Archive for September, 2015

Pre-nups and pragmatism, oh my

The topics do sort of run downhill together, don’t they? One just leads into the other.

Thene mentioned something about marriage and permanence and the thought brought pre-nups to mind. Whereupon we move into yet another question of pragmatism versus cynicism.

At this point in time, I think I’d definitely want to sign one if I were to marry. Getting out of my previous relationship was complicated by financial matters and that’s something I never want to revisit. It was by turns hurtful and humiliating.

Further in those thoughts, I think some of my friends were surprised when we learned that another of my friends, X, had signed a pre-nup involving such clauses as  a bride piece, being paid/awarded for having children, and if I recall correctly, even a bonus for how much time they’d been together. Some of them were openly dismissive if not outright opposed to the notion.

Unpacking various aspects of the idea, keeping in mind that the majority of my thoughts is going to boil down to “society sucks, so a person saying that future hubby is just going to have to suck it up and share the spoils is fair” :

- the bride piece makes sense if you consider that in certain cultures, even today, a divorcee is considered to be less attractive than a similarly prospected woman who had never been married. In another way of looking at it, a man usually gets more promotions and higher raises than he would have otherwise once he’s married. I don’t think it’s particularly unfair to request a cut of the wealth. So I wouldn’t say no to one, but it’s not something that I’d ask for in a pre-nup.

- consider the “mommy penalty” for having children, being awarded money for having children makes perfect sense. It’s not just the financial aspects of it either, but a woman can have health complications arise from having children. In a way, I see it as a pre-negotiated sharing of the various consequences of having children that aren’t usually adequately addressed. Definitely wouldn’t say no to this clause and I’m unsure that I wouldn’t bring it up.

- Bonuses for amount of time spent together. At the moment I can’t really think of anything to justify this, so it’s something I wouldn’t ask for and probably wouldn’t want even if someone offered. I can see the rationale – a woman’s worth as considered by society is based off her youth and therefore the pre-nup assigns a value to her time spent. Also, the longer a man is married, the more respectable he’s seen to be. Not completely unfair to request a bit of that pie, but again, not something I really can throw myself behind.

All of the above really boils down to a simple notion: the protection of a woman’s interests after the man she married no longer cares about her well-being. And you know what? I’m very not-surprisingly completely in favor of that.

I’ve seen way too many tragedies occur because a woman who was a stay at home wife or mother was dicked over after a divorce. I myself have felt a shadow of what it is like to be without recourse for what was owed me after a relationship ended.

My aunt is still with her husband after she caught him cheating on her in their bed because of money. Another aunt remained with her cheating husband, even after he told her that he didn’t care if she and their babies lived or died while she was on bedrest for a problematic pregnancy, because of money. My grandmother never divorced my grandfather despite his many, many abuses and infidelities… because of money. I know women who stay with men who aren’t good for them… because of money.

I don’t think it’s unfair at all to try and negotiate the care of the more disadvantaged spouse ahead of hand, while you still love each other and presumably care about each other well-being. And I use those particular words very carefully: if I were the bread-winner and my husband wanted to be the one to stay at home to take care of the children, I’d be perfectly in favor of putting money into an account for him so he wouldn’t have to ask me for money for his own stuff. Being a house-spouse can be a part-time job to full time job depending and being a stay at home parent pretty much is a full time job. It’s perfectly legit to be recompensed for such.

Sure, it’s nearing the end of 2015 and it would be nice to think that society doesn’t suck that much, that people wouldn’t suck that much after things have been broken off that they wouldn’t take care of their obligations, but that’s just not fact at the moment. I’d be perfectly happy to revisit and revise should that change, but I don’t think it is going to in the near future.

Especially since I’m living in Taiwan at the moment; the situation here really makes me wonder why anyone would get married without a pre-nup. Heaven knows the horror stories abound: one aunt had to save pennies off the grocery money to buy underwear because her husband was so tight-fisted.

And then, of course, there are the basics:

Things that I would definitely want addressed in a pre-nup at this point: clarification that there is to be no shared debt; specifications on what happens to a shared home/vehicle in the case of divorce; separation of any income post marriage, none of that community property stuff; child support; child care; and custody of children.



