Bent

A.V. Walters

My sweetie, Rick, is in a funk. I understand; I was, last week. There’s very little I can do to help. You see, Rick and I are in the process of divorce. The situation is really bent. But I’ll have to back up a bit to explain.

Things are bent when circumstances can only make sense in the context of some larger idiocy. Rick and I find ourselves in the category that the New York Times calls “The Undivorced.”

Up until recently, we actually considered ourselves to be a happily married couple. You see we are happy. We are a couple. And we are married…just not to each other. Perhaps now, you’ll begin to understand. And that’s what’s bent about it, that it only makes sense in the larger picture of lunacy.

I left my marriage six years ago. I was suffocating and the only way I could find air was to leave. I left with almost nothing—I was so broken, so guilt-ridden by my failures, that I fled. It’s not like my ex was generous in the process. I have stories that would curl your ears. I found refuge in Two Rock, and have been here ever since.

Rick has a similar story. He, too, fled an unhappy union. He found a safe harbor in a little apartment near his home, so he could maintain relationships with his children. Three years ago, we found each other. It was dicey at first. We’re both a little roughed up, and battle shy. But we share common values and humor and… well, we both like Scrabble. Neither of us felt we were in a position to end our marriages.

I am self-employed. I didn’t pick the best of economies in which to launch my freedom flight. Married, I share in health care through my husband’s retirement. Those rights were earned during our marriage, and so long as I remain married, I have coverage. I also have a pre-existing condition. It’s not serious—I’m fine so long as I watch my diet, but it’s enough that I would not be able to procure health insurance, independently. So I’ve remained legally tethered. That’s bent. My husband didn’t mind—it’s put him in the catbird’s seat. So long as I needed health insurance, I couldn’t squawk about the fact that he’d kept all of the marital assets.

Rick is a cancer survivor, and self-employed. He also has kids, which meant that maintaining “the family unit” was important to the health insurance picture for his whole family. My pre-existing condition pales next to his, yet we both enjoy relatively good health. His business dried up in the bust of the housing bubble, and we’ve shared that it took every ounce of our combined ingenuity to make ends meet during tough times.

The much-heralded American health care reform means that, soon, insurers will not be able to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions. While I’d much prefer a sane single-payer system, I can finally see a horizon where health coverage needn’t dictate my life choices. In January, I steeled myself, and filed for divorce. My ex is not happy that he’s finally being asked to share what we built together. He has a short admonition for why I should walk with nothing, “But you left.” As though that explains everything that happened in a failed, 28-year union. There’s acrimony and accusations and unreasonable demands. We both have lawyers. It’s a bit ugly, but it’s not surprising.

Unexpectedly, things changed in Rick’s family dynamic, too. He filed shortly after me. I don’t think he expected his ex to be as much of a jerk as mine but life provides many revelations. So we’re divorcing. Simultaneously.

In the long run, it’s a good thing. We’ll get through this. In fact, we can really empathize with each other—it’s common ground. Under the microscope, though, there’s an insanity to it. Lives should not revolve around some insurer’s definition of health, or family or coverage. As a nation, we’ve handed the reins of our lives over to corporations that care more about profits than about the services they render. Health care, eh? And that’s just totally bent.

NYT’s The Undivorced: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/fashion/01Undivorced.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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