Imagine: It’s 5 years in the future. You’ve just sat down at your favorite restaurant, just the two of you. The purpose of this dinner is to plan an upcoming family vacation–your first one since the kids have been born. When the topic of how to pay for the vacation comes up, a wiggly feeling begins to take shape in your belly as you realize that you and your spouse do not quite see eye-to-eye on how much you should be spending on this holiday or where the money should come from. However, the real problem is that neither of you is comfortable directly stating what’s going on, because it has never been comfortable or normalized for the two of you to talk about your differing views on money. The uncomfortable feeling remains in your belly, unexpressed and festering. Your lack of open communication around finances leads to a tacit compromise re: vacation, and resentment grows.
Such dynamics are not uncommon when couples avoid talking about sensitive or contentious financial topics. There are a range of reasons married couples might feel uncomfortable with or avoid talking about money: they might feel a sense of power imbalance because one spouse earns more or is more financially literate, or the lower earner might feel guilty having a voice about finances. Maybe one spouse made some major mistakes with money in the past, and feels ashamed. Or perhaps one spouse became the default financial manager for the marriage without this having been discussed explicitly, and it would feel uncomfortable to bring it up or upset the balance in retrospect. Whatever the situation, there are plenty of reasons why the topic of finance is charged and contentious in many marriages. In fact, ‘money issues’ is one of the top causes of divorce.
If you’re planning to get married soon, there is something you can do that can help you avoid some of the money woes and finance-related arguments that are behind many divorces: getting a prenup. The couple described in the first paragraph (above) did not get a prenup, because they believed it would sow distrust and distract from the real point of marriage–love, not money. It didn’t seem to them like a very romantic thing to do. They had always preferred to focus on what they had in common, but the longer they avoided frank discussions about their differing financial needs and expectations, the less they trusted each other. Does that part sound romantic? We didn’t think so.
In fact, we actually think prenups are pretty romantic–first, because they foster open communication (particularly around money) and second, because they’re the ‘legal vows’ of marriage and are every bit as important as the vows you say on your wedding day. Allow us to explain a little bit more.
Prenups = Communication = Real, Lasting Romance
Aside from helping you make practical financial plans for your marriage as well as contingency plans for divorce, the process of drafting a prenup helps couples get comfortable talking about money. If there are financial topics that you and/or your partner tend to shy away from, drafting a prenup helps many couples break the ice and normalize talking about everything, including some of the less rosy financial realities.
That said, there are also plenty of couples who don’t feel uncomfortable talking about money, it’s just not something they tend to have a reason to talk about much. Couples in this situation could find themselves arguing about money years down the line simply because they assumed it would never be an issue and therefore never took the time to get on the same page about their financial plans in marriage. When you draft a prenup, however, you’re forced to talk in detail about financial matters. What’s more, the open, honest communication it demands paves the way for open, honest communication in marriage, too, contributing to the long-term sustainability of your relationship. What could be more romantic than that?
Additionally, discussing tricky issues like money and even your contingency plans for divorce can open up a sense of safety or deepen an existing feeling of safety in the relationship. Simply seeing that your relationship doesn’t implode when you talk about the most contentious or taboo topics can imbue a sense of safety. Moreover, the financial conversations that are a necessary part of the prenup process also often help couples to gain a deeper understanding of their own and their partner’s needs, expectations, boundaries, or even dreams, bringing them closer together. There’s also safety in that deep understanding. We think that’s pretty romantic, too.
“Romance” is typically associated with the early stages of a relationship characterized by infatuation, lust, and emotional intensity. In the long term, however, romance in a healthy marriage is more about a quiet but resolute sense of love and understanding that continues to grow with time. It is a product of clear, open communication.
In order to lay the foundation that will make a marriage last a lifetime, you’ll have to communicate about things that might not seem so romantic. Money is one of those things. You’ll have to work as a team to plan, strategize, and execute in response to financial realities and goals. You will acquire assets together, probably buy property together, and will need to pay bills and taxes together. If you have children, all of this will become even more complicated. Gracefully navigating all this and more will require a habit of communicating clearly and openly, and drafting a prenup will prompt you to get on the same page about your financial plans and expectations. Real, enduring romance in a long-lasting marriage is therefore less about obsession and rose-colored goggles and more about being able to communicate about the realities of everyday life–even if they’re difficult, and even if they’re dry and boring–in a way that is clear, open, and loving.
And don’t forget that getting a prenup protects the less wealthy spouse too! Breaking down these power dynamics early on can set the tone for a great long lasting partnership.
Having these conversations at the beginning of your new life together can really open up the doors to conversations you didn’t know you needed in the first place, and who doesn’t want to be as connected as possible to your life partner?
Prenups: The ‘Legal Vows’ of Marriage
As much as a prenup is an insurance policy, it is also a legal vow of what happens during the marriage! Just as you will vow at the altar to take care of each other in various ways, a prenup is the legal and financial equivalent.
The words “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health” imply that in marriage, a couple is responsible for providing one another with support in all areas of life, no matter what. Nurturing your lives together on a financial level is a huge part of that. So what does a prenup have to do with taking care of each other financially and legally? A lot! Here are a few examples:
- Debt protection: Do you have student debt, business debt, credit card debt, or any other debt? When you get married, that debt could also become your partner’s problem; as your spouse, they could be held equally responsible for it if something were to happen to you or if you were to ever split up. When you draft a prenup, you have the option to include a clause that keeps your debt separate. Doing so is a selfless act borne of concern for your partner’s wellbeing. Is that not romantic?
- Assets: When you write your prenup, you’ll have the option to specify which assets should be marital property and which (if any) should remain separate property. There is no one right answer or one-size-fits-all solution; each marriage is unique, and a prenup allows couples to decide for themselves what will be best for their relationship. If you do decide to keep some of your assets separate, the process of doing so through a prenup is the legal application of setting and respecting boundaries as well as communicating needs. Both of these things are healthy in a relationship.On the other hand, intentionally deciding to make some or all assets marital property is the legal equivalent of vowing that you’re a team. We think all of this is also pretty romantic.
- Alimony Stipulations: Including alimony provisions for a spouse whose role in the marriage is less financial is the legal way to say “my care and respect for you transcend whatever may happen in our relationship, I value your contribution to our marriage, and I’m, committed to making sure you’re financially taken care of no matter what happens in the future.” Romantic, or not–what do you think?
- Infidelity Clause: An infidelity clause in a prenup is a legal way to solidify the importance of accountability in your relationship. Putting down in writing that infidelity is unacceptable and comes with a consequence can also contribute to a sense of safety.
The legal vows of marriage are romantic because they allow you to show care for one another on a financial level by protecting each other from one another’s debt, encouraging boundary-setting and communication of needs around finances, cementing the feeling of being a team financially, expressing care and support even in the event of divorce, and by promoting accountability and safety. Again, we think that all of these things are super romantic for the role they play in building happy, enduring marriages that last a lifetime.
Ready to Create Your Prenup?
HelloPrenup is the premier platform for creating prenuptial agreements online, through a collaborative questionnaire, you and your partner can truly enter marriage with complete financial and emotional peace of mind. For just $599 per couple, you can create a fast, easy, and affordable prenup from the comfort of your own home! Ready to get started?
Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected]