How to ask for a prenup without causing a breakup
Michele Lowrance, coauthor of “The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In, Or Moving On!,” says that our cultural sensitivity around prenups has to do with a reluctance to face the idea of an unhappy ending.
“This belief in the concept of ‘happily ever after’ offers one of the few soft spots remaining in our society, and carries with it much pleasure,” she explains.
That said, most couples planning to get married should have a prenup, particularly those bringing significant assets into their marriage. It’s like insurance: Of course you don’t intend to have an emergency, but it’s the responsible move to plan just in case. Even if you don’t have many assets to divide between the two of you, honest communication about your finances, plans, and values never hurts.
Where to start, though? A discussion about your relationship’s potential demise can be hard to have, and saying, “Honey, I want a prenup,” over dinner on date night seems like a real conversation stopper. Lowrance, who is a divorce court judge and domestic relations mediator, weighed in with some tips to initiate and navigate that tricky conversation.
Have a conversation instead of issuing demands.
“Let’s talk about getting a prenup,” is very different from “we’re getting a prenup.” Like anything else, talking about your future together shouldn’t be one-sided — your intended also gets a say. “Try not to react or formulate a response until your partner is finished, so that when you do respond, it gives the impression that you are trying to understand his or her position,” says Lowrance.
Be upfront about your reasons and fears.
This is a great time for “I” statements. In “The New Love Deal,” Lowrance suggests a series of conversational topics for couples exploring the idea of a prenuptial agreement. These include statements such as “It is important I do not feel exploited financially,” “I am worried that I will be financially disadvantaged if this marriage does not last,” and “It is important for me to keep my financial independence.” If you have a concern about your financial future together, now is a great time to surface it.
“The reality is that when people feel safe, they will listen to almost anything — especially if they trust your motives,” explains Lowrance. “If your partner believes that you are trying to push them into something for your own exclusive benefit, or into a settlement that they don’t feel comfortable with, your partner will quickly tune you out.”
Try not to get worked up.
Not everyone will take this conversation in stride. If you can remain calm — and hopefully allow your partner to remain calm, as well — your conversation will be much smoother. “The greater the emotional extreme, the less people hear, regardless of the emotion,” cautions Lowrance. “It is futile to attempt to reason with an angry person.”
Really listen, and ask questions.
If things do get heated, try and understand why it’s going down that path by asking questions about your partner’s objections, concerns, or beliefs. “Allow a partner to finish speaking and then ask if she or he has anything else to add,” says Lowrance. “If you speak before the other is finished, your words will be automatically filtered out. Fifty-one percent of the human brain is dedicated to visual referencing, so how you appear to listen — with your body language, eye contact, and posture — counts very much.”
Consider trying again later.
If your discussion is devolving into a fight, you might want to take a breather and try to talk again later. “I believe that when the conversation brings up some negative feelings and behavior, it should be terminated with a plan to reschedule,” says Lowrance, who suggests consulting a mediator if you can’t see eye to eye on the issue.