Are you worried about your brother’s new girlfriend? Or maybe it’s your mom’s new love interest. Does the new beau give you bad vibes, or do you just get the feeling that a divorce is on the horizon for them? If you really want to encourage your mom, dad, brother, sister, uncle, etc., to get a prenup but are not sure where to start? Look no further– this article offers advice from both a legal and therapeutic background, with advice from both a lawyer and a therapist on how to approach this delicate situation.
Why a prenup is important
Before we get into how to encourage a family member to get a prenup, let’s briefly discuss why a prenup is important. A prenup is a formal contract between two lovebirds before they get married that outlines financial issues, such as property division, debt allocation, alimony, and much more. It can also include other less financial provisions, such as confidentiality clauses and pet clauses. Among the many benefits of a prenup, it can protect both parties from financial stress and can help make the divorce process less contentious.
Understanding your family member’s perspective
Before you bring up the topic of a prenup, it’s important to understand your brother/sister/cousin/mom’s perspective. They may be hesitant to get a prenup because they feel it’s unromantic or because they don’t want to think about the possibility of divorce. They may also feel that asking for a prenup could create tension in their relationship. Whatever the case is, make sure to get their side of things.
Here are some tips for doing just that:
Ask open-ended questions
Make sure you allow them to openly share their thoughts by asking open-ended questions, not just “yes or no” questions. For example, ask them how they feel about the idea of a prenup and what concerns they may have.
Validate their feelings
Don’t forget, this is about their relationship, so it’s important to validate your family member’s feelings, even if you don’t agree with them. Let them know that you understand where they’re coming from and that their concerns are valid; otherwise, you may end up with an argumentative conversation instead of a productive one.
Avoid being dismissive
Everyone has different experiences, values, beliefs, and misconceptions in life, so don’t be quick to dismiss your family member if they express fears about getting a prenup! Instead, try to understand their perspective and address their concerns in a respectful and empathetic way. Remind yourself to ask questions to understand, not to convince.
Share your own experiences
In your experience (maybe yourself or someone you know), prenups have been a success or you know of someone who has gone through a particularly difficult divorce without a prenup, you might want to share these stories with your family member, but in an empathic and helpful way. Try not to use a tone that insinuates, “This happened to them, so it’s going to happen to you.” Communicating your own experiences efficiently could help them understand where you’re coming from and possibly spark an interest in a prenup for them. Approach the conversation as if you are adding relevant information to their decision, nothing more than that.
Approach the topic with empathy
When you bring up the conversation of a prenup, it’s important to approach the conversation with empathy. Remember that this is about them and their partner, not about you. Don’t make your family member feel judged or criticized for not wanting a prenup. Instead, try to understand their perspective and why they might be hesitant to get one.
Choose the right time and place
Choosing the right place and time to discuss the sensitive topic of a prenup with a family member is crucial. For example, avoid throwing it in their face after another unrelated argument about their partner is going down. Also, you may want to avoid events where lots of alcohol is present.
You should aim for a private and relaxed setting where both you and your mom/dad/brother/sister feel comfortable discussing such a personal matter. Discussing the topic of a prenup can be uncomfortable, so it’s important to choose a relaxed environment where you both feel at ease. Not only that, but you also should avoid any time when either of you is feeling rushed, stressed, or distracted. For example, bombarding your family member with this topic 30 minutes after she gives birth to her first child may not be the best time!
Use “I” statements (avoid pointing fingers or “attacking”)
Using “I” statements can be a powerful tool when discussing the topic of a prenup with a family member. When you approach the conversation with “I” statements, you are able to express your own concerns and feelings without coming across as judgmental or accusatory. For example, instead of saying, “You need to get a prenup,” you can say, “I’m concerned about your financial future, and I want to make sure you’re protected.” This approach can help mom/dad/bro/sis feel more comfortable and open to discussing the topic, as they won’t feel like they’re being attacked. By using “I” statements, you can create a safe and supportive environment for discussing the sensitive topic of a prenup with your loved one.
For more information, as well as concrete examples of “I” statements, check out the book Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D.
Explain the benefits (without being patronizing!)
Be careful here because explaining the benefits of anything to a family member can often be perceived by them as patronizing (unless you’re an expert in prenups!). After you’ve heard their side of things, try explaining the benefits of a prenup from a new lens. Maybe even offer a pros and cons list of prenups so you can show them there are two sides to everything. Here are some lesser-known prenup benefits you can tell them about:
- Prenups are not just for the wealthy; they can protect everyone from stay-at-home parents with no income to millionaire CEOs.
- You can protect your pets in a prenup by ensuring they stay in your custody in the event of a divorce.
- Through a death clause in a prenup, you can protect your estate if you die and make sure that your separate property goes through your estate and not your spouse.
- You can include confidentiality clauses and social media image clauses that protect your reputation by preventing a spouse or future ex-spouse from posting harmful content or sharing private information.
- You can “sunset” a prenup at a certain date (i.e., give the prenup an expiration date). This means that if you’re married for longer than X amount of years (you decide how long), then your prenup becomes void.
Suggest meeting with a lawyer
If your family member is open to the idea of a prenup, you might try to suggest that they meet with a lawyer. Many lawyers offer free consultations or flat-rate consultations where you can basically have a Q&A session with them for a flat rate. This may be helpful for your family member to get the low-down “from the horse’s mouth.” In other words, a prenup lawyer can help them understand the legal implications of a prenup and how it could benefit their specific situation.
Don’t push too hard
While it’s important to encourage your family member to get a prenup, it’s also important not to push too hard and to remember this isn’t your relationship or your life. If your family member is not receptive to the idea, don’t continue to push the issue. Ultimately, it’s their decision whether or not to get a prenup.
Don’t forget to be a good son/daughter/sibling/cousin to your loved one and offer them support. Even if they choose not to get a prenup, remind them that you’re always here for them and you will be a listening ear for whatever they need.
In the end, respect their decision
Finally, make sure to respect their decision 100%. It’s their life, their relationship, and their money, so even if you don’t agree with their decision, it’s still important to respect it and just continue offering support despite their choice.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about talking to family about prenups
Q: When is the best time to bring up this conversation?
A: The best time to bring this up is when you’re both relaxed and calm and have plenty of time to have a conversation over a delicate subject. A private setting, perhaps their home (where they feel most comfortable), and at a time without distractions. Maybe it’s at their house, or maybe you take them out to dinner. Just make sure you both are in a good headspace and avoid drinking too much!
Q: What if my family member’s partner refuses to sign a prenup?
A: You should respect their decision, as it is their life and their ultimate choice.
Q: Should I bring it up with their partner? Or is that going too far?
A: This can highly depend on the type of relationship you have with their partner. You should tread lightly here because this can cause a lot of tension if your delivery is poor. For example, approaching their partner with empathy, open-mindedness, and respect for their relationship is key. If you go in, guns blazing, with nothing but judgment, it’s not going to end well.
Trying to convince your little brother to get a prenup when he doesn’t even listen to you about fashion advice can be a stressful thought. However, if you clicked on this article, it’s likely very important to you, so it’s probably worth having a conversation about. By approaching the topic with empathy, trying to understand their perspective, explaining the benefits, and more, you can safely encourage your family member to consider getting a prenup without wreaking any havoc on your own relationship with your brother (or sister, mom, dad, cousin, etc.).
David F Khalili is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, board-certified sexologist, author of Mental Health Workbook for Men, founder of Rouse Relational Wellness, a boutique sex and relationship therapy center serving San Francisco and all of California, and recently started Rouse Academy, an online learning platform to address sex and anxiety. You can learn more about David’s practice at rousetherapy.com.