Why you should care
Because you need one too.
In Romantic Comedy Land, the man who wants a prenuptial agreement will never be the one. Maybe he is the ancillary bad boyfriend who must be gotten rid of before the happy ending; most definitely he is a sleazeball. Only sleazeballs want prenuptial agreements, the old saw goes, the ones who don’t trust in love, the ones who care more about their money than about you.
Time to stand up for the sleazeballs, then. Not only should you get a prenuptial agreement, but every couple should be required to have one. It should demonstrate that the couple, even amid the hell of navigating save-the-dates and place-settings, has contemplated certain facts. They love each other enough to stay together (ostensibly) forever and are signing a binding contract to that effect. Against all hope, the contract could go horribly awry. “I think that a prenup shows genuine commitment to the partner rather than a lack of faith in the relationship,” says Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence.
Is it an unromantic move, one that prepares for war while advocating for peace?
Lawrence was working in Australia when a contingent of rabbis there voted that rabbis have to encourage all Jewish couples to sign an agreement dictating terms in the case of divorce. (Among Orthodox Jews, only men can grant women a divorce, or get, and some withhold it, effectively keeping her in loveless limbo.) While contemplating divorce as you’re walking down the aisle can be a definite buzzkill, Lawrence sees it differently. Imagining the end of love, and preparing for it, is actually evidence of “a strong commitment to the welfare of the other even in the worst contingencies,” he says.
Back in the States, a majority of family lawyers surveyed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported more couples coming to them for prenups in recent years — and nearly half of them reported an increase in women instigating it. Minneapolis family lawyer Michael P. Boulette sees the prenuppers you might expect — one spouse with money, one without, or two spouses aiming to protect their assets from each other. But prenupping, for them, is less about greed than self-determination. If you don’t have a prenup, the laws of the state you’re in will govern, and you don’t necessarily want that. (Read: Start googling now!) Family structures have changed fast over the past few decades — divorce is common, women are in the workplace earning their own bank, gay marriage is legal — but family law has not. “We’re moving into a world where people have less patience with letting the government determine the financial terms of their marriages,” says Boulette.
Of course, many still worry that making a contract in the case of divorce before you’re even married is an unromantic move, one that prepares for war while advocating for peace. And prenuptial agreements can still be used to screw over one spouse, and the legal wrangling required would need to be reformed nationwide before a simple prenuptial agreement could be mandatory for all couples — or could be adapted to the myriad family structures emerging in the United States.
But just as many states require a waiting period for those who want to commit their lives to each other, it’s not unreasonable to require them to go over a certain number of what-ifs — including “What if we stop loving each other?” Young couples may feel such a conversation could doom the marriage, but, Boulette says, they’re wrong. “If your marriage is gonna make it, it’s gonna make it whether or not you had that conversation.”