Relationship Advice: My Girlfriend Wants to Get Married, But I’ll Lose My Health Insurance. What Do I Do?

Relationship Advice: My Girlfriend Wants to Get Married, But I'll Lose My Health Insurance. What Do I Do?

I’ve got a very unique question, but the dilemma is not so unique to many today. I am seriously dating a wonderful woman for 14 months (I’m 49, she’s 46, she’s never been married). I am very amicably separated from ex wife of 10 years. We had no kids. We get along fine, keep in touch once in while.We did not file for divorce for a very practical reason: I am on her medical insurance policy from her company which costs me less than my monthly cable bill (very cheap), and is an extremely great policy. I am self-employed. I have some pre-existing conditions (nothing serious) that would disqualify me from getting a policy on my own. Even if I could, it would be cost prohibitive. My ex is not dating. Until one of us gets married and a divorce filing is required, I can stay on the policy. Just an example, last year I had a routine outpatient test examine and the bill to the insurance company was an eye-popping low five figures for 90 minutes. I only paid $50 for the co-pay. I went for a dental cleaning: $7.00. So this speaks for itself.

A Romeo and Juliet story for the 2000’s… Isn’t it remarkable that something like COBRA can keep two people from tying the knot?

My girlfriend who is very understanding but torn over this, as she doesn’t want me walking around without insurance (she doesn’t have a spousal plan), but understandably wants me to file for divorce, commit to her (I know I already am; I love her dearly) and wants to marry me. We don’t plan to have kids upon marriage. This whole thing has been a sore subject between us. I don’t like it anymore than she does but it’s MY reality. We live in complicated and tough times and getting sick or having an accident can bankrupt you. It’s in the news all the time. There are people out there who stay legally married for kids and money, even taxes but live under different roofs and different lives.

My question is: Should we not focus on the piece of paper of marriage (I’m not belittling marriage) and focus on our own commitment to each other, and go live our lives OR serve her fears and file divorce? I know she REALLY wants to get married and I don’t want to disappoint. But… So until my ex gets married, if ever she does someday, I have amazing insurance (and an amazing lady). I know how she feels but sometimes you’ve got to be practical and real. I wonder what your readers think about this, and what would they do.

Thanks! Steven

A Romeo and Juliet story for the 2000’s…Isn’t it remarkable that something like COBRA can keep two people from tying the knot? Harrumph! If you don’t think that health care needed reforming, tell it to Steven here….But I don’t want to get into a political rant today (I do so enough with my wife). Your question, Steven, is a good one, because it’s not really about health insurance at all. As I see it, it’s about trust. It’s about reality. It’s about compromise. In short, it’s about the very things that make a relationship successful or unsuccessful. I think we can all agree that trust is the underpinning of every relationship, and that there are perfectly valid reasons why we might not be trusting of a partner. Sometimes it has to actually do with the partner’s behavior … extreme flirtatiousness, emotional distance, unwillingness to discuss a future. And sometimes it has NOTHING to do with the partner at all … the mistrust is placed in the failures of past relationships. So if one person cheated on you, you’re wary of your new partner doing the same. If one person disappeared after six months, you’ll do everything in your power to protect yourself from it happening again. The problem is that trying to ‘protect yourself’ is the ANTITHESIS of what a good, solid, stable relationship is about. True love allows you to let go and be weak and know that your partner will support you, through thick and thin. Your girlfriend, Steven, doesn’t actually believe that you will support her unconditionally without a wedding to lock you in for life. And, without more information, I’m inclined to think it has more to do with her past than with anything that you’ve actually done to make her insecure.

…if she’s putting her need for a ring and a marriage license above your need for affordable health insurance, I think you might have a bigger issue on your hands than an unhappy girlfriend…

I can validate her fears … no woman wants to risk a man leaving – but if she’s putting her need for a ring and a marriage license above your need for affordable health insurance, I think you might have a bigger issue on your hands than an unhappy girlfriend: you have a selfish girlfriend who thinks that her needs are more important than your needs. Successful relationships are about making compromises based on what’s most important and what’s possible. It’s impossible for you to get your own affordable health care with your pre-existing condition. Unless Obamacare takes care of you, or your girlfriend is willing to subsidize your medical costs, it seems that everything else stems from that unfortunate reality. All you can do is give your girlfriend the reassurance that you’re in it for the long haul, and if she doesn’t let up, assess whether you truly want someone who isn’t sensitive to your needs.

