic partnership, mostly because they just wouldn’t be aware of the legalities. The reactions are what I was most negatively affected by so far, but if I had to use it for something like hospital visitation, I have no guarantee that someone would accept it even though it’s be my legal right.

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray June 1, 2015, 9:45 am

    I for one don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting married because you want your boyfriend to be able to get on your health insurance. People get married for a lot of different reasons that are personal. That said, it would be stupid to get married without knowing the legal consequences. And, like Wendy said, whether or not you believe in the institution of marriage, there are legal implications – a lot of them. If you’re OK with saddling yourselves with all those legal implications, then get married for whatever reason moves you! Of course, it takes two to tango so… talk to your boyfriend. Maybe first talk about the future long term? There would seem to be a lot of conversation that need to take place before you go from where you are now to legally married.

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  • findingtheearth

    findingtheearth June 1, 2015, 10:06 am

    Are there no subsidized clinics in your area? My community is tiny, and has one for dental, medical and mental. It does take insurance, but it’s not required to use their services. You can make payments on the amounts due. Sometimes there is a waiting list for some of it, but it’s worth it.

    The overall sentiment of not getting married just for this reason I agree with. Divorce can be extremely messy, even if you were to sign some sort of prenup. I also agree with Wendy in that he should be able to find a somewhat decent plan, especially if his income isn’t very high. If he did not do his research or speak to private insurance companies, that’s his responsibility.

    And as always, what if you get pregnant? Is this a relationship you think will be able to last through a pregnancy and possibly having a child?

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  • avatar

    Anna June 1, 2015, 10:28 am

    I’m mostly just a lurker now but something really bothered me about this. Not the part about not marrying just for insurance. I agree with that. It’s the thing about not marrying someone who doesn’t have a perfect financial situation. It’s a rough world financially for single people who are paying student loans, rent, etc all alone and don’t make $50k+ a year. After I pay all the bills and save a little bit in my savings and some in my 401k, I’m pretty broke. I’ve had to ride out sickness because a $40 copay would eliminate my grocery money. I won’t be done paying off student loans until I’m in my 50’s.

    If I were dating someone who said to me “I won’t marry you because you have too much debt and not enough money”, I would break up with them immediately. Love isn’t about money! Money can’t buy love. If he was so condescending as to sit down, pore over my bills and tell me what “luxuries” he feels I should forego to make him happy, I would kick him in the balls and then break up with him. Thats overstepping some serious boundaries, trying to control someone else’s money and putting a monetary value on their companionship. That’s all.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh June 1, 2015, 10:39 am

      But, the reality is that finances are a large part of relationships. And it can be hard to date someone in a different financial state than you. Sitting down and working on a budget with someone isn’t telling them what luxuries to let go of. It’s talking about money and learning how they use it/feel about it/wish to save it/etc. Which is a much better thing to do in this specific example than to just get married and put a band-aid on the issue. Maybe the problem is that he’s an over spender and spends more than he makes, etc. Which is something she’ll want to know and needs to know before making a decision to stay together! You can’t put a monetary value on companionship but not discussing it and being on the same page as your significant other is a potential relationship killer.

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    • avatar

      MissDre June 1, 2015, 10:39 am

      Hmmmm I don’t think anybody was trying to say “don’t marry someone if they are in debt!” but more like, make sure you think everything through before you marry someone. Make sure you marry someone you trust, who is financially responsible (even if they do have debt), and who you have an open line of communication with. Because if you marry someone for “convenience” without thinking things through, you might get fucked over by their debt.

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    • avatar

      ele4phant June 1, 2015, 11:01 am

      I’m sorry, this comment strikes me as naive. Love may not be about money, but it’s sure a big part of marriage. Finances are the *number one* cited reason for divorce – not children, not infidelity, not religious or differences in values, not anything else. Money problems are the number one reason for breakups. If you are going to share a life with someone, you’re also going to share their finances. Want to buy a house together? Not if your spouse’s credit is in the toilet? Want to take your dream job that pays half the salary of your current one? Not if your spouse has to pay down a massive student loan. Your spouse has a shopping addiction or is reckless with their spending? If you have a joint account they can spend the money coming from your paycheck too.

      Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t marry someone who has bad finances now. Sometimes things happen – like you recently experienced – and people incur a lot of debt that they work diligently to pay off. Or maybe they just made poor choices in the past, but have turned it around and working to get back on track. Just because you have poor credit and a lot of debt now doesn’t mean you’re a lost cause, you can demonstrate you are a good partner and take steps to build your credit back up and pay off your debt eventually. But your potential spouse should be fully aware of your current financial state, and be aware of what you are (or are not doing) to get out of it before they sign up to marry you. If someone has a lot of debt, bad credit, and spends recklessly, it would be reckless of YOU to legally tie yourself to them. Not until they get on a sound financial plan to spend what they can afford, build back up their credit, and start paying down their debt. I’m sorry that’s not romantic, but it’s true.

      And I’m also sorry, but yes, once you get married, you do get to weigh into one another’s purchasing habits. Your future spouse shouldn’t tell you what *you* can afford, but you absolutely need to be on the same page as to what *we-a couple with shared finances* can afford. And that sometimes means you as individuals need to forgo things you want so that you the couple can stick to the financial plan you agreed on.

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      • avatar

        Ange June 1, 2015, 6:27 pm

        Wele4phantS

        I probably didn’t look great on paper when I met my husband. I had a decent job but no savings behind me and I certainly couldn’t have afforded private health insurance (we do have that in Australia but thank god for free medical regardless!). He had a lot of savings and a great paying job. When you looked closer though I had zero debt and brilliant credit thanks to paying off what loans I’d received early, I was just cash poor thanks to being a single person in a major city in Australia. He and I had very similar ideas about money and neither of us are reckless with it. Even that hasn’t insulated us from arguing about it, however, and if you don’t start on the same page with this stuff it can be absolute poison for a relationship – you can’t bury your head in the sand and hope love will get you through.

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    • call-me-hobo

      call-me-hobo June 1, 2015, 11:06 am

      But finances are a very important factor in a marriage. If you aren’t on the same page financially, you are putting your relationship in danger. I don’t think anyone here is saying that people who have debt shouldn’t marry- that sounds a little like you honing in on an insecure on your part.
      .
      If you marry someone who is reckless with money (again-this does not sound like you) or lives beyond their means, you are putting your relationship in dire straights because you WILL fight about it. Love is a beautiful thing, but unfortunately, love isn’t always enough. If you are super stressed out about your partner’s mismanagement of their funds, it will eventually lead to resentment, which is like the kiss of death for a relationship.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover June 1, 2015, 11:07 am

      The impression I got was more “don’t marry a person who’s finances aren’t in order unless you’re willing to take on that financial mess”. Which is perfectly sound advice. In fact Wendy specifically said this:
      “make sure you know and understand their financial situation and are onboard with being partly responsible for it (including unpaid debts)”
      .
      That statement is totally different from saying not to marry someone with bad finances. It’s saying go ahead and marry them, but know what you’re getting into, and be prepared for being partially responsible for whatever financial hole they may be in.
      .
      Plus I think it’s totally valid to not want to spend your life with crushing debt. Like others have said, love isn’t everything. It can’t hold a marriage together if finances are tearing it apart. For me, if marrying someone meant that (for example) I’d no longer be able to travel, I wouldn’t be able to have children, I wouldn’t be able to retire in my 60s, etc, then I probably wouldn’t marry them. Those are huge things to give up. Some people will be willing to give them up for love, and some people will even be happy to feel like they’re sacrificing all of that for love. But not everyone is built like that. Marriage is not just about love. It’s about a partnership, and the goals of that partnership. I wouldn’t be happy married to someone who was keeping me from reaching my goals. And I don’t think that makes me a horrible person.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna June 1, 2015, 11:19 am

