Dear Ms. Meniscus:
I’m writing about my sister who has rheumatoid arthritis and I know married a man for his health insurance. They married 10 years ago and are both 40 now. My sister told me that as soon as she can get health insurance on her own with Obamacare she will leave him. He’s a nice guy. I like her husband even though he’s a little boring. I feel guilty my sister is making a fool of him. Should I warn him?
Dear Concerned Sister:
Absolutely warn him not. Madame is busy imagining the scenario:
“Hello, boring (oops!) brother-in-law, how are you today?
I thought I’d give you a call so that I could warn you about something. You see, as soon as my sister gets health insurance, she’ll be leaving you. Sorry about that, have a nice day.”
What is it you hope to gain? Points with your brother-in-law? Have you thought about how this information (if true) would affect him?
Or could it really have something to do with spite, because to Madame, it sounds less about protecting this man and more about you and your sister in a never-ending circle of sibling rivalry.
Madame is mulling over the fact (as should you) that they’ve been married for ten years though you didn’t mention their happiness quotient – not that you (or anyone) outside of a relationship looking in can accurately gauge how people feel.
It’s awfully convenient, isn’t it, to make assumptions about why anyone marries: money, sex, security, lifestyle, prestige of one sort or another, possibly health insurance, but certainly a combination of factors. Oh, Madame forgot love: how about love? How many times have we heard: “Oh, she (or he) is marrying him (or her) her “for the money” or because “they can’t do better” or “that’s what the family expects” or any number of reasons. These assumptions never die, and some people derive pleasure by categorizing and minimizing other people’s relationships. One never hears the word love or compatibility mentioned.
Madame will indulge you about your feelings of “guilt.” You say that without your warning; this man runs the risk of being made a fool. Madame asks you to consider the possibility that it could all, in fact, be reversed on you. Let’s put aside your intentions for a moment and ask why it is that you’re so certain your sister married this man for health insurance. Even if she said so at the time, is it possible that she loved this man, but was embarrassed he didn’t live up to some idea of your or the family’s standard of acceptable? This includes the possibility that she felt she could never explain what attracted her to him in the first place. Regardless, if your sister traded a decade of her life and being in a mutually happy and satisfying relationship for health insurance; then Madame asks how much of a stretch is it to believe this man never caught on? Maybe he’ll leave her as soon as she gets her health insurance! And who says he didn’t marry her for his own reasons, can she cook? Oh would you look at how involved Madame has become. Good grief.
Madame is sensing the urge for another cup of coffee, so she’ll end here by stating that she’s glad you think this guy is a ‘nice guy’. So ask yourself: why do you need to warn him? You don’t. You should worry more about your true motivations for wanting to report news which is supposed to happen in the future. And, suppose your sister gets health insurance and stays with him? Perhaps she’s testing you, or perhaps she really used him, but that’s for him to decide, isn’t it?
In the meantime, Madame hopes you keep your inside information to yourself, and in the interim time it takes for your sister to obtain insurance, spend some time examining what appears to be an elaborate and pernicious sibling rivalry that has flourished deeply into adulthood. It must be acknowledged before it destroys more than you intend. There’s no better time than now to rescue yourselves, sister to sister.
Madame is tossing the life ring your way. Reach for it with love, not resentment. It will feel new, but a thousand times better.