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  1. 1
    E. Foley - Geek's Dream Girl

    Evan’s spot on here (as usual!). Your need for affordable health insurance is a concrete need. Your physical health could (and probably will) suffer if you can’t afford everything you need for your health care.
    Her need for a marriage paper is really a WANT. Your relationship isn’t going to change because you have the paper. It’ll just settle the insecurity gnawing inside her. That insecurity may kill the relationship, but it won’t kill her.

  2. 2

    I think if a woman had written in with this question, your answer might have been different…. Hey, Evan, I’m dating this great guy. I love him and he loves me. Here’s the catch. He’s married and won’t divorce his wife until she gets married because he is on her awesome medical insurance policy. What should I do? For some reason, when the question comes from that side, it doesn’t seem so obvious that the girlfriend is an insecure and selfish woman who doesn’t know how to compromise in a relationship.
    Perhaps the issue isn’t just that he won’t marry her, but that he won’t divorce his wife. Yes, I know, insurance. But isn’t that really just an excuse? This guy has said that he won’t divorce his wife until SHE wants to marry someone else, and she isn’t even dating anyone. So, in the meantime, his girlfriend is supposed to hang around waiting for a MARRIED man to wait until he ex wife is ready to remarry BEFORE he will marry her. Really? Really? How long exactly is his girlfriend supposed to patiently wait — a year, 5 years, 10 years?
    Why wouldn’t a solution be for him to get a job where he can get insurance or perhaps she could try to find a job that would also provide insurance for spouses? Is the only thing she can do — and be a good little girlfriend — is wait?
    In my world, a married man regardless of the reason he is married is a married man, and as such, he in NOT fully committed to you no matter what he says.

    1. 2.1

      I totally agree!

    2. 2.2

      Totally agree

    3. 2.3

      Absolutely agree.   Been living in this same nightmare for 2 years…and I don’t want to get married…I simply want the person I am with not to be married….maybe it’s too much to ask.

  3. 3

    I don’t know- I’m kind of torn here- I do like Evan’s response- but that one line Kenley mentioned about them finding new jobs, etc. is a pretty obvious one. I don’t know- I honestly don’t understand anyone going for a married man regardless of the circumstances, so I can’t really say anything here.

  4. 4

    I guess if you agreed with the premise that the main point of getting married is to ‘quiet insecurities’, this advice would be perfect. But i don’t agree with that premise.

    As has been said before, people do what they want to do. If he wanted to find a way around this insurance issue he would (ie, deal with paying more than $7 for a teeth cleaning). If she wanted to lessen the importance of him being divorced and them being married she would. I don’t see how she is anymore ‘selfish’ than he is.

    He’s conceded that if/when his wife remarries, they’ll have to divorce and he’ll have to deal with the insurance issue then, so its not like it’s something he would never ever do. His girlfriend is just not important enough to him for him to make that call now…sounds like she may be correct if she is thinking he isn’t 100% committed to their relationship.

    I’m not saying that either side is inherently wrong here. Just that I don’t see how she is being more selfish than he is.

    1. 4.1

      Yes I agree. I mean what happens if his EX got remarried? He’s still gonna lose the current wonderful insurance and he still needs to deal with the issue? Why not now?

      And if his currently girlfriend waits for him, how long is too long?

      If this man would never lose this health insurance, then I think it’s a very complicated issue. But asking the GF to wait for him indefinitely is unfair.

  5. 5

    I’m with Kenley on this one. I also think Evan’s answer is a little bit short-sighted. This situation conceivable could go on indefinitely. What about all the other things that go along with marriage — the right to visit someone in the hospital, the right to make decisions about their medical care, the right to inheritance, etc. If something were to happen to the boyfriend here, his girlfriend — his true partner — would have very few rights. What if she did accept this situation and they bought a house together and built a life together and ten years down the line he got in a car accident and was on life support. There are complicated legal implications to this decision beyond what is immediately apparent. I think the girlfriend is understandably concerned.