      The only thing that I didn’t quite agree with in Wendy’s treatment of the importance of finances in a relationship (totally agree that it’s important that you can live with your SO’s financial situation) was the assumption that this guy necessarily has a problem with managing money. People with low incomes can be good money managers and still have trouble with stuff like copays. I don’t know the US context that well but I definitely have known people who almost got ruined by medical bills through no fault of their own.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom June 1, 2015, 11:22 am

      I think that love can’t conquer all and financial stress can kill marriage. There is a huge difference between only marrying someone who can provide a specific lifestyle and marrying someone who won’t financially destroy your life. Take cars for example, I have never cared whether I owned a new car but it has always mattered to me that the car I drive be reliable enough that I’m not frequently stranded. I worked with a woman whose financial situation left her with a car that broke down constantly. She would miss work because she couldn’t depend on her car. Her financial situation was bad enough that it affected her ability to keep showing up for work and whenever she didn’t make it to work her financial situation got that much worse. Sometimes a bad financial situation adversely affects every other area of your life.

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    • avatar

      ele4phant June 1, 2015, 11:53 am

      Anna – I also want to add that you sound like someone who’s actually in pretty good financial shape. You may not have a lot of breathing room, but you’re actively paying down your debt, you’re able to meet all your other financial obligations (ie your bills, rent, ect), you’re spending within your means, and you’re actively contributing to your savings and retirement funds. A prospective partner shouldn’t really have too many worries about you, you have pretty good financial habits.

      It should be a red flag when your potential spouse has debt that is growing, they aren’t on a repayment plan, or they are spending way over their means. You can have a low income but still be financially responsible; by the same token you can also be bringing in big paychecks but spending even more each month. It’s not about how much you money you make, it’s about how you manage it. You should not marry someone who is financially irresponsible, not until they change their habits.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy June 1, 2015, 11:55 am

      I didn’t say anything about not marrying someone who doesn’t have a perfect financial situation. I implied that marrying someone whose financial situation you don’t fully know or understand is stupid. And marrying someone whom you know to be financially irresponsible is stupid (not that that is the case with this particular LW). And marrying someone whose financial situation is kind of a mess when you aren’t prepared to take on that mess is stupid. OF COURSE love is a wonderful thing, but love doesn’t pay the bills, and when you marry someone, you share the responsibility of bills and debts and expenses.
      .
      I say all this as someone whose financial situation prior to marriage was not ideal. I had a lot of student loan debt and had only just paid off over 12k in credit card debt. I had no savings. And I had a hard time paying for my own health insurance. Drew and I had lots of discussions about finances before we got married. I made sure he understood what he was getting into if he married me — that the likelihood of me being a financial equal to him was low and that until my student loans were paid off, I was going to be a financial detriment. We really, really loved each other, but I would have understood if that was more than he was willing to take on or if he had goals that didn’t align with what I brought (or took away from) the table. Luckily, that wasn’t the case. We’ve been able to pay off my student loan debt through savings he had, but dipping into that life savings has meant sacrificing some other things (like putting off home ownership for a while, for example).
      .
      Anyway, my point is, having a “not perfect” financial situation doesn’t mean one isn’t good marriage material or doesn’t deserve a loving relationship. But it IS something that will — and should — affect how, when, and whether a loving relationship will lead to marriage.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph June 1, 2015, 2:33 pm

      I think this is taking the budget discussion in the wrong way. It would be rude and condescending if my husband told me I should do without X, Y, Z. But I think that sitting down and talking finances and budgets and identifying luxuries vs necessities as a team is actually hugely important.
      My husband and I actually made a list of all the “luxuries” that we could cut immediately if we had to (like if one of us lost a job).
      If you want love to be free from financial strings, don’t get married. Because getting married means sharing finances and that one of your bad credit can destroy the other’s credit. It means if you want to get a house together, you may be hampered by one person’s debt. And while it would not be *stupid* to get married if that were the case, it would be stupid to go into the marriage not understanding each others’ finances and accepting what it means for your shared credit and financial future.
      And if you can’t talk about finances frankly, truthfully, and without getting upset.. then you aren’t ready to marry this person.

