In matters of love, do you let the head rule over the heart?
November 3, 2015 12:51 PM   Subscribe

In a relationship that is heading towards marriage, how do you decide on how much to compromise on? Does being practical trump being emotional when in a relationship? How do you make big life decisions?

She and I have very different net worths.

Me and my parents think that I should get a prenup because we think it's a logical thing to do and it makes sure that everyone has an understanding of what they are getting into. Also, that it protects both parties should something go wrong in the future. And if I were to use my rational brain, I know that my marriage won't be any better or worse off than the average marriage - there is a 50% chance of it going either way. (I just hate divorces and the turmoil it creates, and regardless of what I come across as, I hope I never get divorced.)

She doesn't want to proceed to getting married with a prenup on the table because according to her, she doesn't understand the concept of doing so. For her, it's a matter of trust, and she can't imagine sitting across a table having this conversation with lawyers involved. This whole concept to her feels alien. To her having a prenup is setting the marriage up for failure.

Who's right? At what point do you know and how do you conclude that these are significant issues that can't be overcome?
posted by rippersid to Human Relations (83 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I think it depends a lot on what you expect the terms of the prenup to be. Presumably, if you want to do this then you have ideally thought about what it looks like for you? It looks like you live in MA, which is a community property state, which means that for her, if it's less than half of your money, then yeah, you're just trying to screw her over in the case of a divorce before you even get married - that's a rough thing to say to her, and you'd better have a reason she would want to agree to that.
posted by brainmouse at 12:57 PM on November 3, 2015 [12 favorites]

Nobody's right. Nobody's wrong. But if you have the kind of relationship where you can't sit down and talk about big stuff like this, then that tells you something significant about your relationship. (FWIW I think prenups are bullshit, and I'm coming from the side of having more $ than my mister, and my parents suggested this to me back in the day. I nixed it.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:58 PM on November 3, 2015 [13 favorites]

I strongly (STRONGLY) recommend that you and her talk this matter through in premarital counseling. You're not the first people to have to talk about difficult subjects when deciding to get married and, in my experience, this is exactly what premarital counseling is for. If you're religious, check at the place where you worship about premarital counseling. If you're not, ask successfully married friends where they sought guidance. We're atheist, but we met with a chaplain that had worked with two of our friends. It was tremendously helpful and we went into marriage on firm footing. We have been surprised when talking to other couples at how many people skip premarital counseling. Invariably, these same couples also tell us they wish they had done it. Basically, my point is: don't try to sort this out on your own. There is a lot tangled up in these decisions and premarital counseling helps you have these conversations in a productive manner.
posted by pinetree at 12:59 PM on November 3, 2015 [19 favorites]

I think it depends on the actual details of the prenup. For me personally, it would be reasonable to keep all existing assets and inheritance as individual property. But wealth built during the relationship (including earned income) should be shared. Are there protections for if one of you takes sacrifices in their career so the other can focus on theirs? Or for being a stay-at-home parent? Or for doing large scale renovating work on your own house/rental properties?

To me, at the end of the day, the legalities of marriage are just that... legal consequences. Otherwise, you can have a ceremony and never involve the law. If anybody--never mind a loved one--asked me to enter a legal contract with them without protecting my own interests, that would be a deal breaker for me.

This is a conversation, just like if you want kids or not. It's ok to choose either one, but you have to agree on what you'll do, or it's a fundamental relationship dealbreaker.

Now, with all that said, I'm married to someone who had lower net worth than I did, and who made less than I did. (Though not so significantly as you, I think.) We did NOT get a prenup.
posted by ethidda at 1:02 PM on November 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

If you consider your marriage to be a business relationship (and some people do), you should get a pre-nup. And know that might be a dealbreaker for your partner. Many people will not marry someone who wants a pre-nup.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:04 PM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Not having a prenup is just consenting to the default rules established by law/caselaw. Having a prenup means you either affirm those default rules or deviate from them in some respect.

I think meeting with a family law attorney for a short informational session may be helpful for you both. What does a legal marriage entail? What are the legal benefits and burdens? What can be changed via a prenup, and why would someone choose to change those things? Are there other documents that can do the same thing (wills, powers of attorney, etc.)?
posted by melissasaurus at 1:04 PM on November 3, 2015 [21 favorites]

It kind of sounds like she does "understand the concept" of a prenup, honestly.

I've been divorced and have since remarried and my divorce put me through the wringer. Ex said if I came after him for half the marital debt, he'd file bankruptcy, and I didn't test him on that. That being said, Mr. Getawaysticks and I do not have a prenup.

You just have to trust your instincts on this. Is it worth breaking up/not getting married over? Did you feel this way before your parents told you they also feel this way?
posted by getawaysticks at 1:13 PM on November 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

Marriage is a contract. A pre-nup is essentially an amendment to said contract. If she does not understand that however else she feels about the marriage, it is also a contract under law, this misunderstanding needs to be corrected.

Marriages have real legal implications, regardless of whether or not she cares about them. Not understanding is not a sufficient reason to oppose something.

