So, you’ve planned your wedding, but how much have you done so far to plan your marriage? If you haven’t started thinking about your prenup yet, there’s no time like the present! Getting married involves merging two separate lives into one, and there are a lot of high-stakes legal and financial implications that come along with this. It’s a good idea to get a prenuptial agreement in part to protect personal assets in case the marriage does not work out, but there is also a myriad of other reasons to get a prenup that has everything to do with preparing for your marriage and nothing to do with divorce.
Nevertheless, many people worry that asking for a prenup could signal a lack of trust or commitment, as prenups have gotten a bad rap as being ‘divorce planning’ documents. In reality, prenups are a pre-marital tool that helps you and your partner plan your life together, ultimately strengthening your trust. Below we’ll flesh out why that is and share some tips on fostering trust and unity through the prenup process.
Focus on the Positives
The first step is to ditch your pre-existing biases about prenups and reframe the entire process as a positive life-planning tool rather than a worst-case-scenario parachute. Drafting your prenup creates a prime opportunity to clarify your financial values and goals for the future. In doing so, you’re doing your future selves a favor by eliminating a lot of potential conflict that comes from NOT getting crystal clear on these important aspects of your union. For example, you can include clauses about how to manage finances, meaning what you save, spend, and invest. When you communicate proactively about finances, you are able to gain confidence in the areas where you see eye-to-eye, cultivate understanding in areas where you might not see eye-to-eye, and stack the odds in favor of shared financial success.
Normalize Blunt Money Conversations
One of the biggest barriers to open communication about finances is discomfort talking about money. We get it: it’s weird talking about money. That’s how society has conditioned us for so many years. Many couples avoid detailed money conversations even when they officially intertwine their lives by getting married. However, entering a marriage with financial secrets isn’t recommended. Instead, break this pattern by initiating candid talks about your respective financial attitudes, habits, income, debts, assets, credit scores, and more. In fact, the prenup process requires that you disclose finances to each other so it’s actually a mandatory step.
Money-related conflicts often stem from poor communication, so it’s imperative that you get comfortable having frank financial dialogues. Usually, that means having a lot of uncomfortable conversations until talking about money becomes so routine that the discomfort fades. If possible, normalize these discussions before you start discussing your prenup; that way, the process will feel more natural and not stymied by discomfort opening up about financial matters.
Do not hide assets or debts from your partner, not even those you consider “no big deal;” this can lead to a prenup being thrown out by a judge. Full transparency and honesty are necessary not only for the document to be enforceable but also to maintain trust in your relationship. And sometimes, transparency means revealing embarrassing financial mistakes you have made. The good news is that admitting weaknesses actually builds trust–as long as it’s done proactively. So, make your partner aware up-front of any credit card debt, loans, inheritance, real estate, or other holdings. Even if parts of that conversation are uncomfortable, it’s likely to be less uncomfortable than blindsiding your partner later on.
Make it Reciprocal
To ensure fairness, a prenup should protect both parties’ interests. Now, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a 50/50 split, but you both should get something out of the agreement that you feel satisfied with. You’re a team, so seek terms that benefit you both.
Going out of your way to make each other feel valued and secure throughout the process will make your relationship even stronger at the end. So, instead of handing your partner a one-sided document, construct the agreement together (Cough, cough, HelloPrenup’s collaborative platform).
Welcome their negotiations, and if you don’t immediately agree with one of their suggestions, lean in and find out why it’s important to them and whether you can negotiate a creative solution that works for both of you. Negotiating everything and arriving at an agreement you both feel good about might take some time, but it’s worthwhile in order to have a reciprocal prenup that reinforces trust in your relationship.
Put Emotions First
Do not let the prenup talks become purely financial transactions devoid of feeling. Your love and commitment are priceless; reaffirm these emotions throughout the process by expressing them regularly and bringing your dreams for marriage into the discussion. Keep in mind that while the prenup has practical value in terms of protecting your finances and helping you plan the financial side of your marriage, it’s also a great opportunity to connect even more deeply through working as a team on high-stakes issues and looking out for each other’s interests.
