Almost every article you’ll read about prenuptial agreements starts with the obvious: bringing up the idea with your intended groom or bride is awkward and un-romantic. Well, of course it is! What can be less conducive to fantasies of happily-ever-after than a document that, to most people, seems to be a way of preparing for a divorce before you’re even married?
Ironically, couples who are less concerned about hearts and flowers and who take a pragmatic approach toward their relationship — including its financial aspects — are more likely to have long-lasting marriages. Even so, bringing up a prenup is touchy, so here are a few tips on how to keep the romance in discussions of prenuptial agreements:
1. The first time, broach the subject in the context of more general financial matters. Sitting your special someone down specifically to talk about a prenup before you’ve even gotten a sense of his or her approach to finances is like getting insurance for a car you haven’t even test driven yet. In other words, it’s too much, too soon. If marriage is on your mind, you should be focusing on learning what his or her thoughts are about all sorts of money management. Make an opportunity — or several! — to talk candidly to your intended about the full range of financial matters you might face as a couple — and incorporate mention of a prenuptial agreement into these discussions. Doing so will make the topic a lot less threatening and personal, and can give both of you the opportunity to become comfortable with it.
2. Broach the subject in specific terms before you get engaged. Setting the expectation that you’ll have a prenup before the engagement allows you to separate the financial and emotional sides of your upcoming marriage. Negotiating the prenuptial agreement thus becomes part of the wedding planning — one of many details to be sorted out before the big day, rather than an unwelcome side issue. However, be sure you allow yourself sufficient time to celebrate the engagement before moving on to the nitty-gritty prenup details. Otherwise, you give your sweetheart the impression that love is less important to you than money — and that, much more than the prenup itself, really is a romance-killer.
3. Involve a neutral third party in the negotiations. You may have a lawyer you trust, and so might your fiancee — but in this instance, neither of your attorneys may be the right person to help you create your prenup. A good prenup protects the interests of both parties, so you need to find an attorney who has no particular connection to either you or your intended. Look for a knowledgeable family law specialist with experience drawing up prenuptial agreements.
4. “We should have a prenup.” How you phrase the prenup suggestion is very important. If you say “I want” or “I need,” it sends a signal that you’re focused on protecting yourself and suggests that you distrust your future spouse. It may help to emphasize that a prenuptial agreement can protect a spouse in the event of the sudden death of a partner — casting the agreement as a form of insurance. Presenting the prenup as a mutually beneficial agreement that serves to protect you both may be the best way to keep emotions as neutral as possible.