I don't want to undervalue the place of emotion in a relationship - it's critically important - but I cannot understate the importance of being practical. Every relationship should discuss boundaries and guidelines, and in a healthy relationship literally everything should be up for discussion, if only to verify how both parties feel about it. She may very well have emotional feelings about this topic. That's her right. But one party's emotional feelings don't automatically trump the other party's emotional feelings and practical considerations.

If you want a relationship to work, you have to work at it. Working at a relationship means more than just going off of feelings. You make practical decisions to compromise, or to not get upset about something because life is too short to get upset about that thing.

Also, keep in mind that divorce rate is an average across all instances. There are a lot of factors which would make a couple more likely to divorce (second marriage, presence of kids, disparate backgrounds, wide age gaps, etc.). Assuming you don't have intractable differences, a marriage working out or not is largely down to the choices you make.
posted by Strudel at 1:14 PM on November 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

Not having a prenup is just consenting to the default rules established by law/caselaw. Having a prenup means you either affirm those default rules or deviate from them in some respect.

This. In other words, Everyone has a prenup. Some people just have the basic prenup dictated by their state divorce laws.

As BlahLaLa says, neither of you is fundamentally correct. But you need to arrive at an understanding, and it needs to be based on each of you having all of the information and the opportunity to come to an informed decision. If you do all that and talk it over and still can't come to a consensus, then you'll have to consider whether this is a thing that is too large to overcome.

But don't bring your parents into this. Your marriage will be between you and your spouse; expanding it to include your family is an even bigger obstacle than a prenup.
posted by Etrigan at 1:14 PM on November 3, 2015 [39 favorites]

Also, that it protects both parties should something go wrong in the future.

Really? The person with much lower net worth in this situation is being protected by the pre-nup, and would be better off with it than without it? Are you sure that isn't just a thing that the person with higher net-worth is saying (or being told by their parents) to make themselves feel better?

I mean, it's your right to decide whether you want to share your inheritance or whatever else is at stake, but don't kid yourself (or gaslight your partner into thinking) that it's for your partner's good, if it really isn't at all.
posted by randomnity at 1:17 PM on November 3, 2015 [61 favorites]

I agree that the best idea is for you both to talk about with a marriage counselor.
posted by Miko at 1:18 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I agree with those above that premarital counseling would be really good for both of you to think through what money means in your relationship, how you want to deal with money going forward, etc. I would also do some research on your part to investigate what the default (i.e. non pre-nup) rules would be in your state, and do some thinking about how you want to change those default rules in your specific situation. And be able to justify to your future spouse why you think she should be getting less than the law would otherwise afford her, if that's what you are after. Personally, I would tell your parents to butt out and do your own research/decision-making here. You are forming a new family with your future spouse - your parents shouldn't really get a vote in that.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:19 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

My first thought is why you want a prenup and whether that matches up with what prenups are for.

Prenups are, classically, for if you are bringing a lot of family money (or other money not connected to you personally) into the relationship. So if your parents are Vanderbilts or Hiltons or Hearsts, and you stand to inherit millions, while your fiance is from a modest background and does not bring similar family money to the marriage, yeah, sure, that's prenup territory and it should be pretty easy to rationally explain to your fiancee why it's important to protect that family money in the event of a divorce. A prenup is not for you or against your fiancee, it is for the family/corporation/foundation/business/whatever.

If the issue is that you're an investment banker and your fiancee is a librarian who plans to quit her career in order to be a stay at home mom soon after you marry, yeah, you're being kind of a jerk, your prenup is probably not going to "protect" you anyway, and you're basically poisoning the well in relationship terms. Someone who quits their life in order to keep your home and raise your family is entitled to support in the event that things don't work out.

I don't think you should connect this to the "50% of marriages" statistic, because it's not actually true and is pretty irrelevant to whether a prenup is apropos in your situation.
posted by Sara C. at 1:22 PM on November 3, 2015 [50 favorites]

You don't get to have it all in this relationship: the pre-nup and an agreement that primarily protects you and not her. The compromise is that you get your pre-nup and she gets terms that are much more generous to her than you would choose on your own.
posted by scantee at 1:22 PM on November 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

IMHO as a divorceé who took it in the teeth...

1. The pre-nup is a good idea. It just is.

2. I agree with pinetree, it's easier to work it out with a therapist or a mediator.

having a pre-nup does not have to turn your relationship into a business relationship, but divorce absolutely does about 98% of the time.

