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How Prenups Kill Romance

Prenup today, sleep in the den tonight

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.

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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)

Mark Goulston, M.D., is the author of the new bestselling book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.

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