Happily ever after until …

Published 3:13 pm Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happily ever after until …

No one knows what tomorrow holds, no one knows if their relationship will be secure down the road, and many lovebirds, mostly women are not prepared.

Whether your spouse falls off a cliff, pushed or not pushed, or they find a younger model, or you are tired of their controlling abuse and you make a run for it, you never know when you will find yourself single again. It is hard enough emotionally but how would you land financially, on your feet or face down in the dirt?

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No matter how good a marriage is, your spouse may not make it home from work today and exactly, where would that leave you. Can you make a living; do you have skills, a prosperous insurance policy?

My intention is to sound the alarm bells for vulnerable women (and a few men). Wake up girlfriends! You are either naïve or too confident in life’s circumstances. From one moment married, five minutes later widowed, my experience gives me some street ‘cred’ on hoping for happily ever after but plan for disaster ever after! Plus, watching friends and family go through messy divorces without much to show for their time served and I am shouting, “Warning! Possible Soup kitchen ahead!”

When I became a member of the ‘cemetery’ club, for the first time in my nearly seventeen years of marriage, I had a decent paycheck with benefits, a place to live and education. What if my life altering event had happened ten years earlier? The result would have been devastating because I had no money, no insurance, no housing, and no education with the possibility of living off minimum wage. I have seen women who live like that and it’s truly the most stressful, hardship kind of life.

How hard? The kind of hard that makes you want to give up, go back to bed, or slip into some sort of fifth dimension where time stands still. It makes you question God, your faith, your sanity because every step you take it seems as if you are slammed with another crisis.

But at least you build character? Thanks, but I prefer to be shallow and comfortable, if possible.

If you are a stay at home mom with an education, a healthy life insurance and adoring husband then you will be fine. However, a large chunk of women are at risk of being pushed out into the streets of hard cold reality. And they don’t have a clue it is coming.

I watched a friend of mine, in an unhappy marriage with a controlling spouse, reach out to an old love and the spurned husband used their finances to hire a cut-throat lawyer. Her one slip up in seventeen years cost her custody of her kids, she had no job skills since she was not allowed to further her education, no money because he controlled it, and an unchallenged court of law (because she could not hire an attorney to challenge it) decided she, although penniless, homeless, and jobless should pay child support. Rage has no fury like a man scorned either.

Women, take heed. Mr. Right can turn wrong in the end.

If you are in a live-in situation, your rights are even shakier because you can bring assets into the relationship but to get out, you end up with just the seat of your pants.

So many young women will put aside any aspirations of career or education and get married, have a few kids and then stick their head in the sand.

What could go wrong? Happily ever after right? Unless your husband dies, unless your husband decides to trade you in, unless your husband turns out to be an abuser, whether physically or emotionally; otherwise, life is good.

Physical abuse is easy to spot, but emotional abuse is subtle. The goal is to control, erode self esteem and take away independence. You feel trapped. The abuser will control the finances; prevent you from working or getting an education. The abusive partner will try to intimidate you and isolate you from family and friends.

A woman in this situation can not leave financially. With kids, the abuser will hold them hostage and thereby causing her to break free penniless or stay and take it until she losses her spirit completely. What a choice?

Thankfully, not all relationships end up in tragedy and the dream to live happily ever after; enjoying the fruits of aging together and changing each other’s diapers is possible.

The best case scenario is to never plan to depend on another human being for survival in the first place. No matter how great a person, no matter how solid the love, no matter how healthy and good driver your spouse may be, stuff happens.

Everyone needs a back up plan.

Have no employment skills? Educate yourself whether taking online courses or classes at the nearest college or sharpen up your nanny skills. Your employability needs to be higher than dropping French fries.

As a couple, married or live-in, make a financial plan together to include death strategies for the one left behind. Shop for a good life insurance and save for the extreme rainy day but in an account with both names.

The worse place to be is in a bad marriage with no means to free yourself. Here are some tips. Check on titles of the assets to see if you have any rights to house, car, etc. Find a lawyer to advise you through the eventual split, go online and research if you have no other means. Sharpen your job skills and education; at least cooking, cleaning, and childcare are lucrative employment opportunities today. Spend time at the library and read up on careers, computer applications, and your legal rights.

Begin selling any item you can, either EBay or Craigslist, but liquidate as much as you can. Seek out support from other women. Most will not have a clue that something is wrong because abused women smile, act normal and hide their unhappiness. Try to find temporary housing for the transition.

Neither hiring an assassin nor playing the lottery is a positive solution. But, if you want to feed your bad apple a high-fat, high-sodium diet to speed up his lifespan … that is legal.

Make your back up plan strategy and then enjoy the life that is good today. Who knows what tomorrow brings?

Tracy Williams is a syndicated columnist and can be reached at her website: myhometowncolumn.com or become a fan on Face Book at My Hometown Column.