People get very sensitive and weird about the topic, but the reality of taking on responsibility for someone else's debt is heavy.
posted by bobdow at 1:23 PM on November 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yeah, randomnity is right. In the case of two high but differently constituted net worths, "it protects both parties" might be true. But when one party is rich and the other party is poor, a prenup is almost always designed to ensure that the poor party gets less of the rich party's assets than they otherwise would. The fact that you aren't even willing to grant this on askme is probably a good sign that as others have suggested some premarital counselling would be helpful.
posted by No-sword at 1:24 PM on November 3, 2015 [28 favorites]

randomity: There are specific instances when prenup can protect the lower net worth individual. I actually gave my husband the option, as while I had higher net worth, I also was more risky with my investments. (Real estate / rental / flips.) He was the more conservative one. It's possible that my investments can bankrupt me/us, and he may have wanted to be protected from that. (But like I said, he chose not to get the prenup.)
posted by ethidda at 1:26 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I had a business partner (a friend of many years) who got upset when I wanted to have a conversation with lawyers involved, and when I said we each needed our own lawyers. The same business partner ended up screwing me by trying to open our same exact business with a friend of hers, cutting out my equity. It went to a long nasty litigation.

There are predatory prenups and deceptive prenups, and there are prenups that are fair-minded. I would certainly take a look at what protections the law offers your wife, and whether or not you (and she) think those are fair-minded, and create your own contract to close the gaps.

I'd hesitate a lot about going ahead with marriage until you could see eye-to-eye on this. Part of "trust" is her trusting you and being awake to the realities of the modern divorce rate, and loving you enough to want you to protect your own long-term life as well as hers.

For example, if your state laws give her 1/2 your net worth after 3 years, and you're in a state (like Massachusetts) where inheritances are marital property, then it's completely fair to reconsider that. But, maybe you think that after 20 years, that would be just fine. You might want to divide your earnings before her (which had nothing to do with her) and your earnings after her (which will presumably be gained with her love and support backing you up) in terms of what gets split after a divorce. There are lots of ways to push the laws of the state toward something that's fairer.

I wouldn't trust anyone who didn't agree to sit with me in the presence of a lawyer, though perhaps you could start with a neutral mediator. Certainly makes sense to postpone marriage until this is worked out.
posted by omg_parrots at 1:26 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

My ex wanted a pre nup (she had a good deal more money than I) and I felt it was a violation of trust to want one. So as a kind of halfway point she wrote up a document herself stating I wouldn't claim her money and insisted I sign it, which I did. It was quite hurtful to me and felt mistrustful.

A few years later we broke up. She discovered she had lost the document, I didn't make any claim on any portion of hers regardless and wouldn't have even if the whole document signing thing had never happened. The lack of trust absolutely had a bit to do with the ultimate bust up though.

Sometimes when people tell you they will act a certain way they will in fact act that way. If you don't trust her don't marry her.
posted by deadwax at 1:26 PM on November 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

And if I were to use my rational brain, I know that my marriage won't be any better or worse off than the average marriage - there is a 50% chance of it going either way.

I'm less convinced that this is a rational argument. Even from a purely statistical standpoint, if you are college educated and over thirty, the odds of divorcing are much lower than if you never completed your high school degree and got married at 18 (see The The Myth of the High Rate of Divorce). You may be conflating logic and emotion here. Have you considered the possibility that fear (as opposed to logic) is driving your desire for a prenup? If the roles were reversed, and your partner was the one with all the wealth, would you still feel the same way about it all?
posted by TheCavorter at 1:28 PM on November 3, 2015 [18 favorites]

Whether the divorce rate is 50% or 40% or even only 30%, it is still a high enough risk that someone with a high net worth should strongly consider getting a prenup. Getting married is ultimately a legal event, and therefore it is in your best interest to treat it as one.

If you feel strongly about this, you should stand firm on the issue. People change, marriages fail, and if she's really worried about the money, you can discuss putting some assets in joint accounts right from the start, so that she has something in case of divorce.
posted by eas98 at 1:29 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also something to consider regarding fair. A woman's value on the dating/marriage market is highest in her youth. For a woman to get divorced when she's 48 makes her much much more royally screwed in the next 50 years of her life, than a man in the same situation. Women who don't work are also royally screwed on the job market, compared with the men they've been supporting emotionally and by building a household with for 15+ years, while those same men were increasing their earnings potential. (This is in traditional households.) Before you get up in arms about "she gets more of what's miiiinnne waah" it's important to recognize that divorce laws are intended to protect women who give the best, most fertile, most productive parts of their lifespans to their husband, which they can never recover, and certainly deserve a big chunk of change if he decides to become abusive/unfaithful/an-asshole/an-abandoner.
posted by omg_parrots at 1:31 PM on November 3, 2015 [95 favorites]

randomity: There are specific instances when prenup can protect the lower net worth individual.

No argument here, and this may well be one of those instances. However, I think the Asker really needs to ask his/herself whether it honestly is. Particularly if it's being said in an attempt to convince the lower-net-worth partner to agree to a prenup.
posted by randomnity at 1:33 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

My friend just went through a relationship with a guy who insisted that any marriage would require a prenuptual contract. He was a little ... well, the way it seemed was that "I require a prenup" == "All women are potential scheming psychopaths who will try to take what is rightfully mine".

Your parents care more about keeping you safe than they do about you being as happy as you can (which necessarily involves taking risks and reaping rewards from those risks). This drive to keep children safe is fundamental; there's nothing wrong with it, but you have to expect it. I'm not saying they're wrong, but parental advice is often highly suspect because of this. Also, they don't know your fiancée like you do.

