Prenup agreements - awkward questions and dilemmas

Part 1, Part 2

Are you struggling with a prenuptial dilemma? Are you unsure about what you do - and don't - want to disclose to your partner? 

(If you've not yet read Part 1 of this article, do hop over there now for the background on prenuptial agreements and disclosure).

Here are three options for you to consider before getting legal advice...  

  1. You could lie. Could you? Really? Clearly this is not an option. Once you start, where would you stop? As I'm sure you're well aware, the truth is very likely to 'leak out' some time in the future.
  2. You could say that you'd rather not discuss it. That would be honest, but how would your partner respond to that? And what would that say about your relationship? You may be reminded of one of those conversations during which you agreed that you wouldn't hide any secrets from each other. So what now?
  3. You could decide to be totally frank and open with your partner. However, that might have unacceptable implications for your family. Potentially sensitive family matters would become public knowledge. You may be acutely aware of the need to 'keep it in the family', but is your partner? Remember that there may be a (perceived) need for him or her to discuss the details of your business (in the widest sense of the word) with their family.

Tips for a fruitful discussion about prenups

Ideally you'd both be totally realistic about discussing prenuptial agreements and from the start accept that...

  • more families than you'd imagine do indeed have their secrets (who hasn't heard about somebody's skeletons tumbling out of a cupboard?)
  • your partner (particularly if they're the one who asked for the prenuptial agreement) is likely to want to keep certain matters to him/herself
  • you too may well have secrets that you wouldn't want to discuss, whether or not these are financial matters

For the most constructive way to talk about a prenuptial agreement, you'll need to discuss:

  • the emotional impact of arranging a prenup - without judgement. How does it feel? What are your fears? Who or what would you want to protect?
  • the limits of confidentiality - as per above
  • the reasons that stop you wanting to disclose certain matters

When talking to your partner you might want to phrase it along these lines:

"I'm sure you're already aware that my parents / siblings are very (understandably) sensitive about ... (for example: those missing assets / that debt / that inheritance). So I need to let you know that I will want to / feel obliged to / need to protect them."

Promised full disclosure but not sure you're getting it?

You might be someone who has a particular degree of emotional intelligence. If so, you'll soon pick up if your partner isn't quite as forthcoming as you might expect when discussing financial matters.

Another indication that your partner isn't totally honest may be (although not necessarily) their spending habits, especially if they don't match any bank or credit card statements you've seen. Are they guilty of financial infidelity?

Discussing divorce

Discussing the spectre of divorce might help you to talk openly about any insecurities you or your partner have. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you find that idea really scary. In fact, you might not find it easy to discuss any emotional stuff, let alone feelings of insecurity.

However, as a couple counsellor I've met too many people who knew in their hearts that they shouldn't have got married in the first place! An open and frank discussion may have prevented them making that huge commitment which - very sadly - turned out to be a terrible mistake.

Could you pluck up the courage?

I'd really love to give you the courage to be brave! Discuss your fears about what a prenuptial agreement means to you, and about what the future may hold. Rather than seeing it as a negative, you can turn it into a positive.  

The discussion could potentially provide a really solid basis for both of you to truly commit to doing all you can to ensure the long-term survival of your marriage.

Alongside your prenuptial agreement you can then make some decisions about what you can do - practically and emotionally -  to ensure the two of you can weather any storm and come out stronger.

If you need help - I can recommend you talk to one of our online experts.

Prenuptial agreements and divorce in a nutshell

In a nutshell, discussing divorce - and with it the possibility of a prenup agreement - isn’t about anticipating that you'll get divorced. Instead, it simply means talking about a future that nobody can accurately predict.

And if, after that discussion, both parties accept the need for a prenuptial agreement, that doesn't need to undermine the love you have for each other. In fact the opposite could be true.

If both partners approach the prospect of a prenup honestly and without cynicism, it can be a good way to take pressure off the relationship. You will have been honest about the future, anticipating the best, but not ignoring the possibility - however slight - of the worst. This will leave you both free to go into the next stage of your relationship with your eyes wide open.

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Elly Prior

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