To prenup or not to prenup? That is the question. In the local coffee shop, I watch today as an older man discusses this topic with a group of friends. His sober face suggests that this topic is one of emotional passion. The man states that he would not sign a prenup and he “would rather have her take him for a ride.” From what I gather, he believes that if you really love someone, you should not have to sign an agreement of how things will be divided up if you separate. I have heard this reaction from many people; the prenuptial gives us a way out of the marriage. Doors also give us a way out, but we don’t go building houses without them.
So is he right or wrong? Now, I am not in the business of marriage legalities, in fact, as a professor of mine once put it, I am an MFT – Marriage Friendly Therapist. I work together with couples to help them happily stay together. However, that means a lot of surrendering to our faults and giving in to someone else’s needs, i.e. our partner. Most of the time when couples are ready to divorce there has been years of unheard words, unmet expectations, and lack of overall happiness. (Check out this article: When Women Divorce Long Before The Divorce by Quentin Hafner.)
In my life I have had three different views on prenuptials:
The first (early 20’s): That if you truly love someone, you don’t need to sign an “out”contract.
The second (late 20’s): After getting out of a bad business deal with a co-owned restaurant; not having any concrete contracts signed, I felt that you always need a contract no matter what. I got along with my business partner so I always thought a split would be amicable. It is true that in the mist of a fight the claws come out. Marriage is the contract and the prenup is there to protect that asset.
The last (early 30’s): Premarital therapy. By-yearly check-ups with the therapist. I would sign a reverse prenuptial (see below). In the long run I want a partner that is as happy and silly as I am; we will be adults when it comes to decisions, for better or worse.
Obviously, to make a prenup or not to make one, is up to the discretion of the couple. Consider this when thinking about the issues:
1. There is a lot of legal advice on the internet about signing prenuptials. What about other experts on relationships and how they discuss navigating this part of a marriage?
2. Discussion of a prenup needs to be gently entered into. It needs to be a conversation of understanding and compassion. Most prenuptials are entered into for protection of the property or assets that one comes into the marriage with. If you are marrying someone who believes they are owed something you had prior to meeting them, I think a prenuptial is the last of your worries.
3. If you are not willing to share certain things or benefits you accumulated while in the marriage, whatever that looks like, you should not get married. You are a selfish person. Truly selfish people will be unhappy in a marriage. When you force a kid to share and he doesn’t want to, he will likely throw a tantrum after handing over the toy. Marry the man or woman who finds joy in sharing with others. It will make a world of difference in all aspects of the marriage.
4. Over the course of the years of marriage you both make equal sacrifices and you should decide what that is going to look like prior to getting married. You may be the sole source of retirement and insurance, but your partner might bring in more money each year. Or your partner might stay at home to with three kids until school age and take care of house work. At the end of the day it isn’t all about money and assets. We have to take into consideration the acts of service and the sacrifices.
5. If your prenup has to include things like the religion that your children will be raised, well then, stop right there. You aren’t putting exacts in the prenup because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter anyways. If your partner becomes Buddhist in ten years and wants to share some of that wisdom with the children, you don’t pull out the prenup and say – Right here, look this is what we agreed. People change and you should marry someone who is open to change and that is willing to meet you where you are and go places you feel a need to explore. You should marry someone who you have similar values with, but nothing in life guarantees that down that road that is going to look the same.
After Much Research on The Topic: Try These
The Reverse Prenuptial
Going back to the analogy of the door. It gives us a way out, but it also keeps us in. It is a fire escape and a barrier to keep unwanted guests out. It serves two purposes. What if our prenuptials started doing the same? Say that one partner comes into the marriage with a boat, the other does not. The prenuptial reads that if divorced in the course of the first 15 years, the boat will be sold and the sale split. However, after 15 years, the asset is given to the rightful owner in full.
Yes, therapy. You are going to be making an appointment with a lawyer to get out of the marriage. The lawyer doesn’t have an understanding of what makes marriages and relationships work. He has a law degree and an objective for divorce. Seek a therapist out to discuss why you are thinking about divorce; gain help from someone who has experience in the area of relationships, not law. Trust people who work within their scope. Your lawyer has little interest in your overall well-being.
Overall the conversation of the prenuptial should be one of grace and compassion. Be comfortable and open to the opinion of your partner.