Is it possible that bad things could happen after you marry her? Yes. Will focusing on those bad potential events affect your relationship? Yes.

Try to focus on doing right by her, whatever that is, and consider whether she is focused on doing right by you (by, for example, making you happy). Don't measure value by money alone, please please please.
posted by amtho at 1:44 PM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

"Does being practical trump being emotional" - We are practical in order to be happy. There's no point to pragmatism if it doesn't foster happiness.

We have to understand and respect love, connection, respect, security, trust, hurt, and anger -- in both people -- to know what _is_ a rational course. You can't ignore emotions; they're the whole reason we do _anything_.
posted by amtho at 1:48 PM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

Before you go to the mat on this, see a lawyer who can walk through how much, and, equally importantly, how your net worths differ, and whether a pre-nup is worthwhile. What a pre-nup can protect, and what it cannot protect, and what is protected even if you don't have one (and thus doesn't require one), and, what they cost to be done properly, are well-established in every state.
posted by MattD at 1:52 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you do this, you'll need your own lawyer and she'll need her own lawyer. You (as the person of more means) should pay her legal fees. I think this is a good article that outlines some of the reasons for not getting a prenup.

Me and my parents think that I should get a prenup because we think it's a logical thing to do and it makes sure that everyone has an understanding of what they are getting into.

If it's your parent's (family) money, there are ways they can shelter it from your spouse (how that would make her feel is a different story, perhaps). But if it's your money -- then it's not up to them is it? You are the adult here starting your own life and your own new family unit.

And a prenup does not give "everyone ... an understanding of what they are getting into" don't need a prenup to understand the legal ramifications of divorce where you live. A prenup is a new understanding that is (often) less generous than what the state dictates.
posted by Lescha at 1:55 PM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


because we think it's a logical thing to do

Whereas a bunch of other people believe that divorce laws that split up assets is the logical thing to do. You understand those laws exist as the default for a reason, right? They're not some wacky idea your fiancee has come up with.

and it makes sure that everyone has an understanding of what they are getting into

Yeah: that you and your parents don't want things to accidentally come out in her favor if the marriage fails. If this is what you believe and what you want, that's fine. If she doesn't want to marry someone who feels that way, that's fine. It's not "wrong" for her to choose to live her life a certain way, any more than it's wrong for you to choose to live yours another way.

If she can't imagine having a prenup, y'all should have known that was the case a long time before it came up, and you probably shouldn't have gotten engaged.

It doesn't appear that you've made any effort to overcome this, what with you and your parents being the "logical" ones, but you can either pursue some kind of facilitation to come to a true understanding (which is different from making your fiancee do what you and your parents want) or call it off now.

Here's something for you to consider as a thought exercise: what if she gets a lawyer and comes back with an agreement that says she gets 30% of your total assets in a divorce, plus 10% for every one of your children she carries and takes care of? What if she doesn't agree to walk away with nothing but what's in her pocket right now, which is probably what you and your parents want to happen. What if she comes back with a prenup that's exactly the same as your state's divorce laws, which are in part structured to compensate non-monetary support in a relationship?

Whatever feeling that gives you, sit with it a little bit and decide what that means about you, your beliefs about relationships, and your parents.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:59 PM on November 3, 2015 [51 favorites]

I also dispute the idea that a pre-nup is logical. If there's enough family money for it to be a concern, then it's worth setting up trusts, etc. to protect it. If it's about the disparity in your earned assets, then you're making a statement about how you view your marriage and how you value your partner that has nothing to do with logic and everything with your personal belief system. Many women would balk at that, and rightfully so.
posted by snickerdoodle at 2:05 PM on November 3, 2015 [18 favorites]

I have friends who got a pre-nup and it worked out well for them. I think it mostly revolved around stock options (his) that he might acquire during the marriage (or maybe vest during the marriage). They did this for a few reasons:

1. He had a lot of stock options. I don't know exactly how much, but big money.
2. His parents are divorced. Her parents are divorced. It's not like it never happens.
3. The absolute worst time to fight this sort of thing is when you are getting divorced and hate each other's guts.

But the details matter. What exactly are you trying to protect and for how long? My friends had a sort of "vesting schedule". She would be able to claim 10% more of the stock options each year after the first year, up to 50% (so 10% after 2 years, 20% after 3, etc). Faster if they had kids. Something like that, anyway. I don't know the details. This laid out the division of assets in a very clear way up front. They are still together (and have kids), so I guess it worked out.

My wife and I contemplated it, but decided it wasn't worth the hassle for us.

So, exactly what are you trying to protect, why, and for how long?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:08 PM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

A prenup doesn't really protect both parties equally most of the time, which is fine -- there's nothing wrong with keeping inherited money separate, but you want to think about what you do and don't want, and discuss it with your fiancee. Will it take into account children? If she has to take time off of work because of them, will it take that into account? Is it one that slowly expires over time? How will inherited money be used during the marriage -- if you purchase a house with the trust, will it consider that separate? (A family member who married someone much richer had a prenup that expired over time -- more assets over the length of their marriage, with further increases with children. I don't know the details because they have been married 35 years now.)

