Prenuptial agreements are often seen as pessimistic, but can they actually strengthen a marriage?
One way to think of a prenuptial agreement is as an insurance policy for the end of the marriage, which could happen either through death or divorce. We don't think of car insurance as pessimistic – nobody plans to get into a car accident – and there's no reason to think any worse of prenuptial agreements.
In fact, there's good reason to take a very optimistic view of prenuptial agreements.
That’s because newlyweds are often faced with combining their finances for the first time, and all too often, they don’t have serious conversations about money until after they're already married.
With money being one of the leading causes of stress in relationships, wouldn’t it be great if couples could learn early on how to discuss their finances with each other before marriage — establishing ground rules and expectations for how their money will be handled?
Tons of experts agree that transparency and open communication about money are important in relationships. One NPR Money Coach segment observed, "Experts in both finance and relationships say that a big hurdle couples should cross together is managing their money. And they say frank conversations are a good place to start."
Getting a prenuptial agreement doesn't just encourage frank conversations about money – it requires them.
When a prenuptial agreement is done right, it's a process of mutual, respectful dialogue about money.
It involves transparent, forward-thinking conversations about finances between marriage partners, on everything ranging from management of accounts to real estate purchases and even estate planning. (With prenuptial agreement mediation, these conversations actually take place face-to-face, with professional guidance.)
The important thing is that the couple be encouraged to speak for themselves, and directly with each other. This is a unique opportunity for the couple to start the marriage with a clear understanding of how finances will be managed.
For many of my clients, the process of discussing their prenuptial agreement is the first time they've ever had a serious discussion about important financial topics like how accounts will be managed, what it means to invest in real estate together, how shared expenses will be handled, and how they view their retirement plans.
Research shows that this kind of open and deliberate dialogue between couples — about a range of important subjects, not just finances — can have lasting beneficial effects throughout the marriage. Simply put, couples that are decisive and clear with each other around major decisions are more likely to have happy, lasting relationships.
Obviously, a prenuptial agreement can't eliminate all marital conflict. All couples argue at times, but a couple that makes a habit of facing difficult conversations head-on, rather than avoiding them, is a couple that is setting itself up for long-term marital success.
And a prenuptial agreement is an opportunity to do just that.