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?