Without details of your relative financial positions and what you are considering as a prenup, it's impossible really to say much.

Neither of you are wrong, but it's a good idea to discuss this -- finances, family money, prenups -- in front of a counsellor.
posted by jeather at 2:12 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Prenup aside, I would have a hard time marrying someone if I knew they viewed the future of the relationship as "no better or worse off than the average marriage." I totally get where you're coming from, and I don't think anyone getting married expects to get divorced, but... you're effectively saying that you don't have any more confidence in your marriage than any randomly selected American couple. You don't believe you can beat the odds? You don't believe you'll at least try?

I may be reading too much into that, and I apologize if my interpretation is unfair. But maybe your fiancee is picking up on your attempt to take a detached, logical approach to this, and interpreting it as a lack of emotional investment? Couples do need to be practical, absolutely, but not to the exclusion of emotions. The answer to "head or heart?" is always "both."

Neither of you are right or wrong, and that's why this is such a difficult question. I do think you need to think about what you want to protect with a preup, and why. I also think premarital counseling would be useful for getting you both on the same rational and emotional page.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:15 PM on November 3, 2015 [13 favorites]

We got married last year, and did a pre-nup as we were coming into the marriage with some fairly differing assets, but wanted to make sure it was a level playing field. It's really pretty basic really, but we thought it would be good to have spelled out.

I went with a city lawyer, who was all adversarial. My wife found a lawyer who specializes in collaborative law - she ended up drawing the agreement up and ran the show - really recommend. She's now our go-to lawyer for everything.

The collaborative lawyer was cheaper than the big-city lawyer, and was WAY more down to earth.

The resulting discussions about money, 'what-if' scenarios etc were really informative for both of us as we went into marriage.

We were wed by a Humanist psychologist who also offered before-marriage councelling which we did at the same time.

Forced a number of awkward questions & discussion all around, which is all good. Although awkward. :-)

All the best.
posted by parki at 2:27 PM on November 3, 2015 [11 favorites]

Me and my parents think that I should get a prenup because we think it's a logical thing to do and it makes sure that everyone has an understanding of what they are getting into.

So, you start out by saying what you and your parents think is best. I love my parents and may choose on a pre-nup myself when the day comes. However, as much as I love and respect their perspectives, my parents will NOT have a seat at the table during marriage negotiations.

Ideally, a marriage is the coming together of two individuals of different backgrounds to form a union of equals. Different cultures view marriage different ways but this is the mainstream US definition, which is what you seem to be subscribing to. (That said, the likelihood of divorce is not 50% across the board but rather depends on many variables.)

If you have a family business or children already, for example, I can totally understand their insistence of a pre-nup because you need to protect the assets of others. However, that's really a different process. But this feels like a power dynamic that's off: things don't have to be 50/50 to be fair but I sense a power differential that is much deeper and more complex than whether or not to have a pre-nup. Once married, are you willing to put your wife first or will your parents always be the ones you trust most. It's technically OK if you choose the latter but I'd make sure your fiancee understands that going in.

I'd hold off on any specific wedding plans for now and look to an impartial third-party for advice, such as a trusted, free-only financial advisor for each of you and a counselor (secular or non-religious) to come to an understanding before tying the knot. It's not about being right but about being right for each other. Maybe this is a small issue that can easily be solved or maybe it's a sign that your relationship is not meant to be. I wish you all luck and happiness!
posted by smorgasbord at 2:34 PM on November 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

Nobody's right. Nobody's wrong. But if you have the kind of relationship where you can't sit down and talk about big stuff like this, then that tells you something significant about your relationship.


There's a lot to be said for being so committed going into a marriage that failure is not something to consider, or an option, even when you don't know what else to do. Maybe especially when you don't know what else to do.

There's a lot to be said for the understanding that failure is always a possibility, that in 10 years, you and your spouse will be different people, and may make choices neither of you would predict or even understand now.

Ideally, you could talk about this until you both understand both positions and you're making a choice that doesn't feel like capitulation. If you don't seem to have the tools for that, counseling might be a good idea.
posted by namespan at 2:50 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

You should get a pre-nup. It doesn't need to stipulate that you keep everything and she gets nothing, it could just set bounds on whatever the transfer of assets would be. It could be very generous. If you don't have a pre-nup, and you are very much richer than your future wife, you are in a sense incentivizing divorce for your wife when things get rocky and disincentivizing it for yourself (which can be just as bad for you if the marriage really does suck). A pre-marriage contract fixes the incentives for both of you.