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  • avatar

    shakeourtree June 1, 2015, 11:05 am

    The ACA is a really big help for a lot of people, but if you’re in one of the more than 20 states that didn’t expand Medicaid–like my state–there is a pretty big doughnut hole you can fall into where you’re too poor to afford a good plan on the marketplace but too rich for Medicaid. For many, it can still be a struggle to afford health insurance even with the ACA.

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  • avatar

    Sara June 1, 2015, 11:16 am

    I read somewhere that they asked folks if they were for Obamacare, and they all said heck no, but then they asked the same folks about the Affordable Care Act, and magically they were all for it! Not sure if that was just an internet lie or if it was a true happening, but it was funny all the same.

    Just a note…there are some states (cough cough mine!) that like to cut off their noses to spike their faces (cough cough my state) and refused to expand Medicaid, which affected the cost of the plans available under ACA. I have some friends reeling under sticker shock because the plans ARE less affordable than what is seen in other states.

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  • Moneypenny

    Moneypenny June 1, 2015, 11:43 am

    I’m kind of on the fence on this. Frankly, I would first TALK to him about this. Talk to him about his finances (as all couples should do at some point anyway!), talk about the future. I don’t think it’s a bad option if you ultimately want to commit to each other and get married anyway. If you are not sure, and it’s too early in the relationship to jump to this level of commitment, I wouldn’t push the issue.
    .
    Also, if my company dropped our health insurance for employees, I would end up paying A LOT for an ACA plan. I did a general price check for a plan that would be close to what I have for coverage now, and it was around $700 a month which I absolutely cannot afford. So for me, it would not be a lifesaver like it is for a lot of people. Just something to keep in mind.

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    • avatar

      memboard June 1, 2015, 1:58 pm

      If your employer drops your coverage, they are saving a wackload of money. Demand compensation! With that it should become affordable but I am sure you would loose some in the process. That would be the entire point of that exercise.

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      • Moneypenny

        Moneypenny June 1, 2015, 2:35 pm

        That’s all true, actually. I’d definitely want to renegotiate for higher pay to help pay for it (note this is all hypothetical, as I don’t think they’re going to go down this road). On the losing side, I would have to get a different doctor for one thing (I like my doctor!). Not sure about copays or prescriptions and such!
        I have been hearing about companies in my area doing this exact thing just to save money, not to mention I know a couple of people for whom the health plans are very expensive. However, I’m firmly glad that we have the ACA in the first place, for people who do need it.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph June 1, 2015, 2:41 pm

        Exactly… my employer spends about $500 a month on my health insurance (aside from what they take out of my paycheck for it). This means that $500/month is part of my compensation/salary for doing my job.
        This is a think I think a lot of people don’t get because most full time employers do offer health insurance and it’s become the norm. But benefits are not free things your employer gives you for funsies, they are part of your overall compensation for your job.
        Dropping your healthcare plan is like a $6,000 pay cut. If your employer were planning to raise salaries accordingly, they’d see it wasn’t such a money saver. And if they didn’t raise salaries, then they better be prepared for a mass exodus.

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  • Portia

    Portia June 1, 2015, 3:12 pm

    LW: would your employer cover a domestic partner/civil union for health insurance? If so, you might want to look into that. It could give you the option of helping with insurance without the messiness that comes with the other legal rights and obligations of marriage it seems you haven’t considered. Right now, I could end my domestic partnership without a divorce (automatically would dissolve in 6 months after one person brings the paperwork) and there’s no financial obligations.
    .
    But yeah, I agree with everyone else: getting married to help the boyfriend with insurance when you’re not planning to otherwise get married sounds like a terrible and shortsighted idea.

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