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Pre-nups - Suffering From Elation
A Survivor's Tale
Today's 'Dinosaur Comics' struck a chord. Way back when Rob and I were first dating, his mother pressed him to think about a pre-nuptial agreement, and I was deeply offended at what I perceived as a lack of trust in me on her part. I was also disturbed by the very concept: wasn't marriage meant to be about love and lifelong committment? Why was a pre-nup necessary at all?

This is a really interesting topic. I used to be intensely bothered by the idea of a pre-nup: the idea pierced a hole through my cosy belief in the infallibility of the institution of marriage. It wasn't romantic, certainly not idealistic... in fact, in every way it appeared to run contrary to what Hollywood taught me marriage is all about.

Except a marriage has to last a lifetime, over a ton of practicalities, and when you consider that, I think you'd be a lunatic not to account for the possibility that it might end. People change.

A pre-nup is "love with an asterisk", yes. When you think about it, everything in life has (or should have) an asterisk. Life is unpredictable, everyone is different, and often things don't work out as planned: this is complexity at work. It is naive to put marriage on a pedestal, immune from the changes that affect friendships, businesses, countries and individuals, and say, "NAWWWW, nothing could POSSIBLY go wrong!"

Reminds me of the time they set sail on the Titanic without enough lifeboats. The designer, captain and passengers all held an unshakeable belief in the absolute unsinkability of that ship. So when someone cynically (or perhaps just cautiously?) said, "Dude, there aren't enough lifeboats..." aforementioned designer was probably as taken-aback as I was when my ex-fiance's mother suggested a pre-nup.

Preparing for the worst doesn't mean the worst will happen. Having faith in something shouldn't preclude a good dose of reason.
15 have fought ~ fight the power!
saitenyo From: saitenyo Date: July 3rd, 2008 12:25 am (UTC) (Link)
"When you think about it, everything in life has (or should have) an asterisk."

I agree with this statement 100%

I'm just naturally uneasy about the idea of blind faith in general, and when it comes to what might happen in the future, it's a pretty big gamble to have that much faith that something will certainly work out a certain way.
tania From: tania Date: July 3rd, 2008 02:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I suspect this is a big part of the reason that the pair of us are such whopping atheists, too. *grin*
raphstar From: raphstar Date: July 3rd, 2008 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I actually agree with you. It sounds hypocritical, cause Ryan and I don't have one. At this stage we have no sizeable assets so the biggest issue we would have is the cats. Pre-nups are a great idea. Especially considering the staggering statistics on divorce.

I see it in the same vain as "pre-marriage counselling". Set up as a precursor pre-nup almost. Aka, it is a good idea, it ensures that everyone is getting what they want in a reasonable manner etc "just in case" the practicalities of a lifetime are not what you thought they were.

That said, we didn't do that either :)
tania From: tania Date: July 3rd, 2008 02:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Every couple has got to do things their way - for me to suggest that ALL couples should have pre-nups is as presumptuous as T-Rex suggesting that none should. :) You guys've always seemed super sensible and stable, I've no doubt you'll do whatever works for you. You've obviously grasped the point, anyway: that being romantic and being prepared are not mutually exclusive!

I like to think that Joe and I have already had our marriage breakdown and divorce from each other and gotten it out of the way. ;) Man, the issues we worked through after all that were better than ten years of pre-marital counselling.

Edited at 2008-07-03 02:28 am (UTC)
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tania From: tania Date: July 3rd, 2008 02:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Reminds me of that episode of Scrubs where Doctor Cox and Jordan have the divorce ceremony. Heh, that was awesome.

I like fairy-tale romance myself... my god, I'm a total sucker for romance. I've come to realise that's why I have to be particularly careful... last time the world didn't work out the way I thought it should, it nearly killed me. :\ I had to toughen up and how. And I guess this whole thing with me reconsidering the value of a prenup is a part of that: an acknowlegement that fairytales don't always work out, and preparation in case that turns out to apply to my own theoretical-future-marriage someday.

In no way does it stop me hoping, planning and working towards my own fairytale ending though, and it definitely doesn't lessen my enjoyment of the romantic moments I get. In a way I think a prenup will make it easier to enjoy romance for romance's sake - after all, it's just neatly taken one of the Big Practicalities - money - right out of the equation.

