Love, with interest

By Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2014-11-16 20:33:01

Can taking out marriage insurance prevent divorce?

Companies offering "marriage insurance" have come under widespread criticism. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Capitalizing upon rising divorce rates in China, a number of insurance companies have started offering policies that provide a financial incentive for married couples to stay together.

In April this year, the Wuhan Evening News reported that a man surnamed Gong from Hubei Province made a one-off payment of 99,999 yuan ($16,325) to a local insurance company, under the terms that if he and his wife were still married after five years, they would be given an insurance payout of 131, 417 yuan. The report did not mention the name of the insurance company.

"The insurance policy encourages the longevity of the marriage," said an anonymous employee of the company in comments made to the newspaper. "If the two get divorced before the set time, their money won't be returned." 

Another kind of policy requires couples to pay an annual premium. In the event of the marriage being dissolved, one party in the couple, usually the woman, becomes the sole beneficiary. Such policies are intended to ensure that the less well-off party in a couple is guaranteed some compensation in the event of a divorce.

According to the Wuhan Evening News report, Sunshine Insurance Group, Li'an Insurance and Sino Insurance were among the companies offering marriage insurance. An employee at Sunshine Insurance Group said that the company offered packages from eight years to 50 years.

"If the couple stays together for 50 years, and they made an initial payment of 100,000 yuan, they will be given a payout of 800,000 yuan," the employee said in an interviewee with the Yangtse Evening Post. "This can be seen as a kind of marriage bonus."

However, the insurance policies have been poorly received by the public. According to a Chutian Metropolis Daily report in April, less than 1,000 people in Wuhan had bought marriage insurance from the three companies since their introduction.

In addition, a number of critics have suggested the policies undermine the sanctity of marriage by turning it into a game of financial speculation.

"It basically amounts to gambling on the probability of divorce," said Zhong Xiang, the dean of the insurance apartment at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. "How can an insurance company set an economic value for the cost of a broken marriage?"

Sun Hao, a private relationship counselor, further questioned the effectiveness of such policies. "An unhappy marriage cannot be salvaged by external means like an insurance policy," said Sun. "A couple can only be made to stay together through a mutual desire by both parties to address the problems in their relationship, and to find ways of resolving them."

Sun gave the example of woman she had given counseling to, whose husband had been living with another woman for six months. Through her conversations with the woman, Sun discovered that she had been suffering from post-natal depression, exacerbated by the pressure of having to live with her mother-in-law.

"I helped her to work through her psychological issues, and advised her not to put any pressure on her husband," said Sun. Over a period of time, the woman started communicating her problems with her husband.

"Eventually, the man returned home, and even asked his wife to move to another city with him so they could start a new life," said Sun.

Sun acknowledged that in recent years, couples were coming to her with their martial troubles at an earlier stage of their relationships. But rather than taking out insurance policies, Sun suggested a few non-monetary tips for preserving one's marriage.

"First, don't impose too many expectations on your spouse. Secondly, learn to be independent and consider the possible consequences of one's actions before undertaking them. Finally, couples should try to learn to appreciate each other's merits."

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