I’ve been seeing a great guy for a few months now. At dinner he mentioned that he probably wants a prenup when he gets married. I was shocked – he’s been so sweet, and prenups sound so unromantic! I’m seeing him in a different light and second-guessing whether he’s actually as great as he seems. If a guy wants a prenup, does it mean he’ll never really commit to our relationship, even if we get married? If he really loved me, he wouldn’t want a prenup, right?
The short answer: no, no no!
First off, if he has significant assets, or what lawyers call “expectancies” (trusts and similar things), he may be getting a lot of pressure from his family to do a prenup. (I’m guessing you don’t have significant assets or “expectancies,” or you would probably be getting similar pressure from your family or thinking about a prenup yourself.)
Second, if he’s willing to bring this up with you, it shows that he’s responsible, thoughtful, and an honest communicator. These are great qualities in a boyfriend, husband, and father. Maybe guys who ramp up the charm on the first few dates could be called “romantic” because they send you lots of flowers, but in my mind, “romantic” means being considerate and respectful and sweet for the long haul. And being responsible does not mean that he shouldn’t (or won’t!) be a flower-giver too.
More to the point – and this may surprise you – prenups are actually very romantic. Sure, if you marry this guy (or anyone else) you’re not going to want to be thinking about what happens if you split up, especially in the months before you get married, when you’re swept up in how much you’re in love and looking forward to your life together.
But you’ve probably heard the often-quoted statistic that “approximately half of marriages end in divorce.” So in a deep sense, prenups are romantic in that they protect you during your marriage, and give you freedom to live your life the way you want without worrying the rug will be pulled out from under you if things ever go sour. This is especially true if you have ideas about taking time out of the workforce to raise kids, as many women do (and as many husbands/dads want them to do). This is a choice every couple must make for themselves, but it is somewhat risky for the woman (taking yourself out of the workforce can make your job skills rusty, making you a less attractive job candidate when you want to go back to work).
Prenups also force you to talk about money and finances before you get married. If you’re uncomfortable talking about money (or even if you’re not), this is anything but unromantic. This is a crucial skill that will save you from many fights during your marriage – very romantic indeed.
Bottom line: even if your guy hasn’t thought this out as much I have, these are the reasons that lawyers write a lot of prenups. You don’t usually hear about people’s prenups because it’s a taboo topic, but couples in their 20s and 30s are getting them more and more often. And when spouses enter a marriage feeling protected and with the experience of having open communication about sensitive topics, they set the stage for a healthy, committed, romantic marriage.
As a retired attorney (who did not practice divorce law) and, more importantly, as someone who has been divorced, I believe every couple should have a prenup, even if its their first marriage. Why? Partly because so many marriages end in divorce (for many many reasons, not just because the romance failed), but mostly because it will keep the divorce lawyers out of your pockets if the divorce does come. They charge $400 – $600 an hour. Totally outrageous. Who gets to charge that kind of money? Its only because they have a monopoly and there is no one to stop them from totally ripping you off during your period of misfortune. The only way to stop them is to have a prenup, which could at bottom just be a standard form that applies in a fair manner to every couple. A standard prenup could include such standard clauses as joint custody of the children, splitting marital assets 50-50, and keeping non-marital and pre-marital in the hands of the person who originally had them, without regard to whether they have become mixed later. That will solve virtually all marital disputes and will keep the lawyers out of your pockets. The other thing you can do is go to mediation or arbitration to save money. If the prenup is fair, there will be no reason to litigate the divorce to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.