We’ve all probably seen that romantic comedy, you know the one (spoiler, it’s a lot of them). Two people fall madly in love after an epic meet-cute and inevitably, the groom-to-be’s mother makes her entrance. She’s vivacious and loved by everyone. She also has strong opinions and knows what’s best for her son and his fiancé. Of course, sometimes it’s the future father-in-law causing the conflict, but the bottom line is that sometimes our future in-laws are convinced they know what’s best.
If this plot sounds like your life, you are not alone. It can be hard for parents to let go, even if their children flew the nest years ago. That doesn’t mean the parents don’t mean well, though. Most of the time, hovering future in-laws mean just the opposite. They care so much that they want to share their experience and knowledge because they believe you will find it useful.
So, what are you supposed to do if you’re trying to ingratiate yourself to your future mother-in-law but she’s firmly set in her ways (and those ways are not your ways). Well, under some circumstances you should probably take her advice. Let’s face it, her triple chocolate brownie recipe is probably amazing and those sweet treats more likely than not remind your significant other of their childhood. Talk about brownie points (literally)!
There are certain times, though, that you should not feel obligated to take the unsolicited advice of your partner’s parents. Or your parents, for that matter, but it is generally easier to tell your own mom and dad no than it is someone you are trying to form a new bond with.
When to Compromise with Your In-Laws
When it comes to your wedding day, the day you’ve been planning since you were five years old, you would probably rather eat cold brussels sprouts than allow your fiancé’s mother to pick the type of flowers you will be using in your center pieces. Sure, maybe every bride in the history of her family has had lilies in their weddings but that doesn’t mean you should ditch your hydrangea Pinterest boards.
While it is not uncommon to have a favorite type of flower, floral arrangements are particularly personal on a wedding day. So even though you probably don’t want to let your mother-in-law coopt your petal preferences, you could consider paying homage to her traditions by meeting her halfway. Ok, maybe halfway is a little too far, but a compromise on some level will smooth tensions.
This is just one example of when to bend (at least a little bit) to the will of an in-law during your wedding preparations. Some decisions that go into your wedding day are important, but maybe not deal breakers. For example, you don’t have to let your future father-in-law wear his bolo tie and cowboy boots to the ceremony, but you probably will because it’s one small sacrifice for the greater good.
Sometimes, though, the wishes of your fiancé’s parents are more difficult to facilitate.
How to Talk to Your In-Laws
Parents of adult children have been more reluctant to adopt Covid-19 safety suggestions than their children have been. If you have taken extra precaution to plan your wedding during these times, then it can be extremely frustrating when your soon to be father-in-law declares that he doesn’t need to wear a mask.
Obviously, pandemic safety is not the same as flower choice and this is a good example of when your preferences outweigh those of your in-laws. After all, it’s not just you that the decision affects, but the health of all of your guests, not to mention your in-laws themselves.
Rather than caving to the pressures of your in-laws when it comes to Covid-19 safety, especially at gatherings like your wedding, experts suggest that you approach the subject with compassion and help them to understand that the precautions are for those around them. They also suggest that you speak with “I’s” instead of “You’s” when trying to relay your concerns. This language comes across as less accusatory and helps keep those you’re talking to from feeling attacked.
Whether your in-laws are pressuring you about wedding décor or your Covid-19 safety precautions, you should not face the conflict alone. Your fiancé should be a part of the communication process as well.
Can In-Laws Force You to Get a Prenup?
Sometimes, your future in-laws will have a lot to say about how you spend your money or manage your financial situation. Although this can be frustrating, it helps to keep in mind that most parents have been financially involved in their children’s lives for at least 18 years. Sometimes even longer than that.
Perhaps your partner comes from a wealthy family who has a sophisticated understanding of how money management works. Or maybe your partner’s parents plan to help the two of you with a down payment for a house after you get married. Hey, maybe it’s your parents who just told you that you, their only child, is set to inherit a very large estate. Their desire to be involved in your money management decisions makes sense if they’ve shared their wealth with you. Right?
