It’s no secret that saying the word, “pre-nup” to a newly engaged person often brings on a whole range of emotions. To many people, suggesting a pre-nup is effectively the same as questioning their loyalty to their future husband or wife. There is often an assumption that suggesting a pre-nup basically amounts to telling your future spouse to prepare in advance for the marriage to fail. However, pre-nups provide a wide range of benefits to each person and can also be a valuable communication tool between future spouses. When I hear of newly engaged couples spending hours and exorbitant sums of money on hall rentals, flowers, and wedding attire, it boggles my mind that important conversations about finance and future lifestyles are very often avoided. A pre-nup can be more than just an agreement; it can be a process that allows the engaged couple to discuss ideas, concerns, and expectations for the relationship, which can help reduce stress and help to build a strong relationship moving forward.
Pre-nup is short for prenuptial agreement and provides a framework for distribution of assets in the event of the marriage dissolving. It can also spell out the rights and responsibilities of each party. This is an official definition that people turn to when discussing the possibility of a pre-nup, but it is important to understand that any definition you look at simply scratches the surface of what a pre-nup can do for you. Because a pre-nup, much like any agreement, will be tailored specifically to you and your future spouse, it can be hard to spell out exactly what every benefit will be.
After a careful review of how pre-nups are generally drafted and the process used to reach the agreement, I’ve narrowed it down to five main reasons that a pre-nup is not the scary and terrible thing many people think it is:
1. Pre-nups encourage open communication:
This is very basic, but it’s true! Discussing the possibility of a pre-nup promotes honest and open communication between future spouses, and isn’t that what marriage is all about anyway? Whether, as a couple, you ultimately decide that a pre-nup is or is not for you, you’ve at least had an open discussion on the topic. The other four reasons I have listed revolve around open communication, so in a way, this could be considered the most valuable benefit of a pre-nup.
2. Pre-nups provide a great platform for building trust:
Although a pre-nup can include a whole variety of topics, the main element (and usually most stressful) is the financial aspect. One of the biggest criticisms I hear from people seemingly opposed to pre-nups is that if a person brings it up, they are seen as being greedy, caring more about their money than their spouse, and so on. However, given that pre-nups can cover income, assets, questions of lifestyle and responsibilities of the parties, it allows the couple to essentially create a plan for their life together.
3. Pre-nups are a way to gather comprehensive information:
We’ve probably all had those moments in relationships where we know something should be addressed, but we don’t want to have an awkward conversation so we try to gloss over the issue or completely ignore it. Pre-nups give both parties the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation about topics that we might not be comfortable with, but we know it’s for the sake of the relationship. It’s hard to find that perfect moment to let your fiancé know that maybe your student loan debt is a little more than they think, or that you have a few too many credit cards. It can be equally as hard to tell your fiancé that you have accumulated substantial wealth. By working with an experienced professional, you can get all that information out there, which will allow you to build trust and make a plan, whether it involves how to repay those loans or how you want to minimize the credit card usage. Anyone, no matter how savvy, can benefit from expert advice before those magic words, “I do.”
4. Pre-nups allow parties to protect assets that haven’t yet come into the relationship:
The whole theme of marriage is “until death do us part,” right? Well, guess what? That’s a pretty big time frame, and you can bet that a lot of things are going to happen during your married life! Maybe one of you will earn an advanced degree and really bump your pay grade; maybe someone will end up inheriting a valuable asset or piece of land; or maybe you, as a couple, decide to start your own business – A pre-nup can be a great way to discuss goals for the relationship and how your partnership will work. The possibilities are endless and it is important that there is a plan in place for these possibilities. While you are working hard to listen to each other’s goals and dreams, and help each other reach those goals, you can discuss how you want to address things that haven’t happened yet. It seems confusing to try and plan something that hasn’t even happened, but the whole point is to at least make sure each person is on the same page so that if and when something does happen, you are both ready to tackle it together.
5. Pre-nups encourage each party to take an active role in managing marital dynamics:
Just like Item 1 was the umbrella benefit that trickled down to other benefits, this ties everything back together. When you really utilize and appreciate the other benefits I mentioned, it empowers each person to take an active role in managing the dynamics of the relationship. This helps to build trust. Once the discussion starts as to each person’s expectations and you begin making a plan, it will become easier for you to express your own thoughts and opinions on you and your partner’s respective roles in the marriage. Even though people tend to view pre-nups as dealing only with money, we all know that marriage is about so much more than that. There are so many other contributions that someone can make to the marriage and the pre-nup process allows you to address those contributions and discuss how to plan accordingly.
Nothing about a pre-nup is easy. It requires two people to sit down and have a conversation about a lot of things that we tend to put off on purpose. You and your partner might ultimately decide that a pre-nup isn’t right for you. However, if you open up the dialogue and avail yourselves to the process, you will find yourselves in a positive position by setting the stage for how you will both deal with financial and other realities in the future. The smart bride and groom plan for a lifetime together, not just the wedding day.