For the last week my breathing has been restricted, I’ve been sporting an invisible corset synched beyond comfort.
Stress induces asthma in me, but this was not just the asthma sensation, taking my puffer gave very little relief.
I miss it when my lungs can’t seem to expand as fully, and I remember how glorious it is to suck in a lungful, so I try to breath deeply… But for some reason it’s not the same, my chest is tight and restricted, my lungs feel half full. I wheeze.
Today, I can finally take a deep breath. A painful first few breaths while my lungs still feel constricted, but not the way they were even just this morning. And I’ve got to tell you…
Breathing is wonderful.
This last week, I’ve been living under the pressing weight of worry. With a sword of damocles over my head.
Hopefully now that sword is tucked away in the closet for good, mdaybe sold at a garage sale.
The cause of this worrying are some very vague laws; and the fact that government employees could, dependent on their mood, decide to stretch the scrunchie that is the vaguarities of the law to include or exclude me and my life.
Sections of my life that I think should be above board (which I went out of my way to make/keep above board)
They demanded a whole bunch of paper work of me, two pages of lists of it, most of which I’d already given them just the month before last, and I couldn’t understand why they’d be bugging me again so soon…
And then I saw the list of questions about my marriage.
So, something you should know, is that I have disability status. Because of my mental illnesses I am considered “disabled” by the government.
Why does that matter?
Because those government employees hold the keys to the wallet, and therefore my ability to have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. This matter of being “married” in the governments eyes before my wedding (long before my wedding), could have seen me homeless, or worse, even jailed if they so chose.
That sounds extreme, so what’s the issue?
Well, basically the “issue” is I’ve had a relationship with any sort of financial independence before I was married.
Having been in love with and sleeping with my dearest for longer than I’ve been legally married to him (I’m not really the sort to just rush into marriage without a relationship first. Not unreasonable I think.) shouldn’t be an issue, right?
Well technically… because of the way the laws work, if you’ve been having a ‘marriage like relationship’ (which is very vaguely defined in the law) then you are considered married.
Worse, if you’re “married”, and disabled you are required to treat your “spouses” money, as your money.
Why is that a problem and what the heck is a ‘marriage like relationship’?
I’ll try to give a plain terms explanation the legislation and definition of “marriage like relationship”.
A relationship that is ‘marriage like’, has to have lasted at least 2 years; once two years has elapsed you can be considered retroactively “married” for those previous two years.
To determine if the relationship is ‘marriage like’ there are a few factors: Financial, community, family, living situation.
Financial: Sharing of finances is the easiest way to determine it’s a “marriage like” relationship.
Even sharing the cost of groceries, can ‘prove’ financial interdependence, and if you are financially “interdependent” then you could be considered to have ‘access’ to the other persons finances. And on this slippery-slope fallacy of a policy, with “access to their finances” even if you don’t live in the same building, you can be considered “married” in the eyes of the law.
Community: Presenting yourself as a couple to the world can be considered proof in and of itself.
Family: Having a child, even if it was accidental, and then maintaining any sort of amicable contact can also ‘prove’ it.
Living situation: Spending lots of time together, even if you live in separate houses can also prove ‘cohabitation’, which is another method to prove you have a ‘marriage like’ relationship.
There are lots of ways, the law can be played fast and loose, and it can be played hard. It was designed to help protect the rights of “common law couples” when they ‘divorced’.
Regular people in that situation can, however, be financially independent. Having separate bank accounts and their own money to support themselves, even if they are legally married. With that type of financial independence being ‘established’, it can be proven that finance sharing was not a part of their relationship. So if say they got divorced, and are seeking alimony in an instance where you didn’t share finances, you may not get it, because that wasn’t an established part of your relationship.
Okay, so why is this a problem for the disabled specifically?
For the disabled this is a little different. Or a lot, depending on your perspective.
Disabled people, once they are “coupled” are considered extensions of their “spouse” financially speaking.
The caps for finances are “as a couple”, which means that if the disabled persons “partner” works to support themselves, the disabled person could get nothing because of that.
That’s putting disabled people in a position to be the loser of a power dynamic.
Being financially dependent on a person means the person who makes the money can make all the purchasing choices, and may even be selfish about it. The person without money, even if their ‘spouse’ isn’t a terrible person, may have less access to things they want, especially any luxuries. (Such as books, or frivolous purchases like chocolate bars.)
Again, also continue to bear in mind, that this might be just a dating relationship merely considered ‘marriage like’ for all it’s seriousness or not.
It’s also kinda humiliating to have to ask the person you’re dating for money; and that is a situation that could potentially come up for a disabled ‘spousal’ relationship.
This is on top of the power dynamic they may well already be on the loosing side of, because of their disabilities.