Just because it makes sense, though, doesn’t mean it is entirely appropriate and to be sure, there is a line in the sand that you should protect. Your future in-laws may feel very strongly that you and your fiancé enter into a prenup before you get married, especially if your fiancé will inherit their wealth someday.
If you’re wondering whether your in-laws can force you to get a prenup, the answer is no. A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract between two people who are getting married, not two people getting married and their parents. If your partner comes to you and says that you and he will need to draw up a prenup or his parents will maliciously revoke his inheritance, then well, you would not be the first person to be put in this position. And, since it is their money, they can do that. Now, go call a family therapist.
Hopefully, the discussion of your prenup never becomes that contentious, and while emotions can run high when discussing asset management with your partner and your partner’s parents, a lot of the anxiety can be alleviated simply by communicating.
It can be helpful to set a family meeting and prepare talking points in advance. Sometimes it’s easier to resolve an issue like asset allocation if you have given yourselves a dedicated time and space to discuss it. And hey, if you are the one with less wealth, then don’t forget that this prenup can be drafted in your best interests, too. A prenuptial agreement can also protect the less wealthy party by ensuring that their financial interests are protected, and that they receive their fair share in the event of a divorce.
You Should Still Get a Prenup, Though
The good news is that your in-laws cannot force you and your soon-to-be spouse into a prenuptial agreement! Whew! But, the thing is, you should probably get one anyway.
Don’t feel too disappointed though, because a prenup ultimately protects both spouses if done correctly. Plus, just because you may be coming to the marriage with significantly less wealth than your partner doesn’t mean you won’t earn wealth of your own during the marriage, or that a prenuptial agreement can’t protect you but ensuring you receive some type of compensation in case you choose to remain home with the children, or choose to give up your job to follow your spouse to another city for their job, etc. The list goes on.
What is your partner has significant student loan debt from their master’s degree? Or, what if after the wedding they are planning on starting medical school, and taking out loans to do so? Should you be responsible for that student debt if you are to divorce in the future? A prenuptial agreement can spell out who is responsible for what debt. In the context of student loans, this can be a very important distinction.
Prenups provide valuable guidance during divorce as well as death, so either way, it will be helpful. By making decisions about your money management before you get married, you will be able to lay a roadmap that informs your asset allocation throughout your marriage. Prenups aren’t just a tool to help you avoid a contentious divorce, they are also a resource during marriage.
Entering into a prenup before marriage is kind of like finishing all of your work before you go on vacation. Making certain decisions before marriage, like how you will manage a joint bank account or whether you will both contribute to the mortgage, means you don’t have to make those decisions while you’re enjoying your lives together.
Go Ahead, Get a Prenup
Prenups have been given a bad rap because of the way they’ve been portrayed in celebrity gossip news, but they are becoming increasingly popular among millennials from a variety of wealth backgrounds. Prenups don’t have to be overly complicated, and it’s easier than ever to access the info you need to prepare one.
Prenups can be straightforward, if your assets are relatively simple. You don’t have to spend a ton of time preparing one, but if you ultimately need it, it will save you time and money when navigating divorce or the death of a spouse. That’s a good return on investment!
After some research, an accounting of your debts and assets, and an honest discussion about how your money should be used during your marriage (and yes, even after), you’ll be ready to draw up your prenup.
HelloPrenup is specifically designed to give you flexibility to create an agreement that makes sense for both of you. Regardless of your needs and expectations, we provide you with your prenup that is custom tailored to both of your needs and keeps your agreement fair and equal within your state’s guidelines. We even provide you with personalized clauses (like dog clauses, health insurance clauses, confidentiality clauses, etc.) so your prenup is truly yours and not some boilerplate template populated by god-knows-who on the interwebs. Need help getting started? Send us a message or DM us on social. We are always here.
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]