What happens when a romantic realist marries a hopeless romantic? A messy conversation about prenups.

The topics of money, death and divorce are each hard enough to discuss on their own and a prenup is a triple whammy of all three. At once. During what is supposed to be one of the most romantic times of your life- your engagement!

Adding to the messiness are the myths floating around about prenups. There are some common misconceptions out there that they are only for the rich and famous or that they are a harbinger of divorce.

It turns out, the number of couples creating prenuptial agreements is increasing. Because the average age at which Americans are getting married has risen steadily over the years, individuals are coming into marriages with significant retirement assets, real estate or their own businesses and want to protect those assets, should something happen to the marriage.

As for the myth that they are harbinger of divorce? I think we should flip the script on prenups, and I actually think they can be a romantic gesture of sorts (or so says the romantic realist).

Stay with me here.

While it may seem counterintuitive, rather than being a sign of a divorce, I found the conversations about our prenup to be beneficial process for me and my soon-to-be-husband to go through that will make our marriage stronger.

Here’s why:

  1. It helps you build a strong foundation with your partner about finances.
  1. You and your partner can create a plan based on your values.
  1. It allows you build something out of love than during the emotional turmoil of divorce.

One of the most common reasons cited for why marriages end is because of issues around finances. Money conversations are HARD (even for those of us in this field) and require practice. Admittedly, its easier to avoid the conversation all together and hope it doesn’t become an issue (it will). The prenup process can help open those lines of communication earlier in your relationship before problems escalate. While drafting a prenup, you and your partner have to cover your full financial lives- your assets, your debts and your expected inheritance. Your full financial picture is out on the table.

To the second point, Amanda Singer, a lawyer specializing in divorce mediation (and college friend of mine), says one way to think of it is not as “having a prenup or not” but rather that “all couples have a prenup even if you don’t craft one.” Each state has laws pertaining to divorce and drafting your own prenup allows you an opportunity to have a say in the process. By crafting a prenup, you and your partner can decide what your values are around such topics as alimony and dividing premarital assets, rather than leaving it up to the laws in your state. As someone who loves control, I definitely believed in this approach. The prenup process gave us an opportunity to share our views and understand our expectations on these topics. (For more from Amanda, check out her guest spot on “Breaking Money Silence” called “Myth: Getting a prenup means we will divorce”).

Lastly, but in my mind, the most important reason I believe in prenups, is that we can create something out of love. I feel like we have the best opportunity to be most caring with one another now than try and sort it out during a divorce. It’s important for me that we take the opportunity to work through some of these tough questions when we want the best for each other.  That to me a is a huge romantic gesture (though to be clear, I still love chocolate and flowers).

We’re certainly not entering our marriage thinking we’ll get a divorce and we definitely don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about that in the time leading up to our wedding (especially when there is so much more to do!).  However, we know it’s in the realm of possibilities and to steal a line from the insurance industry (ugh, where’s Flo when you need her? Or that lobster in the hot tub?), you don’t buy property insurance hoping your house catches on fire. Early on in our relationship, something my soon-to-be- husband and I discussed, is that there is no shame in divorce. We’d rather see it as an option than force the other to stay in an unhappy relationship because of any of stigma. We also know that statistically speaking, marriages don’t always last. It’s sad to think about it, but what is sadder to us is staying in something that isn’t working.

It gives me a lot of comfort knowing that my fiancé and I took the time to discuss these messy topics ahead of our wedding. It gives me hope that we began working on a strong foundation for our marriage before we even walked down the aisle. We can continue to build healthy habits around money and communication that will serve us well into what we hope will be our long and happy marriage.

Editor’s Note: Tomorrow is Single Point’s 7th Birthday!  In 7 years of posting Single Point of View Blogs I think this is by far the best piece we have done.  It is no surprise to us that it only took Mary one blog post to show she is a star!  She writes from the heart and her personality shines through.  Most importantly, yes Mary is getting married this month!  Congrats to Mary & Mark!!!!

Photo: While we had discussed marriage, the actual engagement took me totally by surprise (listen, had I known it was coming that day, I would have say, washed my hair, picked out something better to wear… but I loved the surprise).