    Also marriage is sacred to some people. The girlfriend has never been married — if she feels so strongly about marriage, I don’t think it’s “selfish” of her to want that with the man she loves.

  6. 6

    You have often said that a woman needs to judge a man by what he does and not what he says. Yet, other than this guy saying he loves his girlfriend, he provided no evidence that he has actually DONE anything to make her feel loved and secure. So, if he isn’t going to divorce his wife, what can he DO to show her that he is in it for the long haul? What I think he can do, is let her go — and not because she’s selfish, but because he realizes that he is not ready for marriage or for a real commitment to anyone at this time. How do we know he’s not ready? Because he won’t divorce his wife.

  7. 7

    I disagree with Jennifer — it’s much bigger than the $7 cleaning — note the part where he said he had an outpatient procedure and it cost in the neighborhood of 10K-13K (approx.) — a few of those a year (or even worse) could bankrupt this guy.
    And the cries of ‘get a better job’? He’s FORTY-NINE — do you know what the job market looks like for a guy who’s almost 50? And he’s going to land a job with decent health insurance (which is harder and harder to find) — and if he gets laid off for any reason — he’s totally up a creek…

  8. 8
    Karl R

    I’m going to have to disagree with your perspective on this one.

    Steven needs health insurance. Steven WANTS to pay less for his health insurance than he does for his cable.

    And if Steven is willing to let go of that want, I’d bet there are lots of solutions that will allow him to get married. He could get a job with health benefits. His girlfriend could get a job that includes spouses.

    People change jobs for their spouses all the time (and move across the country too). It’s a fairly normal compromise within a marriage. It’s not unreasonable for Steven to do the same.

    But it will require some sacrifice on his part. Which brings up the question: How badly does Steven want to marry his girlfriend?

  9. 9

    I am flabbergasted by the folks taking the girlfriend’s “side” in this. As David says, he’s 49 and currently self-employed – not likely to be a competitive applicant for a “regular” job in an economy where over 11 million people are on unemployment benefits. The fact that he’s waiting for his (ex)wife to divorce him to me only means he is lucky to be on good enough terms with her that he can have his $10K+ procedures. He explains this was a routine outpatient checkup, what happens if his condition worsens? Plus, he is already 49 and is only going to get older – the odds of his condition worsening and/or developing additional chronic conditions requiring treatment are high. He is generous enough to never stand in the way of his (ex)wife’s happiness if she wanted to pursue marriage with someone else. To me that makes him pretty awesome.

    I do agree with the commenter who pointed out that there are other aspects to a marriage like visitation rights and etc., but there have to be ways that can be handled. I don’t think the housing argument is a good one because I think buying a house is a terrible financial decision no one should make.

    I will also say that I think 14 months is ridiculously soon to be thinking about marriage. My boyfriend and I have been together 4 years, and it’s going to be 2 more years before we get married (actually we set our wedding date for 6 years to the day from when we first met). She’s in her mid 40s now, what’s the rush? And it’s not like any of this is news to her – she’s known about the (ex)wife and his health conditions this entire time. Yet he says this issue is a “sore spot” between them, which implies that they’ve had numerous conversations about it.

    Between that and the fact that she’s not ever been married before, suggests not that marriage is incredibly important and sacred to her, but that she suffers from the type of insecurity that will only worsen/increase if they get married, rather than the opposite. Of course I have no way of knowing that for sure, since I don’t know either of them, but there’s at least as much evidence (I think more) pointing to my conclusion as there is to the one so many of the commenters above seem to have come to.

    1. 9.1

      So what happens if Steven’s ex got laid off from her current job? What happens when his ex got remarried and Steven still loses the health insurance? What does he do then??

  10. 10

    Why is an official marriage even necessary? Especially for people of that age?

    No, I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask Steven to find another job – he said he is self-employed, he might very well be doing what he always dreamed of doing, and finding regular work might be a bit too much of a sacrifice.