Edited at 2008-07-03 02:24 am (UTC)
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tania From: tania Date: July 3rd, 2008 03:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I think most people are capable of making stupid decisions in times of high stress. I guess for me a prenup is in place -because- I wouldn't want any additional reasons for things to get complicated during a divorce. I mean, if you're getting a divorce, there's already a serious problem there... best to keep money from becoming a factor in that.
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: July 3rd, 2008 01:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Maybe it's because I live here, but I'm having a hard time understanding WHICH Hollywood view of marriage. The movie Hollywood aspect of "marriage is forever and you'll have a happy ending" or the actual Hollywood aspects where celebrities change partners quicker than they change their socks and it never works out?

Maybe I'm a cynic...I really hate the values of that town as much as I love it.

But I digress...I totally feel you on the idea of a prenup, but in my family where divorce is so common it's admittedly been sort of a little voice in the back of my head that maybe I should if the day comes. I know myself and I wouldn't ask for what my husband earned (I also believe in keeping bank accounts separate, my parents got screwed over that way pretty hardcore with my dad's bad credit) but I guess everyone's different.

My thought is, if you're worried about your spouse taking stuff that's not rightfully theirs in the event of a divorce, why are you marrying them in the first place? If they're going to mash you into the ground when things are already bad...then what's the point?
tania From: tania Date: July 3rd, 2008 02:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Was referring to the 'entertainment' ideal of marriage, as it's depicted in the movies - a big happy wedding and then fade to black with the implicit (or sometimes explicit) promise of "happily ever after".

Keeping seperate bank accounts is a good idea; Joe and I do the same.

I don't think anyone thinks their own partner is going to mash them into the ground - and I don't think either partner, in the event of a breakup, ever intends to do so. But it's not that simple. Most of the time a breakup happens BECAUSE something has gone wrong between those two people, and it's likely that there may be anger or hurt feelings on one or both sides - and people, when angry and hurt, often act very differently than they normally would.

Even if the breakup is totally amicable, rarely is it simple. Sometimes you get a situation where both people are in the right but that doesn't mean they agree. In a complex enough situation there can be two equally 'right' stances that run contrary to one another.

I saw it happen to my parents, I even felt a tickle of it when Rob and I broke up and had to seperate out the property we'd amassed together over five years. How do you decide who gets what? What if there is one item (or a better example: a pet) that is unique, irreplaceable and has value to both parties that can't be matched with a monetary amount?

A pre-nup, imo, is a way of saying to your partner: "If things ever turn bad, I don't want money to turn into an added complication between us." To me, it's a way of reducing potential complications, and in something as longterm as a marriage, that can only be a good thing.

thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: July 3rd, 2008 02:17 am (UTC) (Link)
That makes sense, and for those reasons I've considered it myself, I just worry about the asking for a prenup might CAUSE things to go sour, yanno?
tania From: tania Date: July 3rd, 2008 02:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Agreed, and that's a possibility if both partners don't see it the same way. Prime example being myself and Rob - he thought a prenup was a practical idea, but at that time I was still so wrapped up in the idealised, romanticised view of marriage that I was downright offended when he suggested it to me!

So I can see where you're coming from, and I've no solution to offer to that except perhaps, if it's something you're interested in pursuing, you could try raising it as a general topic (ie not specific to your relationship) with your partner one day to get a feel for where they stand on it.

I'm also of the view that if something as simple as a differing view on prenup agreements causes a relationship to turn sour, one must wonder how strong the relationship was to begin with. No couple is ever going to agree on everything... I think that will be one of the biggest challenges of marriage.
c_eagle From: c_eagle Date: July 3rd, 2008 04:51 am (UTC) (Link)
"This is a really interesting topic. I used to be intensely bothered by the idea of a pre-nup... Preparing for the worst doesn't mean the worst will happen."

Very wise words, yep!
I think we all have an initial aversion to the concept. After going throuh a few relationships that seem completely solid though, we learn it doesn't hurt to be prepared, even when you figure it could go sweetly anyway.

Getting a pre-nup is really just the technical issue. It's like, the love is separate from the relationship, which is separate from the law... even though they are tangentially connected.

People can be in love. Then if they wanna get married, they plan how to live together, i.e., the relationship (separate, but good to plan out the material matters).

