Dating and Mate Selection — 20 June 2010
Are prenuptial agreements heartless or loving?

Since today’s younger individuals marry later, the divorce rate in the U.S. is at 50 percent and remarriage is common, prenuptial contracts have gained greater prominence than they had in prior generations. For some, it is the cautious and secure path, for others it conjures images of guarded love and less than whole-hearted commitment.

According to Harris Interactive only 3 percent of married or engaged couples have a prenuptial agreement, though it is up from 1percent since 2002. Another Harris study found that nearly one third of online respondents said they would ask their loved one to sign a premarital agreement.
Financial advisors are likely to recommend having a premarital agreement as means of preserving family money, individual personal assets and safeguarding the rights of children from the first marriage.
Mental health professionals encounter pairs who find that discussing asset division prior to marriage is hurtful, insensitive and perhaps a sign of reserved commitment to the beloved.
The German heiress Katrin Radmacher, whose premarital contract saved her nearly $7 million, stated, “I believe that creating a good prenuptial agreement is one of the most romantic and loving things a person can do for their intended: a promise to treat each other with respect even when you’ve lost that loving feeling.”
Some famous, wealthy divorcing couples have been able to divide their assets amicably, while others fought bitterly, remained angry or regretted their oversight.
A satisfied Catherine Zeta Jones, who married Michael Douglas in 2000, contracted to receive $1 million per each year of marriage and several extra millions if he were to stray. “Prenups are brilliant.” She said. “ I get taken care of very well.”
Roseanne Barr, who fired her attorney for suggesting she sign a prenuptial agreement with Tom Arnold and paid him 30 million dollars four years later, said, “My husband and I didn’t sign a prenuptial agreement. We signed a mutual suicide pact.”
Even bringing up the idea of prenuptial agreement is uncomfortable for most individuals. It may evoke doubts about love and trust.
In “Building Trust: In Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life,” Robert Solomon and Fernando Flores state, “Trust, like love and freedom, is one of those essential human values that everyone understands—until it comes into question and it is time to put it into practice.”
Prenuptial agreements may be viewed as contradictory, because they shift the attention from united collaboration and sharing to self-centered interests. Trying to unite and divide at the same time feels incongruent.
Solomon and Flores suggest that there are three types of trust: simple trust, blind trust and authentic trust. “Whereas simple trust is devoid of distrust, and blind trust denies the very possibility of distrust, authentic trust is self-confident rather than simply optimistic. Authentic trust is trust that is well aware of the risks, dangers, and liabilities of trust, but maintains the self-confidence to trust nevertheless.”

• Recognize that premarital vision sharing of your future together is essential, including the meaning of love, money, autonomy and security for each of you.
• Lovingly discuss the reluctance of either of you to drafting a premarital document. Validate each other’s emotional concerns and fears. Make it a process, not an event.
• Do not succumb to pressure or offer to just sign a prenuptial agreement-initiate negotiating one.
• If you agree to write this contract, use today’s tender emotions to protect each other in the future.
• Realize that there is no set format for a prenuptial agreement. Create your own document that ensures your emotional and financial safety, if the worst-case scenario should occur.
• Hire an experienced attorney to draft your agreement.
• Deal with this issue, as you would with other relationship matters by employing your kind and loving concern for each other. This focus will reduce the chance of ever needing to execute the prenuptial contract.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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