Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Cutting Loose

I was looking for something in my purse without success on Monday. I searched three times and then decided to dump everything out. I came across an envelope and opened it to find – to my surprise – four health insurance cards. They were old health insurance cards which expired two years ago. Typically, I cut up my old insurance cards, so I was wondering how these ones had escaped my attention for two good years. I also noticed that there were four of them, representing what used to be my family of four.

I stared at them and the memories of how I went from four cards two years ago to three cards today came back. I sifted through my emails to reconstruct the pathway that got me here and confirm the dates of each critical incident along the way. This all started with a retirement account:

August 6, 2009: I email HR to find out if I can list my sisters, rather than my spouse, as the primary beneficiaries of my retirement account in case anything happens to me. I am informed that in order to do so, my spouse would have to waive his rights to being the primary beneficiary by signing the ‘spousal consent’ section of the retirement account form. I brace myself and prepare to have this difficult conversation with him. If anything happens to me, my sisters would know exactly what I want for my children (we’re very similar when it comes to what we want for our children, what we think is best for children in general, and how we raise ours), and they’re all so good with money management.

August 7, 2009 (I think): I discuss my plans (about the retirement account changes) with my spouse on the phone. He expresses displeasure. I sense that his displeasure is not about the money per se, but rather about the fact that my actions are a major indication that the relationship is over (access to a partner’s finances can be such a deep sign of intimacy).

August 17, 2009: My spouse sends me an electronic copy of a signed ‘spousal consent’ section. I am very relieved. Relieved that I got it without any major hoopla, and almost proud of his attitude.

November 23, 2010: I email HR to find out if it’ll cost me less to have three members of my family (me and two children) covered by my health insurance rather than four (me, two children, and a husband). I’m told it’ll cost me exactly the same amount, whether we’re a party of three or a party of four. I chicken out from severing this tie with my spouse, reasoning that it’s not costing me anything to just keep things as they are. What if he got sick where he was (God forbid.)? Wouldn’t it be nice for him to be able to come over here and have his health taken care of? Why was I being ‘wicked’? What did I stand to gain from this?

In the weeks to come, I wrestle with this issue. I come to the conclusion that I really shouldn’t spend all this energy trying to take care of someone who didn’t seem to be making any effort to take care of me or our children.

Still, I wait another year before making a move.

December 8, 2011: I email HR asking them to drop my spouse from my medical and dental coverage.

December 9, 2011: They reply saying they will process my request, and that this change will be effective as from January 1, 2012. They remind me that the amount deducted from my salary for this new arrangement will still be the same.  I breathe in and out deeply to try and push down the pangs of guilt.

April 15, 2013: It was about a year and a half later this Monday. The guilt is gone. It must have left long before now – I just haven’t had an opportunity to think about this particular issue in a long time. And he has risen to the occasion. Although he’s had his share of illnesses since December 2011, he has somehow sorted himself out.

The issue, though, was never that he wasn’t capable of doing so. It was that he just didn’t (or wouldn’t). I would like to believe that, in the end, I helped both of us by making this tough decision.

On Monday, April 15, 2013, I reached for the pair of scissors on my desk, cut up the four cards into little pieces, and disposed of them in the bin.


  1. Congrats RMJ for cutting loose. So glad that the guilt is gone.That was quite a tough decision to make. Gosh - I have to run to my HR office to check if the X features anywhere as a beneficiary to any of my benefits. But I wonder though - does a will overrule all these "beneficiary" things that we are always meant to state, even when opening back accounts? Eager to hear your thoughts. God bless!

    1. (= Thanks, Nzilani. Yeah, it was really tough; still can't believe I got round to doing it. About your question: I was reading about something similar in one of my Suze Orman books this week. (I should point out that she writes about the U.S. context, but this info is likely to be applicable elsewhere.) It was something about how, if your house is in your spouse's name, then you get divorced and don't change it, but will the house to your child, the house will not automatically go to your child just because you put it in your will. Apparently, your will can only go so far, so it's important to get all one's paperwork in order, ensuring that it all aligns with your will. I'm not a legal expert, though, so I hope someone with a legal background will read this and enlighten us. Blessings.

    2. Thanks dear, appreciated. That makes sense, to allign everything so that there is no room for contests and confusion.