  11. 11
    Doctor K

    I had two friends, gay, that couldn’t be married and were together for 19 years. I say “had” because one passed on of a heart attack unexpectedly. The surviving partner had to get permission from the deceased partner’s brother just to take care of the body the way the deceased had wanted. The deceased partner and his brother had not even spoken to each other in decades. Luckily, the brother permitted the arrangements to be carried out according to the deceased partner’s wishes.

    The point is, yes, there are practical reasons such as above that two people who have a “real” relationship choose to marry. It is not just a piece of paper. Moreover, in addition to the above, it also sets up issues of pension and finances and who this goes to. This is not just a “greedy” issue but one that a surviving partner should be concerned about when two people are setting up a home together. I believe we have all seen family members that have fought over such issues (sadly) but can you imagine a long-term partner that really has no say?

    I saw this with my own father. My parents were divorced and he was living with his long-term girlfriend in a home they bought together. When the GF passed on, her daughter (with whom the GF didn’t even have a good relationship) got a lawyer and my father had to buy out the daughter just to continue to live in his own home.

    Aside from the “unsexy” financial issues – it is MORE than a piece of paper. It is a commitment between two people that tell each other and the world what they have together and the intention of this commitment.

    And as some other commenters said, yup, married is married and from personal experience – a man with whom I was living and DID have divorce papers filed still kicked me to the curb when his wife had a financial concern (of benefit to her) and threatened him. Money talks and he walked. You have NO security with a married man, Evan, I’m sorry, no matter what he says, it takes a lot to trust in that situation that you’re not going to be the one that gets screwed in more ways than one.

  12. 12

    Gotta love living in Canada – One less thing dating wise to worry about! 🙂

  13. 13

    Male or female I don’t think it’s selfish at all to Not want to spend the rest of your life with someone who is married to someone else. This guy can only bank on having cheap health insurance as long as his wife allows it. How secure is that?

    Here’s a scenario: Girlfriend gets tired of being “the other woman” and moves on to find a single guy (with or without health insurance). Soon after, wife meets the man of her dreams and can’t sign the divorce papers fast enough. Steven is without beloved girlfriend AND health insurance.

    Steven would be served best by investigating what he can do for himself regarding health care. The wife could pull the health insurance at any time – and what would Steven do if she lost her job, or quit it?

    This isn’t about the girlfriend’s insecurities; it’s about a man using a situation to his advantage for as long as he can.

    1. 13.1

      totally agree!

  14. 14
    Evan Marc Katz

    I appreciate all the respectful dissent. I’m still not moving on this one, though. The suggestion that he should find a new career in order to marry her is not a test that a man should have to take. I can only imagine my wife telling me to get a new job that I might like less, in order to pay more for health insurance, just so I could marry her. Really? Do I get a punch in the stomach with that, too?

    I’m pretty sure that, despite the valid advantages to marriage (in terms of taxes and visitation rights), these are not the motivating factors in why she feels so strongly about marriage.

    Let’s call a spade a spade: she wants to lock him in so he couldn’t possibly flee. That’s the undercurrent to the dissenters’ comments: fear. Can’t trust men. He’s gonna disappoint you. He’s still married. Red alert, red alert!

    Read the guy’s letter again. He loves his girlfriend. He’s got a precondition that could bankrupt him under conventional health insurance. For her to tell him to force an unnecessary and expensive divorce so that she can lock him in only makes sense to ONE party – her.

    She has the right to leave him, to see if he values her more than his health insurance, as Karl pointed out. But while she think she may be issuing a smart ultimatum, I think she’s creating a false one. She’s going to break up with a guy who really loves her but is bound by his health issues. And for what? The piece of paper that prevents him from breaking up with her.

    If she loves him, she should stay with him. Unless she’d be happier searching for a better boyfriend who is in the position to marry her. Her current boyfriend, sadly, is not.

  15. 15

    I have to wonder what Steven told her when they first started dating. Did he make it clear to her that he would never file for divorce because of health insurance? If so, then she knew what she was getting into. If he didn’t???

