Mediating Prenuptial Agreements
Myths Regarding Prenuptial Agreements
A “prenuptial agreement” is a term which, until recently, was viewed as a problem of the 1 percent. In the 80’s and 90’s, prenups were portrayed as a contract signed between a rich man and his fourth wife, who married him for his money. Nowadays, though, it’s actually a headache most of us need to deal with, whether it’s your first or second marriage, and whether it’s you who’s getting married or your kid who fell in love, and you, as their parents, can’t sleep at night because you’re too afraid everything you’ve worked for your entire life is slipping through your fingers.
Below are a few myths regarding prenuptial agreements that I would like to refute, for the sake of you and everyone who’s turning over in their beds out of fear that bringing up the issue of money would hurt their blooming relationship.
Myth: financial agreements are for rich people only.
I have some news for you: you are rich. Well, maybe you’re not as rich as you want to be, but you should try to compare yourselves to a just-married couple thirty years ago. You’ll realize many people today get married after gaining more property or savings than in the past, and it’s worth thinking how to protect it.
Myth: if you haven’t signed a prenuptial agreement, you’re not bound by any agreement.
Even if you haven’t signed a prenuptial agreement, you are still bound by an agreement. You just don’t know that agreement exists. The default agreement is derived from our country's law regarding the distribution of wealth between spouses when a marriage terminates. Therefore, an explicit financial agreement is in fact a chance to formulate alternative understandings that reflect your needs and priorities as a couple.
Myth: a prenuptial agreement is indicative of a trust issue in the relationship.
You may as well say that you don’t want to have a life insurance as it means you don’t believe in immortality. Firstly, if one doesn’t trust you, one doesn’t marry you. Secondly, a prenup agreement isn’t just meant to take care of post-divorce matters. Unfortunately, death could also be an event in which, legally, the relationship expires. The line which best reflects this is taken from the song “funeral blues” by W.H. Auden, who wrote to his late lover: “I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong”. In other words, even the biggest love in the world transfigures when one of the partners passes away. And the question is whether you want to shape the manner in which you take care of each other when that happens.
Myth: a prenup harms the relationship.
It is often the case that a prenup harms the relationship. It depends on the way it’s done, and whether you know how to avoid crucial mistakes or not. If you’re reading this article, you’re already on the right way to saving both your wealth and your relationship.
Myth: you shouldn’t talk about $$$ too soon, or you risk pushing your partner away.
It’s much more dangerous to delay the conversation about a financial agreement for a long time. Ask yourself: under which circumstances will you be able to express your needs better: after going through two months sans carbs to fit in your wedding clothes, when your little sister just announced a pregnancy, planning to upstage, and you got the herpes because it’s too late to cancel and you’re having your back against the wall? Or on a quiet weekend with no background noises and no deadline approaching?
Myth: you better say your parents are the ones who want the prenup.
If you are the side initiating the financial agreement, it’s understandable that you want to blame your parents for it. But think hard before doing it – you might also create an ages-lasting altercation. Another option in a situation like this is to establish a “family policy” which is known to all of the family members, and applies to each one of them when they marry. This kind of policy may make it easier for you to initiate the conversation. How to establish such a family policy is a topic related to the manner of preserving your family fortune, and you can read about it here.
Myth: you better let your lawyers formulate the financial agreement and stay out of it.
Lawyers are a very important part of the agreement and it’s important that both sides are properly represented. But the lawyers’ job is to make a clear and detailed agreement which defines all of the assets accurately, states rules to determine which of the assets are joint, etc. But lawyers are not necessarily the people that will help you express your needs in a way which will increase the chances to get what you hope for from your partner. A mediator that has a background of emotionally-focused couple therapy might be able to fill the void that the legal advice can’t. The emotionally-focused couple therapy approach helps couples to talk about any topic, knowing that defenses usually push away while revealing vulnerabilities usually brings closer.
In conclusion, unless you’re a couple starting from scratch, there’s a great chance you need a prenuptial agreement. Financial agreements let you fit the state’s standards to your own specific situation. A financial agreement might harm your relationship, but it doesn’t have to. If you don’t initiate it too late, don’t blame your parents for it, know how to get legal advice from your lawyers and get the help of a therapy-trained mediator – you will manage to cross that bridge which will lead you to a much happier life as a couple.