Are pre-nups the new wedding vows?

21 Oct

Following yesterday’s ruling in the Radmacher case, Divorce: Radmacher/Granatino Ruling Gives Pre-Nuptial Agreements …, I got into a discussion on twitter about pre-nuptual agreements. The culture of pre-nups is often criticised for being unromantic, and indicative of weak commitment. The logic is that if you are planning for a divorce then you are not totally committed to the marriage.

I doubt anyone would disagree that clear agreements make for good relationships in any aspect of our lives. Yet we remain disdainful of clarity when it comes to marriage –  the biggest personal commitment we are likely to make. This seems illogical to me. The main criticism I hear of pre-nups is that they are unromantic. But then, part of the problem is that our cultural notion of romantic love and relationship is poorly conceived. (That’s another blog….)

Another part of the problem is that in people’s minds, pre-nups are automatically linked to divorce. In essence, a pre-nup is seen as answering one question, ‘Who gets what if we divorce?’ Of course, that is the question which pre-nups do often address. But its not the only question that they can address. Moreover, they don’t only need to relate to divorce. Pre-nups can serve another purpose – to address questions about how a couple want to conduct their marriage.

What if a pre-nuptual agreement was seen an opportunity for a couple to discuss and decide what they expected of each other during the marriage, rather than at its possible end? What if pre-nups were the new wedding vows? Or their supplement?

Wedding vows are taken solemnly – they are vows, after all; but those vows remain largely in the abstract. ‘To love and honour…’ Yes, but how? With what action? With what behaviours and with what desistance?

Every couple is different, as is each individual. Its dangerous not to have clear discussions about expectations in a marriage. Yet, many couples get married without having those discussions – about money, about responsibility, about bringing up children about whether taking holidays is more of a priority than saving for retirement. People don’t have these conversations because they are supposedly unromantic. My own view is that clear agreements – pre-nuptual agreements – can lay a foundation on which romance can flourish in a marriage.

If more people signed pre-nups, would marriages be happier?


Posted by on 21/10/2010 in Breakups and Divorce, Romance


Tags: , , , ,

2 responses to “Are pre-nups the new wedding vows?

  1. Andrew Woolley

    21/10/2010 at 12:08 pm

    It does surprise me how easy it is to get a “marriage licence” given its obvious dangers and problems.

    Certainly, I have before argued for some professional counselling at least before such a serious commitment. For example, do people realise that “romantic love” as normally understood, actually ends? I think normally they do not. If it could be understood that the ending of that is a fabulous opportunity to really love your partner then that I think could save many marriages.

    But is that what a prenuptial agreement would contain? It could do, it can contain whatever you like. But I’d imagine getting rid of the background fears about “are they marrying me for my money” would be a major step in allowing safe and real talk about the actually more important issues about the relationship.

    Finally, do bear in mind that despite the publicity the recent case of Radmacher did NOT say that prenups are binding. But they are now quite likely to be which is an improvement at least.

  2. Jackie Walker

    22/10/2010 at 9:48 am

    Great post Vena. There is, so often, little understanding or interest given to what the marriage contract is when one is choosing to spend one’s life with someone. I’m pretty sure that the sights set are for the wedding day itself, not the life thereafter. It’s little wonder so many have post wedding blues when the wake up call of ‘real life’ comes after the honeymoon.

    The how to do it is rarely addressed until a relationship is in trouble and some might take themselves to someone who can help, unfortunately, the majority don’t.

    I believe, like you and Andrew, that pre-nups when voided of the negativity of divorce, could be a positive route to better communication, understanding expectations and therefore happier relationships.


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