  16. 16

    How can you know that she wants to marry him because of some grinding insecurity? She hasn’t been married before— maybe this is her big statement of love.
    Maybe she wants a man who is not dependent on his wife. Maybe she wants a man who is not dependent and who can manage the exigencies of his own life and is looking for him to show that.
    His assessment of what it would cost for him to have his own insurance doesn’t exactly ring true in my experience of health care. And, if a minor surgery cost that much, it doesn’t sound to me like it was actually minor. I am wondering if there is more to the story of the pre-existig condition. Something isn’t adding up here…. It would be sooooo interesting to know what happens in this scenario of Obamacare didi provide for him—- wonder if it would make an ounce of difference.

  17. 17

    Perhaps it’s been her lifelong dream to be married (it states in the letter that she never has been), but I still think she should focus on what’s important at the moment: their love for eachother and the fact that they are together. Since, hopefully, this should be a non-issue soon with Obamacare.

  18. 18

    @ Selena, #13 – I don’t think the security of his current health care is really the issue here. He’s acknowledged that he would have to pursue other options if she no longer wanted to provide that benefit to him for any reason, and he’s acknowledged that he’s willing to do so. And eventually she’s going to retire and they’ll both probably be on Medicare. But that doesn’t mean that he should immediately and definitely shoulder tens of thousands of dollars worth of medical costs of his own volition. Who does that? If I know the milk in my fridge is going to go bad in 5 days, I don’t throw it away. I drink it within 5 days (well, not me, I’m lactose intolerant, but you get the drift…)

    @Jane, #16 – I don’t know that she wants to marry him because she’s insecure. None of us do. But it’s just as plausible that she is deeply insecure (and, say, was close to marriage numerous times but it never ended up panning out because she always drove the guy away at the last minute with a ridiculous demand that would bankrupt him and/or ruin his health) than that she thinks marriage is sacred or the ultimate declaration of her love.

    If they wanted kids, it’d be one thing – but they don’t. I would rather be with a guy dependent on his ex-wife’s insurance than a guy who would go into massive, un-payoff-able debt. That wouldn’t make him independent, it would make him totally dependent on his new wife and so wouldn’t prove anything except that they are both idiots.

  19. 19

    Honey #9

    “I will also say that I think 14 months is ridiculously soon to be thinking about marriage. My boyfriend and I have been together 4 years, and it’s going to be 2 more years before we get married (actually we set our wedding date for 6 years to the day from when we first met). She’s in her mid 40s now, what’s the rush? And it’s not like any of this is news to her she’s known about the (ex)wife and his health conditions this entire time. Yet he says this issue is a sore spot between them, which implies that they’ve had numerous conversations about it. ”

    Honey, how old are you? If you were in your mid-40’s, my guess is you’d feel differently. Contemplating marriage after 14 months in middle-age isn’t too soon for many people. I’m around this woman’s age, and I can relate to her feelings of insecurity. At 46, she’s probably dated a lot – and been burned a bit. Maybe she’s dated separated men who swore they were getting divorced and didn’t, or weren’t completely over their marriages. I’m sure that’s what’s prompting so many responses agreeing with her suspicions. Men have been known to make excuses in order to avoid commitment.

    OTOH, I understand what it’s like to be self-employed and concerned about health insurance. Has Steven thought about getting a job that WOULD include health insurance? Perhaps self-employment isn’t the right situation for him under the circumstances. Many states have state-run policies that provide coverage for people who don’t qualify for general health insurance, but they are not cheap.

    A middle-aged single friend of mine who had cancer was only eligible for a state-run health policy. What did she do? She works a low-paying job she likes, but doesn’t love, because the benefits are terrific. This is a tough situation, but I don’t think it’s a great idea for Steven to be so dependent on a woman that he no longer has a relationship with, sorry.

  20. 20

    @ Ruby, #19 – So you’re saying it’s okay for her to make her current boyfriend pay up for all her own past dating mistakes? That a clearly devoted guy who is so desperate to keep her in his life he writes a professional for advice should have to make decisions that go against his financial well being and his health in order to be with her? Sheesh.

    I’m 30, and I get that might color my views of how long people should be together before marriage. But I also have a pre-existing condition that is significant. Even after 4 years together, if my boyfriend asked me to make a decision that would cause me to lose my current coverage, I’d have to break up with him rather than do that.

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