I once began a talk at a conference by saying that a premarital agreement is the most romantic thing a couple can do together. The audience was in an uproar -- half agreeing, the other half scandalized. Since then I've tempered my views, but my central thesis remains: when approached gracefully, premarital agreements strengthen marriages.
To understand this, start with a premise: every married couple has a prenup whether they want one or not. By this I mean that the laws of virtually every state or country dictate what happens to assets before, during and after marriage. This bundle of laws is nothing more or less than a prenup. So the question is not whether you want a prenup, it's whether the prenup you already have works for you. To answer that, you need to know both what the law says and what you want from marriage.
At its core, romance is an expression of love. The more sincere the expression the better, and the more work put into the expression, the more sincere it comes across. You can see where I'm going with this. Nobody wants to talk about finances when they're planning a wedding -- it feels like the antitheses of romance, and it's difficult. It is precisely that difficulty which makes the conversation romantic. You're saying to your fiancé that you love him so much you're willing to dive into the inevitably difficult issues and work through them even before marriage. That takes courage. It's easy to stay together when everything is fun. It takes real commitment to stay together when conversations are challenging.
As a divorce lawyer, I see breakups every day. Often my clients tell me that they were blindsided about an issue -- often money -- that had never been discussed before. When it finally came up, their differing perspectives were so surprising the trust broke. This happens more than you would imagine. The simple way to avoid this is to discuss the big ticket items before marriage. You may not resolve every disagreement, but you're going in with your eyes open, and that makes a huge difference down the road.
Money issues are going to be part of your marriage, and they are one of the primary reasons that divorced couples report breaking up. The skill you build discussing these issues now gives you a greater chance for marriage success going forward. Said another way, if you can't get through those discussions now, how easy is it going to be after marriage when the stakes are much higher?
One last tidbit: sometimes we're confronted with unsolvable problems. How you deal with these means everything to your marriage. Does an unsolvable conflict mean your relationship is over? It doesn't have to, but you can't know until you discover one. Find some unsolvable problems before you get married and then address them. It'll save you heartache in years to come, and it will tell you a lot about how your marriage is going to work.
So here's how to strengthen your marriage with a prenup. First, understand what your default prenup says and compare that to your core beliefs about marriage. Share your views with your partner. Then tackle the difficult questions and conversations. It sounds simple. It's not easy. It can be fun and actually strengthen the bond that you have with your partner prior to your marriage.
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