Also: the way you have presented her position, she is being disingenuous. "Doesn't understand the concept"; "having a prenup is setting the marriage up for failure". Out of context, neither of these statements seem sincere. But really, that is beside the point. Any marriage where there is a serious imbalance of assets - or an expectation of a future imbalance - should include a pre-nup.
posted by mf_ss at 3:07 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

As a divorced lady of a certain age I so so much wish we had gotten a prenup when we married. I really don't understand the feeling that a prenup is about protecting the "I" instead of the "we". Honestly, all it would have done is force us to understand the implications of existing divorce law and decide if we wanted to live with those terms or if we wanted to dictate our own. A prenup isn't necessarily about protecting rich spouse versus poor spouse-- it can be about specifying things like claims on pensions which were built up prior to the marriage. It sure as hell would have been really helpful for me and removed an awful lot of the stress I went through.

Also, I find the remarks about how a prenup isn't necessary because if you work really really hard you'll never get divorced kind of mean. Regardless of how you read the statistics (and there is a lot of disagreement about those) shit happens with all the best intentions in the world. When it does ,you shouldn't be at the mercy of a law you didn't really understand trying to disconnect your financial assets.
posted by frumiousb at 3:15 PM on November 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

I read through a bit of your posting history and wanted to add this: it seems you and your fiancee have been dating for about a year or less? I can understand your hesitation for making such a big, binding legal and financial agreement like a marriage because that's not much time to truly get to know someone. Sure, there are plenty of how-we-met stories where people got married very soon after meeting and stay happily married for decades. However, there's no rush to the altar either! I'd really suggest just enjoying each other's company for a few more years and then seeing how you feel: if it's good, it's going to last without a ring and, in fact, get even better with time. That should give you and her -- and your respective families -- peace of mind for when you do get married.
posted by smorgasbord at 3:15 PM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Just to be clear, I have no issues with sharing what we acquire together fair game to be left off the prenup. What I'm trying to protect is the inheritance. She isn't even open to a prenup that covers only the inheritance. And she isn't open to premarital counseling either.
posted by rippersid at 3:19 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not open to premarital counseling of any kind?

Don't get married. At least hold off until both of you are on the same page about the kind of adult practical life commitment marriage actually is.
posted by Sara C. at 3:29 PM on November 3, 2015 [50 favorites]

I agree with Sara C. If your fiance is not willing to have any kind of premarital counseling -- financial, contractual, emotional, spiritual -- I would consider that too big a compromise to make.
posted by OrangeDisk at 3:33 PM on November 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

"I have no issues with sharing what we acquire together fair game to be left off the prenup. What I'm trying to protect is the inheritance."

That's sounds sensible, unless you are going to depend on the inheritance to take care of you (both) later in life. Which could happen, unless you're already on track to compile a bunch of assets yourself.
posted by amtho at 3:39 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

if you structure disagreements as you being logical and her being emotional, you've already won it in your mind. marriages are most successful when both people are trying to win as a team. i don't think your prenup idea is a bad one, but if you've approached it with her like you've approached it with us, i can understand why she said no.

as to the counseling - i knew i didn't want to be in my last relationship anymore when he suggested counseling and i said absolutely not. if my partner now had asked for it, i would have been glad to do so.
posted by nadawi at 3:45 PM on November 3, 2015 [22 favorites]

If you either don't know your partner or don't trust your partner enough to share 100% of ALL your assets going forward together, then you shouldn't get married. Period. The only time I think a prenup might be acceptable is when an older couple with both assets and children want to assure that what they brought into the marriage goes to their biological children when they die. Even then, if you can't trust your partner to do that without a prenup - just don't get married.
posted by summerstorm at 3:53 PM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you two have very different values. I know this is a question about money but I really see it as a sign that there's much more to be concerned about. In a good partnership, the two of you would really be more on the same page. Perhaps this is an amazing relationship in general and I don't want to make light of that special connection BUT it sounds like it's already tricky and not going to get any easier. Your initial question made it sound like you were being a bit pushy but your addition about her not wanting to do pre-marital counseling makes her sound unreasonable. There's no need to make a call on the relationship now but I'd definitely recommend shelving any plans for marriage. As a fellow MeFite, I'd like to see you happier and more confident before proceeding!
posted by smorgasbord at 3:55 PM on November 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

And she isn't open to premarital counseling either.

Nthing the question, "are the two of you ready to be married?" What's driving it, if you've been dating a relatively short period of time - the desire to have children? If so, would providing for hypothetical children in the prenup help at all?
posted by Candleman at 4:00 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

When there is no "agreeable to both parties" compromise on an important issue, I would consider that an issue that can't be overcome.
posted by sm1tten at 4:00 PM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

My wife and I planned to get a prenup, but with all the other things we had to do (marriage involved immigration issues as well, so there was SO MUCH paperwork) we didn't get around to it.
We did, however, have a "verbal" prenup (which is presumably legally worthless). The point of which was to make it clear to each other our expectations going in should anything happen. I did the same thing in my first marriage and my ex-wife and I actually stuck to our verbal agreement, so this seemed reasonable to me. It's good to at _least_ have a conversation around "what if we get divorced", because you never know what the future will hold. The actual circumstances of any future divorce may make the discussion obsolete, but I think just establishing some basic ideas on what should happen is important.
I had significantly more income and assets than my wife did. I decided this route was OK (no official legal prenup) mostly because if I can't trust the results of a verbal agreement, I also can't trust that she just empties all my accounts one day or takes out hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt in our name or something. A spouse can cause you tons of financial problems even without a divorce.
posted by thefoxgod at 4:51 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

You need to consult with a lawyer. If you are only wanting to protect an inheritance (not the income thereon, etc), you may not need a prenup. My very limited understanding as a non family lawyer with marginal knowledge in this field is that an inheritance is NOT community property in my state. In other words, you might not need a prenup if the inheritance is your sole concern.