Quantum of Solace

Thene mentioned this before:

The Governor paused and looked reflectively over at Bond. “You’re not married, but I think it’s the same with all relationships between a man and a woman.  They can survive anything so long as some kind of basic humanity exists between the two people.  When all kindness has gone, when one person obviously and sincerely doesn’t care if the other is alive or dead, then it’s just no good. That particular insult to the ego – worse, to the instinct of self-preservation – can never be forgiven.  I’ve seen flagrant infidelities patched up, I’ve seen crimes and even murder forgiven by the other party, let alone bankruptcy and every other form of social crime.  Incurable disease, blindness, disaster – all these can be overcome. But never the death of common humanity in one of the partners. I’ve thought about this and I’ve invented a rather high-sounding title for this basic factor in human relations. I have called it the Quantum of Solace.”

Bond said: “That’s a splendid name for it. It’s certainly impressive enough.  And of course I see what you mean. I should say you’re absolutely right.  Quantum of Solace – the amount of comfort.  Yes, I suppose you could say that all love and friendship is based in the end on that.  Human beings are very insecure. When the other person not only makes you feel insecure but actually seems to want to destroy you, it’s obviously at an end. The Quantum of Solace stands at zero. You’ve got to get away to save yourself.”
It’s become a sort of shorthand, a touchstone, a reminder.
It’s not just a reminder that humanity is a goal, not a guaranteed state of being, it’s also that everyone’s line in the sand is different.
What X defines as being adequate humanity might not make the cut for Y and yet it might be the height of coddling for Z.
The smallest possible unit; the baseline below which if you fall, everything shatters.
I was talking to my cousin the other day, exploring the idea of being in a relationship and when it’s worth it. I finally summed it up for myself thusly:
Assuming that your own baseline while single is either at zero or plus one, adding another person should always raise it to at minimum plus two or three for the relationship to be worth staying in.
I’m not currently looking for a relationship because I’m currently at zero with the needle wavering between plus and negative one.  I’d only want to look when I’m at a solid plus one heading towards a plus two. There has to be something in the tank before you go diving because there’s always going to be something out there that’s going to drain you before buoying you and the latter isn’t guaranteed.
I admit, there’s also a wee bit of man-hating going on right now, so that cynicism isn’t something I want to bring to a new relationship either.  Also, let’s be frank here – no one really heads into a relationship with someone who is knowingly a zero or a negative. It’s not fair to anyone and it’s mostly a waste of time and effort. It could be a learning experience, but seriously, how many of those does any one person need?
No matter what that person brings to the table, no matter what requirements you or they have, no matter any of the standard quantifiable stuff – the real question is “am I happier with this person than I am single”?
If you cannot answer that with a solid “yes”, then it’s time to get the hell out of the relationship.
Something else that took getting out of a relationship to figure out: if you can’t see yourself marrying the person in question, then you need to grow a spine and some guts and break it off.
I didn’t understand that at first and I don’t think my ex really did either.
It’s another line in the sand that I looked at and didn’t see for what it was. He might have known, but either I didn’t understand what he was trying to say, or he didn’t know how to distill his feelings into something that I could comprehend.
It went both ways, which was the funny part. He kept dragging his feet on talking to my parents about getting married and threw a hissy fit in the ring store when I dragged him there and  I told him verbally I didn’t see being able to marry him towards the end. We hurt each other with our reticence, but we were both unwilling to really step back and say “yep, not working” and abort.
If you can’t imagine marrying someone, then something’s wrong there. If there just isn’t that urge to “put a ring on it”, then the emotion just isn’t there. And when the emotion isn’t there, then clearly the two of you together isn’t anywhere near a sufficient positive balance.
That simple. It’s not even math.
Are you really happier with him? Or is it just fear and habit?

The sins of our fathers

More on babies and love and marriage and general shit.

Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, but in my self defense it’s only been, oh, about four or five months since I really resigned myself to the end of a ten year relationship. If I go by what I’ve heard before, which is a month for every year, I figure I still have more than half a year to go.

Seriously though, this came up the other day when we were at lunch. I was talking with my aunt and my cousins and of course, significant others came up again. And of course, there was that song. And then there was that lovely, depressing, uplifting, heart-shattering book by Barbara Bretton…

I heard from someone once that we are our forefathers, that we reincarnate endlessly as our own descendants so long as we fail to learn our lessons, that we can never get away from the cycle until the day we achieve enlightenment.

