Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A.

Just Listen

How Prenups Kill Romance

Prenup today, sleep in the den tonight

Posted Mar 29, 2010

Prenuptial Agreements (Prenups) are intended to be legal instruments for agreeing on what should be done if and when a marriage ends. But what a prenup means is a totally different matter. It is not what they say, but what they mean that matters. And it’s why these reality checks can rip a hole in the romance of a relationship or at the very least expose hot love to a cold shower.

What it says about you as the person seeking one

  • As right as you thought you were about something is as wrong as you turned out to be.

  • You've been burned before and don't want to risk it again.

  • You've become aware how so many things are up for grabs, so focus on the details.

  • You don't mind giving, but you don't want to be taken from.

  • When you leave things to chance, you believe it usually works against you.

  • You're defenseless and inept against emotional reactions to conflict.

What it says to your partner about you

  • You don't trust them to be fair and reasonable if you get divorced.

  • You're trying to control them.

  • You don't think the marriage will last.

  • You've lied about how you would take care of them, and are now back peddling.

  • You've gone from a giver to a taker.

  • You may want them to unconditionally love you, but there are conditions to your loving them in return.

  • You don't have confidence that you and they can rationally discuss and work out conflicts.

  • You've put a dollar amount on the value of their love.

  • You don't care about the humiliation they may face in admitting this to friends and family.

You put a much higher value on preserving your pre-marital assets than you do on their sacrificing a "window of desirability” and lessening their next marriage prospects based on their non-financial assets that may be diminished after the marriage by virtue of their being older.

You're crazy if you think this will not impact your relationship negatively.

All this said, I am in favor of prenuptial agreements for a reason not usually discussed. Prenups offer each partner the chance to see the other at their worst*. This enables each party to say, "No thank you" up front before they get married and thereby prevents having to say, "I want a divorce" later on.

* Years ago I was a preeminent international expert on helping divorced couples get back together with their ex's, remarry and live happily ever after (see/hear Oprah clip). When I was doing that, one couple told me, "When you go through a divorce you see your ex at their worst, whereas when you get into a new relationship, you have yet to see them at their worst."

The 6 Secrets of a Lasting Relationship: How to Fall in Love Again...and Stay There (Perigee, $14.95)