That said, a marriage between you in these circumstances seems like a HUGE mistake and I would absolutely advise a prenup unless you can communicate better since you will likely get divorced.
posted by murrey at 5:56 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, agree strongly with murrey (except I do think that generally inheritance received during a marriage is community property in MA and can be divided up in a divorce.) You buried the lede down deep, here. This isn't a head-vs-heart issue; this is a are-your-communication-habits-strong-enough-to-sustain-a-marriage issue.

In my congregation, clergy will not marry a couple unless they have been to premarital counseling with them. It's not a "discord" thing. Premarital counseling is where you check with an expert to make sure that you've gone through the important issues and gotten onto the same page about them.. the issues that are otherwise statistically likely to kill your marriage. It's a really, really good step to take.

In your question, all the evidence is that there is something ALREADY which you aren't on the same page about; that is making you not trust each other and causing you both to question the other's motives... I mean, you guys should be sprinting to premarital counseling. It can only help.

With regard to your inheritance, by the way, there may be ways your parents (?) can structure their estate that can shield it from potential division as community property. Talk to a lawyer in your state about that, if you're curious, but I would table the whole thing until you guys can at least agree on premarital counseling.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:19 PM on November 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Nthing premarital counselling - we were glad we did. Some of the homework was tough, but it was a lot of laughs too, and it is definitely recommended. If later on down the road we hit a get to a period where we would benefit from counselling, it won't be as much of a deal to contact someone, cause we've y'know done that before and it was good and helpful.
posted by parki at 7:19 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

When we were engaged, my husband and I faced a similar situation. We both individually owned property, but he had inherited money and had considerably more than me. We both earned the same amount in our jobs, but his future earning capacity was basically limitless and given that my career (which I was hugely invested in at the time) was not family friendly, we had agreed that if we had children, I would have to be the one to raise them, we would back the higher income earner and I would give up my job as it just didn't mesh with kids. (And lo, all of this came to be, I'm now home with two young children.)

However. In the midst of being engaged, he came to me one day and told me his lawyer strongly advised he get a prenup. (We were also in the middle of premarital counselling.) I asked what was the incentive, and he told me it was to protect his assets in case we ever got divorced. I basically told him I wasn't interested and if he was going into the marriage with so little trust that he thought we wouldn't make it, then we shouldn't do it at all. I still believe that.

Furthermore, I said to him that in all likelihood I would give up quite a lucrative career to stay home and raise his (our) children and if it came to be that our relationship fell apart and he wanted to walk away, I didn't want to make it easy. I would hope the love of his children and wife would be enough to make him want to work at it, but if that wasn't enough, the idea that he couldn't just take his cash and waltz out of there and leave me high and dry would force him to work harder at the marriage. If the only reason he stuck it out was because he was scared of getting cleaned out by his wife, well, I would rather he stayed for love, but I would take it. I didn't want to make it easy for him to leave.

And you know, we've had our ups and downs. Maybe this lack of prenup has protected our marriage already. It doesn't protect him from me but quite frankly, our ups and downs to date have meant if I was going to leave him and get a payday I would have already so I'm not concerned about me being the one to clean him out - I never was. Our marriage is actually in the best shape it's ever been but if he insisted on a prenup, it would never have happened in the first place.
posted by Jubey at 7:41 PM on November 3, 2015 [17 favorites]

To answer your question rather than specifics, I think if you truly deeply want a lifelong relationship, one quality that helps a ton is generosity.

In your life, things may not even out. You might get hit by a car on your honeymoon and need lifetime nursing care; she might have a stroke after giving birth to your first child leaving you to care for both. A marriage is not each of you putting in 50%. It's each of you putting in 100%.

I don't know your specific numbers but I personally would slow down and make sure you are both running towards each other.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:08 PM on November 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

This question is still bugging me.

I do think the big picture answer is to slow way down; and to ask her to go to premarital counseling to help you figure out if you're ready to get married - not to try to badger her into signing an agreement she's afraid of.

But also, since the asset you're worried about in terms of the prenup is your parents', not yours, I feel like it's their responsibility to talk to their estate attorney and set up a trust that protects the asset long term.

I would do that for my kids.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:14 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

To answer your question, she is right.

You are wrong.

A marriage is making a family. That may fail, and then the chips fall where they may, but you don't set up legal protections for your inheritance from your wife. That's not what family means, it isn't supposed to be adversarial.

