When you are engaged, you have every hope for a long and successful marriage. It is an exciting time filled with thoughts of new beginnings and happily ever afters. However, you are realistic, and you know that some marriages do end in divorce and the ones that do not end in divorce will typically involve the death of one or both of you, and want to protect yourself as much as you can if your relationship does not work out. A prenuptial agreement can help, but you may be concerned that suggesting one will anger or upset your soon-to-be spouse because they may feel that you are not “all in” or thinking of already breaking up.
When you are in this type of situation, you may be wondering how you should tell your fiancé that you want a prenup. Because our attorneys at O’Connor Family Law have over 35 combined years of exclusive family law experience, we can help you manage this process and draft a fair agreement that benefits both you and your future spouse whether divorce ends the marriage prematurely or you live out your vows of “until death do us part.”
Why Discussing a Prenup is Difficult
Many people view marriage as the ultimate commitment. Your to-be spouse is committing to putting all their effort into the marriage while expecting you to do the same. If you suggest a prenup to your fiancé, they may think you are giving up on the idea of ‘forever’ before the marriage has even begun or that signing this contract condemns your marriage to failure. Unlike the theory underlying tattooing your partner’s name permanently on your body is a sure sign of failure, a prenuptial agreement can actually help your marriage be better.
Financial conversations between engaged couples can also be challenging. It’s not uncommon for what financial status each partner is in to have never really come up. There are plenty of scenarios out there where someone was driving around luxury cars and residing in mansions only to find out after the marriage that you married into a ton of debt because your flashy now-spouse was living well beyond his or her means and you presumed everything was stable. Even when people have lived together for a while, there may be the opinion of, “What’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine,” so neither have discussed how the legality of a marriage with the law looking at “what’s yours and mine is now ours” is not necessarily going to correspond with that thought process.
Your fiancé may have different habits and feelings regarding money, including how to save and how to spend. Not understanding what the other person’s credit score walking into a marital union could prevent you from being able to buy a car or a house if their credit is a lot worse than you expected. Your fiancé may be nervous to ask you what your financial picture looks like because of concern they may come across looking shallow and because “that’s not what love is about.” They may fear that you are going to judge them for not handling their finances exactly as you do and could be reluctant to talk openly and honestly about their assets and liabilities.
The main reason that discussing a prenup is hard is because it goes against everything we were raised believing about true love. True love sweeps you off your feet and, with true love, anything is possible. This blog will not get into what it really takes a marriage to work and how those ideals about love pretty much only add to the ultimate breakdown, but love has a sexy undertone to it. Love is a feeling of romance. Marriage is a result of that feeling. A prenup is not sexy at all. A prenup makes a marriage seem like a business transaction, and who wants to feel like that when they’re getting ready to walk down the aisle? No one. Not even people who want a prenup.
How to Make the Conversation about a Prenuptial Agreement Easier
There are three main things that make a marriage work: (1) trust; (2) commitment; and (3) communication. Commitment is given. Trust is earned. Communication takes work. And, unfortunately, the majority of marriages that end in divorce start breaking down because of a lack of communication (which involves talking AND listening!). Part of communication is not only talking through disagreements but also seeing how well the two of you work together through disagreements. If someone gets mad and simply shuts the other one out, well, that is one of those situations that it’s going to be better to find out about before you say “I do” rather than after.”
The discussion about wanting to have a prenuptial agreement can be phrased as making sure both of you are on the same page when it comes to the important financial decisions and information that will come up during the marriage. Prenuptial agreements can be a useful financial planning tool. While proposing a prenup may be tricky, it can be done positively. There are many ways to discuss a prenup without hurting your partner or your relationship.
Put Yourself in Your Fiancé’s Shoes
When you bring up the prenup, it is important to try to view things from your fiancé’s perspective, especially if there is a significant difference between your income, assets, and debts. Understanding their financial concerns and challenges could help you talk about a prenup in a way that is sensitive to their needs and which does not cause them to worry unnecessarily about their future.
Emphasize the Benefits to Both of You
Focusing on the positives can lessen the feeling that a prenup is an adversarial process. Your fiancé may find the idea less intimidating if they understand that it can significantly benefit both of you.
For instance, a prenup can provide a framework for handling assets and liabilities in a divorce. Regardless of which partner is in a better financial position, both of you can benefit from knowing in advance what you can expect to receive and have responsibility for if you separate.
Premarital agreements can also offer much-needed emotional stability if the marriage ends. Having less to fight about in an already tense situation allows both parties to focus on healing and moving forward with their lives. Additionally, if divorce never happens, both of you will know that you strengthened your marriage by successfully tackling sensitive topics and having difficult conversations early in your relationship.
Prenuptial agreements also can emphasize a difference between what happens with property if the marriage ends because one of you die. It’s a sad thought, but it will eventually happen since no one lives forever. Terms can be drafted within the contract that will allow for additional protection for the surviving spouse so long as a divorce is not pending at the time of death.
Timing is Everything
Bringing up the subject of a prenup to your future spouse in the middle of a ‘heated discussion’ about your finances is never a good idea. Being thoughtful about when you propose the topic can go a long way toward a productive conversation. Do some advance planning and pick a time when both of you will be in a positive state of mind and have plenty of time to talk it over.
Honesty is the Best Policy
In both life and marriage, being honest with your partner will almost always benefit your relationship, and discussing a prenup is no exception. Your fiancé may feel more comfortable if you are transparent about your reasons for wanting a prenup and if you keep them involved in the process. Openly stating what is important to you could help your fiancé understand that a prenup does not indicate an intention to end your marriage or take their hard-earned money or possessions.
Call an Attorney for More Ways to Talk to Your Fiancé about a Prenup
Telling your fiancé that you want a prenup might not be the easiest conversation. However, there will be many difficult discussions throughout any marriage, and your relationship’s health depends on how you and your partner handle them. Seeking guidance from an attorney at O’Connor Family Law who has experience with prenuptial agreements can help you better understand the best way to navigate this discussion and achieve a positive result.