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Prenups 101: Seven Love Tips to Make Them Work Out


1. What are the most common prenuptial situations for first-time marriages?

A: There are two types of prenuptial agreements or prenups:
One is where the groom or bride is part of a large family business like a real estate empire. Here, the prenup is intended to protect the family from inheriting a non-blood relative as a partner through death or divorce settlement.
A second situation occurs when the bride or groom has considerable assets, a significantly more lucrative career and his/her partner doesn’t.

2. Isn’t it unromantic?

A: Totally. There’s nothing less romantic than sitting in a room with two lawyers across a conference table discussing what happens if you have affairs, a divorce, or one of you dies. You have to consider every possible horrible outcome. It colors everything, kills romance and can put an abrupt end to the courtship period.

But it’s also not romantic when you have to change dirty diapers that have leaked all over the crib sheets. Not everything in marriage is romantic.

3. Do you see a trend where more people, especially in first time marriages are seeking prenups?

A. Yes. I think that there is a sea change that is occurring, especially in large metropolitan areas where people are waiting longer to marry–the average age is between 30 and 34. They have more to lose, plus they’ve seen what can go wrong. So they are making more informed decisions and being pragmatic about marriage. Having a prenup is part and parcel of that. A woman who is college educated, with an income over $50,000, who marries over the age of 25 and has no child when she marries, is much less likely to get divorced. For example, this trend has resulted in a lower divorce rate for New York State and New York City than the national average.

4. The whole prenup situation sounds like a recipe for disaster. Can anything good come out of this?

A: Absolutely. You learn a lot about yourself and your partner: about fears and insecurities and tendencies toward greedy, pushy or submissive behavior. You may learn that you are not really right for each other and save yourselves a lot of aggravation in the future. Or you may learn how right you really are for each other–how you can work together, even in a very difficult situation.

The prenup means that couples go from lovey-dovey fantasy to being confronted with real life: the possibility of betrayal, loss and even death. But this can be a positive experience. In my new book, Love in 90 Days, one of the lessons is: When you face loss, love can blossom. A signed prenup means that you both acknowledge that you could lose each other. When you understand that, you appreciate the relationship more, are more likely to work at it. You are less likely to take each other for granted.

The prenup also offers the chance to experience your partner as a separate person with different wants and needs. He has to be able to see it her way and she has to be able to see it his way– with empathy and compassion. Then they can meet in the middle. Negotiating the prenup forces the partners to learn conflict resolution skills. And these are vital for creating win-win solutions in marriage, vital keys to making love last.

5. When in a committed relationship should you bring up the topic?

A. The prenup should be brought up as early as possible. Ideally before the marriage proposal in the context of a discussion of what each person envisions what they want and need in order to be happily married.

It should not be thrown in the partner’s face as ‘a paper that is a mere formality’ that needs to be signed, at the last minute when the invitations are already out and the pressure is on to go ahead with the wedding. Ideally the prenup discussion should happen right when the proposal is hanging in the air as a possiblity or soon after it occurs.

6. What technique do you recommend for kicking off the discussion?

A. There is a very powerful technique to use in this potentially explosive situation that I call the 10 Minute Listening Session. This is where one partner plays ‘therapist’ and gives a 10 minute session to the other partner where he/she simply listens empathically to their fears, thoughts, needs and wishes about the marriage, including issues about the prenup. Then the partners reverse. They can do this as often as needed.

The couple should also have a few premarital counseling sessions to share their wishes, needs and wants in the marriage. This is a good neutral space to air upsets and disagreements about the prenup and work toward a win-win solution. To help you envision a win-win future together, read about the habits of healthy loving couples in my book, Love in 90 Days.

7. What about lawyers and the whole legal process?

A. Both sides have to have legal representation to make it a solid agreement that will be difficult to overturn. Each should also find a pro-marriage lawyer who believes that a win-win negotiation is the goal. In a prenup both sides have to disclose their assets. Otherwise, you’re agreeing to a settlement and you didn’t have all the facts. The prenup usually covers, having kids, death, life insurance, adultery, divorce. Also, the timing of these events is examined, that is, the longer the marriage lasts the more money is in the settlement.

A prenup can work out to be a wonderful win-win for both members of the couple, where they are clear that both of their needs will be taken care of in the event of divorce or death.

psychologist, dr. diana kirschner, appeared on oprah and is a frequent guest on the today show. for 25 years she has helped thousands of single women find love. her acclaimed new book is love in 90 days: the essential guide to finding your own true love. for her etips, blog, dating articles, daily affirmations discussion forum visit http://www.lovein90days.com

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Listed: October 15, 2008 4:08 pm