Seek Mediation/Unbiased Third Party
It may happen that you hit an impasse in prenup talks. If so, call in an objective mediator such as a couple’s therapist, financial advisor, or lawyer. A professional like this can propose constructive solutions and offer a valuable third-person perspective you and your partner are not able to see from your subjective vantage points. If you start to feel at odds with each other and less like you’re on the same side, mediation can also help you refocus on the goal: of reaching marital goals, mutual protection, and peace of mind. In order to get you back on track, a mediator can also help draw your attention to areas of agreement and then help you build on those and find solutions based on your mutual goals.
Don’t Rush It
Financial and legal matters require time and careful consideration. Give yourself and your partner plenty of time to review all aspects of the prenup thoughtfully before signing. Ideally, you should begin the process of drafting your prenup three to six months before the wedding, which means you need to raise the topic and begin the initial discussions even earlier. Leave enough time to think through all of the scenarios the prenup would address, weigh the pros and cons, and sleep on anything you’re not sure about. Giving yourself enough time will ensure that you both enter the marriage confidently with all relevant concerns resolved.
Life circumstances change; that’s one of the only things you can count on. Therefore, you should anticipate shifting future realities when you write your prenup. Some couples choose to include a ‘sunset clause,’ which essentially means putting an expiration date on the prenup. After that date, the couple can create a postnuptial agreement to reflect their current reality or forgo it altogether. Alternatively, sunset clauses are sometimes included in order to reach a compromise between partners who don’t see eye-to-eye on the need for a prenup; if one wants a prenup and the other doesn’t, a sunset clause is a way for them to meet in the middle and have a prenup only for a specified period of time. A compromise like this one addresses the needs of both parties and reinforces trust by giving the person who wants a prenup peace of mind while providing assurance to the other partner that the terms laid out in the prenup will only be in effect temporarily.
Focus on the Marriage
Although it’s crucial that you allocate the requisite time and energy to drafting your prenup, it’s equally important that you do not become consumed by it at the expense of nurturing your relationship. When life feels super busy with wedding planning and prenup negotiations, make it a point to do regular check-ins and activities as a couple. Since time is tight during this time period, time should be scheduled in order to ensure that you are able to fit it into your schedules. Go for walks, share a bottle of wine, cook dinner together, or plan anything else that helps you connect. Strengthening your bond through intimate talks and activities will translate to an easier prenup process in which any disagreements are less likely to spiral out of control and you’re both more amenable to working together.
Strengthen Your Conflict Resolution Skills
No couple agrees on everything, and finances are at least an occasional area of disagreement for most couples. Navigating the prenup process bolsters your ability to work as a team to compromise, see each other’s perspectives, and resolve differences constructively. If you sharpen these relationship skills during prenup talks, you can rely on them throughout your marriage when inevitable disagreements occur. With practice, you will learn to handle conflict wisely by enhancing your ability to brainstorm creative ways to meet in the middle as well as maintain mutual respect and an open mindset.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Strengthening Your Relationship With a Prenup
Q: Why do we need a prenup? Isn’t it basically planning for divorce?
A: No way! A prenup actually makes your relationship stronger in that it prevents arguments and uncertainty down the road by clarifying finances, property, and other assets upfront. It can address how finances will be managed and how assets will be divided during the marriage, which means more trust built on clear expectations and less potential for money-related conflict down the road.
Q: How can a prenup improve communication between spouses?
A: Drafting a prenup requires full financial disclosure, and being forthcoming about money matters helps your partner trust you–especially when you share things that might be uncomfortable or that you’d rather not disclose. Additionally, openly discussing finances, assets, and possible future scenarios fosters communication skills that will apply throughout your marriage, whether you’re discussing finances, addressing a conflict, or navigating any other type of high-stakes conversation.
Q: What if my partner seems offended that I suggested a prenup?
A: Reassure them that your intention is to ensure mutual protection and clarity and that you’re certainly not expecting to divorce. Use the tips above to reframe the prenup as planning for the relationship’s success, and make sure to explain that a prenup also involves planning out your financial roles and responsibilities in marriage in addition to divorce contingency plans. Finally, give your partner time to digest the idea before you continue pushing it if they’re not immediately on board.
Creating a Prenup Builds Trust
With the right perspective and priorities, the prenuptial process presents a valuable chance to set your marriage up for success built on trust, transparency, and mutual protection. Approach it thoughtfully, ethically, flexibly, and with your partner’s welfare at heart as much as your own. Lean on your love to sustain you through any bumps. A prenup need not divide you but rather unite you in creating a relationship that endures all of life’s ups and downs. Your bond will only grow stronger.
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]