Putting disabled people at even greater risk to feel unable to escape if they happened to end up in an abusive relationship.
….Oh, and here’s a real kicker.
Remember how I mentioned that for regular people it’s a marriage-like relationship after 2 years? (even if after 2 years it’s retroactively considered marriage from the start) well, within disability legislation, you could be considered “married” in as few as three months.
Imagine that, you’ve decided you really like someone, who happens to have a disability, three months in, because you have helped out with groceries, they might have to ask you to cover their rent.
“Hey glad you like me, so umm, could you pay my rent?”
What other situation goes on in which you exchange a short ‘relationship’, for finances? Oh right, prostitution.
Basically, the government wants disabled people to be single, or moochy whores.
That’s very crude, but that’s what the legislation amounts to.
What is it called when people get screwed over by comparison to the normal populace just because they’re disabled? Oh yeah, discrimination.
So what about your (my) situation specifically?
My spouse and I have separate bank accounts. Until just before our marriage we did not share finances. At all.
Remember how I said financial interdependence can be “proven” just be sharing the cost of cereal and pears?
Yeah, this hasn’t been exactly an easy ride.
Worse? when I started this relationship, the whole of this legislation wasn’t even in, which meant that at before that, sharing finances was the only way a marriage like relationship could be asserted. That’s why I wasn’t sharing.
So that is also why I started freaking out when they were asking questions about how long we’ve been together.
They could take the most broad interpretation of the law and consider it ‘fraud’ that I had paid my own bills, and bought my own food, but was still sleeping in the same bed as my beloved. And telling people that I love him and want to marry him? Well that’s presenting yourself as a couple to the world.
I’m not psychic, I could never have guessed that such a broad strokes kind of law would be put in place part way through my relationship, before I was ready to be considered “married”.
Which as we already went over, means that you now have to make your ‘spouse’ pay your rent. (If they can/are over the cap)
That would have prematurely ended what has now become a happy marriage. When things got rocky in the past, if you added my not paying my own bills?… Kaboom.
To retroactively consider it “marriage” would put me at their mercy, they might consider it ‘fraud’ despite my best efforts.
Or at least make me pay back money I’d never had access to.
Because being in love with someone totally means you have open access to their bank account by default.
To try and pay that off would put me far-far-far into the poor house. And I couldn’t declare bankruptcy to get out of it because it would be court mandated.
Court mandated and brutally unfair because I have gone out of my way to keep myself ‘to the book’.
I detest when I’m doing my best, and I could still be dragged under.
That’s very stressful.
As soon as the law tics over you have to alter your behaviour to match it, or pay the piper, and ignorance is no excuse.
So… because living in separate houses not sharing finances wouldn’t even be enough to prove we weren’t ‘together’ breaking up fully would have been the only thing that could have stopped us being “married” against both of our wills by government decree.
(Which is not the spirit of the law, which was intended to help when one spouse is evading the idea they were ever together. The government is not my spouse, and the only thing I was ‘evading’ was dooming my relationship, and losing my independence before I was ready to commit to my spouse for sure.)
Okay, and despite all this, breathing has gotten easier? Because…?
Yes, much easier. The man investigating if I deserve to continue living under a roof, or if I should have been on my butt because my best efforts were outdated, and in the eyes of the law not being psychic isn’t an excuse. (but it should be)
Decided that it will only count from the point where we have been sharing finances, and he’ll turn a blind eye to the fact we’d been in love prior to that.
I breathed a huge sight of relief.
In fact it felt almost like breathing after having been underwater for too long.
My lungs ached when I got off the phone, but in a good way.
So this is why my week has sucked and I’ve been quiet.
I have been trying to prep papers, and feeling very overwhelmed.
Still yet to come are whatever consequences that get laid at my feet for having a ‘marriage life relationship’ for the three months before our wedding. Probably I’ll owe back whatever amount of money my dearest got during that time.
(Because living above the poverty line if you’re disabled needs to remain impossible?)
I was a such a mess at that point, it hadn’t even been a choice to share finances.
That’s manageable though, he didn’t get much, so I won’t be homeless, just even more poor than I already am, paying wedding debts and “married before my wedding debts”. (Because we did that all on credit.)
I feel, once again, like things will at least be ‘okay’ for now.
But I still think the way this law works is utter trash. I want to approach some people who advocate for the disabled and inform them of the gross potential (as in large but yes it’s also ‘yucky’) for the government overstepping and putting disabled people at greater risk for a precarious power dynamic, as well as treating the disabled not as individuals, but as extensions of their non-disabled partners.
(Or even their disabled partner as the amount they get goes down when two disabled people start living together.)
What do you think, is this an unfair set of laws? Or am I just mad over nothing?