The law and how it sees marriages in the province we live is a third thing. Some of our provinces don't get as involved. But the ones that say 'once you get married, everything is owned 50/50' ...well, for those we need to have a matter of law to spell out how WE want it handled, not dictated blindly to us all. If we feel it's fair to hand over have of our everything, then we probably don't need one (in those provinces). If, however, we feel it's more fair to be entitled to keep as our own those things from our early lives that we bring into it, and have those things owned thereafter be held by both together, then we might need to write that down, ...as in a pre-nup.

Having been betrothed to a childhood sweetheart, someone I'd known practically all my life, and how could such a rock-solid thing fail, ...we tend to learn that ANYTHING can happen... so it couldn't hurt, as you say, to prepare.
It's definitely not a self-fulfilling prophecy, as you also noted. Pre-nup marriages survive just like some of the non-pre-nup ones, probably with the same odds!
From: niqaeli Date: July 3rd, 2008 05:16 am (UTC) (Link)
While my partner and I aren't doing a pre-nup, I've never thought the idea itself was inherently anything, good, bad, or indifferent but I have thought it can be a reasonable thing to do.

See, a lifetime's a hell of a long time and getting longer all the time as medical advances come and go. It's hard to always grow in the same direction as someone else, especially for five or six or more decades. Recognising that as a possibility may not be Hollywood romantic but I don't think that it's actually unromantic. I think it's quite nice to think that people can grow and change and sometimes do that together, and sometimes do that apart, and go on to do other things with other people.

But I've always been considered quite pragmatic and I've always had an unusually good concept of time and the future. I knew when I was 12 that I was mortal, that I could die any time. Apparently that realisation isn't one that normally hits until your 20s, if at all? I started my retirement savings when I was 13. My parents encouraged it and ran numbers to show me why it was a good idea but the point is I did it happily because I knew it'd make my life a lot easier when I did get to 60-something.

So my concept of 60 years from now is pretty solid and the idea of being sure that in 40 years I'll still be in love with somebody who surely will have changed as much as I expect to in 40 years is kind of baffling to me. Hopeful, sure. But not certain. And having that possibility accounted for, I can see how that would helpful because it just... takes that off your mind. You can work towards making the marriage strong so it doesn't come to that, knowing that if it did you've eliminated one stressor from it.

It's not something we're planning on doing but I do think it's a reasonable idea more people should at least consider.

Edited at 2008-07-03 05:21 am (UTC)
sigmoidal_suseq From: sigmoidal_suseq Date: July 3rd, 2008 06:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Go the pre-nup!

I think it's extremely idealistic to refuse to consider a pre-nup, even if your relationship ends amicably sometimes assets are divided more by law than by choice.

Hell, my 'pre-nup' draft is edited every year along with the family will. Mum and Dad absolutely love Jason and even suggested paying for his education if he wanted to study here, but family comes first.

It's just common sense - wants mine is mine, what's yours is yours and now I know you're not marrying me for my money, bitch.
dreamsofglass From: dreamsofglass Date: July 3rd, 2008 12:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think that these days you'd be crazy not to have one. For years the laws have been slanted toward dividing all the assets equally and making sure the woman doesn't end up ruined and destitute.

In reality, it's an archaic view and I think the only reason it hasn't been abolished is the weak argument that women have to give up their cariers to have kids and therefore loose potential earning years and deserve equal shares of the assets (regardless of who brought them to the relationship).

Now you take one couple I know, the guy has a good job, works hard, trying to pay off his house. Brought significant assets to the relationship. His partner hasn't had a job in years, drinks all day, runs up huge debts (and I do mean huge) on what's left of his salary and brought no assets other than a beat up old car to the relationship.

When they split up, is she really entitled to half his assets? Legally, yes because it's a de facto relationship.
dreamsofglass From: dreamsofglass Date: July 3rd, 2008 12:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
* I should clarify that I believe women giving up earning money to have children and make a home *does* entitle them to their fair share of assets, that still may not be 'half' of everything brought to the relationship in the first place, nor even acquired while together or it could potentially be more than half of both those together.

Asset division should always be fair and consider strongly the source of the asset and the actual role of the other partner in the actual acquisition of it.

15 have fought ~ fight the power!