A while back, while she was trying to help Doug and me with our finances, Beth suggested we combine our car insurance policies into one car insurance policy. Today, we finally went in to AAA to do just that.
The girl who helped us was very nice, and very, very happy. The first question she asked, when we told her what we wanted to do, however, was, “Are you legally married?”
Turns out, if you’re married and both insured on the same policy, you can get a premium discount of up to 22%. If you’re not married… Well, you can’t be on the same policy at all.*
We made a couple jokes with the friendly, happy insurance rep about taking the plunge, then walked away hand-in-hand, while our policies stayed separate.
Apparently, my insurance company is trying to tell me something. Or society in general is trying to tell me something, that not only is “[creating] a family with a spouse… one of the most fundamental ways a person can find continuity and meaning in… society” (Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love, p. 94), but that it will actually make that person’s life easier.
I already knew that finances force many of us to cohabitate, whether with roommates, or with significant others (before we might otherwise be ready). When I first started talking about running away from my broken life and moving to Seattle, I told Doug he could come if he wanted, but that I wanted us to have separate apartments, so that I could use the time and space to “find myself.” Once we started researching how much apartments cost, even in Seattle, which was cheaper than San Diego, we realized that living separately was a non-option. As a result, we shacked up less than two months into our relationship.
(I remember once, early on, when we’d gotten into a big fight about something, I sat down and did the math to find out whether I’d be able to financially survive on my own. Because my car is paid off, I would have made it, but just barely, with no room for error, fun, fresh meat, or emergencies of any sort. What I told Doug, of course, in the context of the screaming match, was that I didn’t need him and could live without him. He stormed out and went to a bar, I called incessantly until he came back, and we made up in the best possible way.)
Besides the rent thing and the bills thing and the shared food thing, there seem to be reasons popping up all over telling me and other young people that being coupled is greater than being single, and that being married is greater than being coupled. I won’t go into the hot topic of healthcare, because I’m lucky enough to have a job where I can work part time if I choose and still get full health benefits. But the auto policy discount was a blow; especially when the happy insurance rep inadvertently belittled our relationship by telling us that, unless we were married, the insurance company has no reason to believe that we “have a vested interest in the other person’s vehicle.” I beg to differ: if Doug can’t make his truck payment, or if something were to happen to his truck and he needed to find money or another car to borrow, I’d say my interest would get pretty vested pretty quickly. On the other hand, my ex-husband and I remained on a joint policy for six months after we split, and yet, I couldn’t have given a fuck about what happened to his vehicle.
Another thing Beth had suggested Doug and I do was combine our bank accounts – or at least open a third account, where we could keep the bulk of our money and from which we could pay all our bills (portioning out fun, “allowance” money to our separate accounts each month). Now I wonder whether my bank will try to encourage us to marry first, as well.
Even my own mother, who helped me plan my first wedding, watched me say “I do,” and then saw my marriage crumble in a matter of months, is against this combined-accounts plan. She claims that it makes her uncomfortable that I occasionally help Doug pay his half of our bills, or when I pay for things like plane tickets for us, on the grounds that we’re “not even married.” Granted, when I run short on cash, I default to her and my dad for help, so she sees me helping Doug as her helping Doug, but that part of it is understandable. The part I can’t quite get my head around is that it appears she would be okay with all this debt-sharing if Doug and I would just, um, run off and get married already.
The message society gives us, young and/or single people, is that our lives would be so much better if we’d just find someone to tie that knot with. But looking at it logically, if Doug and I were to head over to the courthouse and get married tomorrow, what would change for us? Besides the fact that we’d be able to combine our insurance policies and maybe I’d get a little less grief from my mom? Nothing. Getting married does not make you richer; it does not make you a happier or more emotionally stable person. You remain the same person, with the same quirks and complexes, only now there’s someone else who has to put up with those quirks and complexes full-time, and to top it all off, you get to put up with that person‘s crazy as well!
Yet somehow, when we marry, we are led to believe that we’re suddenly competent adults. That now we’re suddenly more responsible and qualified to raise children in a way we weren’t before. The struggle that I, and I would imagine many of my peers, face, to wait and mature and do things the “right” way, is made ever more difficult by the world around us telling us to go ahead and take the plunge.
Rushing in: evidently, it’s not just for fools anymore.
*There is one other way we could combine our insurance policies: we’d have to become co-registrants on each other’s cars, which is only possible if there’s no lien-holder. And don’t even get me started on the amount of liens being held on Doug’s truck.