Wow. Okay. That brings the whole “sins of our fathers” concept to a whole new level of crazy.

I don’t know if I believe it or not. Color me agnostic.

What I do know is the trope of families reenacting the same dramas over and over again, of families beloved by tragedy, of families who can’t seem to get on HEA train, so on and so forth.

My family, both sides, fall into that trope.

My mother’s side is exhibit A of “what not to do” in terms of marriage. My grandfather abandoned my grandmother early on, after getting five children on her, and proceeded to spend the rest of his life with various “secretaries” and mistresses and “housekeepers”. My eldest aunt married someone who gives her stomach ulcers and they seem to lead mostly parallel lives. My mother seemed to have an okay marriage, up until the point where my father really went off the deep end with his midlife crisis, and it’s now kinda at the point where much as I love my father, I think it might almost be best if they divorced. My third aunt married a man who pursued her relentlessly, thinking that he would be good to her, and he was frolicking with another woman while she was bedridden with their children. Then she had a sequence of boyfriends, none of whom worked out, and now she’s with a man who doesn’t really make her truly happy. I don’t know much about my little aunt’s love life, but she and her husband mostly seem happy with each other. Then again, they both work more than sixty hours a week, so god knows when they would have time to get on each other’s nerves. Then there’s my uncle. His wife left him for another man, came back because she (no joke) had lupus and was on the verge of dying, and he succumbed to the blandishments of another woman while she was gone/recuperating, and now the two of them seem perpetually caught in some twisted kind of limbo where he apparently still hangs out with his mistress and yet is still married to his wife and lives in the same house as hwe.

My father’s side…

Welp, there’s my fourth uncle, who probably drove his wife to religion (devout, devout Buddhist) because, dude, that man can be a pill (said by his own brother). Loud, abrasive, judgmental, impatient — yeah, it runs in the blood. Good man, despite all that, but just not the easiest person to be married to.

There’s my aunt, the eldest in their family, with five boys trailing after her, who caught her husband cheating with a woman in their bed.  She’s who I think of when I think that it does a woman no good to be all blade and no sheath. A lovely woman, generous to a fault, and active in the community, but… I suppose her husband tired of her being a fishwife, deserving of it or not.

If my father’s recollections of his parents’ relationship can be believed, his mother was an endless nag and his father long-suffering and their fights legion and legendary. If he can believed, his father went to his grave complaining about what his wife had kept him from achieving.

Then there’s all of their friends and relatives. I don’t think I know of a single happy marriage in any of my grandmother’s circle of friends and I can’t think of any happy marriages in my parents’ generation either.

Then there’s my generation, with my cousin and his wife who is at best indifferent towards his family and my other cousin whose wife loathes his family and then there’s me. We don’t seem to be doing so hot either. Before you ask, there’s a lot of drama going on with the daughter in laws. It’s not so simple as saying “fuck it” and leaving it alone except for holidays.

So let’s not talk metaphysics and quackery. Let’s talk about environment and learned behavior. Let’s talk about role models and expectations and failed expectations. Let’s talk about the society they grew up in and the world we grew up in and whether or not we take on their broken dreams through osmosis.

In a way, it’s not about just me. Of course I want a happy ending for myself. Despite my airy words and casual gestures, of course I want it all.

But it isn’t just for me.

I want something better, something more lovely for my children if I have any. I want them to be happy, to be secure in a world where they know that their parents love each other and them and would do anything within their means to cradle their family in safety and love for as long as they reasonably can.

I’m not talking helicopter parenting. I mean that bone-deep assurance of being loved, of knowing that you are loved for you, that there is someone waiting to catch you if you should fall. I mean the knowledge that there is possibility of a HEA out there for you, that it can be done, that not every marriage and relationship has to end in bitter acrimony.

Sure, I know there’s the lottery winners, but in the same way that people often don’t believe that what tragedies that touch other people will descend upon them, it’s hard to believe in fairy tales when everyone you know intimately says otherwise.

It’s not so much a happy ending for me. I think I could live without the traditional happy ending. I could probably get over it and deal, eventually. I just don’t want this for anyone after us. If our family doesn’t know how to be happy, if our family can’t figure it out, isn’t it in a way better to just cut everything short?

I just don’t know.