(Qualifications: two divorces with no gains/losses on either side + one current marriage where my income is quite high and he doesn't work.)
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 9:33 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Learn the marital law in your state; it's useful and can give you a clearer head about marriage. If you can find a lawyer who will talk to you both about the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage, that would be useful. Your parents can choose to leave money in the form of a trust that could be protected from divorce. A fair pre-nup can avoid a nasty divorce that only helps a couple of lawyers.

Are you really sure this is the person you want to marry, to be with for a lifetime? You don't sound that committed.
posted by theora55 at 11:22 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Some people (myself included) view marriage as the ultimate partnership. Two become one, us against the world, yadda yadda.

When you ask for a prenup, it can sound like you are saying you aren't really interested in uniting yourself with her, not fully. You're rather interested in sort of kind of uniting, when it's convenient, partially, half-heartedly, but still sort of holding her at arm's length and still looking out for #1.

Under that first view of marriage, #1 is the team of the two of you. Under your view, you yourself are still #1.

This would be an utter deal breaker for me, and apparently it is for her. All this nonsense about she must view things practically, feh. She can view marriage however she likes. Not everyone views it as a business deal!
posted by mysterious_stranger at 12:31 AM on November 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

On preview, the Goofy Noble Elk has it. You don't sound like you're viewing her as family, but as Other. And you're not being generous and loving and other adjectives that go into building a strong marriage. You're being cold and calculating and untrusting and grasping.

In short, yeah, I think you're just wrong here.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 12:34 AM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Count me as another who believes that pre-nups are sensible and reasonable under certain circumstances (inheritance being one of them). My husband and I have one. I won't comment on which one of us has a potential inheritance. The legal process of having one written up went fairly quickly and only got a little weird/adversarial once, when the issue of earnings made during the marriage came up. But we resolved that in a way that seemed fair to us both.

My lawyer said to me many times: when this is all over, just file away the pre-nup in a drawer and, hopefully, you will never have to look at it again. In other words, there is absolutely no reason this thing has to hang like a dark cloud over one's marriage. It certainly hasn't in ours. It is in a drawer and we haven't looked at it or really even thought about it, bc it is a done deal: there is no question mark as to how to disentangle from one another in the future should that be what we want/need to do.

Any and all people entering into a marriage should understand each other's financial position and attitude toward money beforehand, and then come to an agreement as how to manage the couple's joint finances in a way that feels fair and comfortable for everyone. For example, if one of you tends to spend a lot on "luxuries" and the other is UNcomfortable with that, then you need to have separate bank accounts (perhaps in addition to a joint pot for normal bill-paying) so that the "spender" can do with his/her money (after bills have been paid) as s/he sees fit, and the "non-spender" doesn't have to know about it or feel that his/her own security is at risk.

I sort of understand your partner's attitude toward pre-nups and conflating them with the issue of trust (unneccessarily to my mind), but I distinctly do NOT understand why the heck this isn't even deemed by her to be a reasonable topic of discussion ahead of a marriage. Fighting about money is ALWAYS listed as one of the top reasons people get divorced. If you discuss everything ahead of time, then you are actively working to strengthen the marriage! What she is suggesting is just the opposite: being an ostrich. I don't think that is a useful approach to important marital issues under any circumstances.
posted by Halo in reverse at 1:42 AM on November 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

Me and my parents think that I should get a prenup because we think it's a logical thing to do and it makes sure that everyone has an understanding of what they are getting into.

There's a lot of weasel words here.

Rephrasing in a different direction, 'Me and my parents think it is financially more advantageous to me and my parents for me to get a prenup. This clinical and hostile experience would end in her signing a legal document that states that when I break my word about spending my life with her, it would work out better for me than would vanilla divorce law. Going through this role-playing exercise and signing of a 'breaking my word means reduced consequences for me' document is a completely neutral and normal thing. She is hysteric irrational illogical for thinking this is humiliating and insulting.'

She doesn't want to role-play breaking up with you, which is what signing the prenup feels like for her. Speaking of logic, if she's committing 100% to a marriage, it is completely illogical to even pretend to herself she's not committing 100% to a marriage. And you're not going to win relationship points by suggesting she's illogical or even finding a logical inconsistency.

Her position is also self-consistent. It's just her position and your position are outside of each other's contexts.

If you were to say to her 'Ok, before we conceive this child, I want you to role-play and sign a paper about the consequences of if you or I were to eat this child.' Her response 'I'm not going to eat this child. I'm a bit creeped out here. And you're calling me illogical. Joy.'

So you're right and she's also right.


I agree with other folk about premarital counseling and you talking to a lawyer for you about trusts and stuff. And maybe just accepting vanilla divorce consequences in your town.

But it is reasonable for you to insist on premarital counseling in order to make sure you'll have a strong marriage.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:03 AM on November 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

If you either don't know your partner or don't trust your partner enough to share 100% of ALL your assets going forward together, then you shouldn't get married. Period.

I don't think all marriages have to fit quite so rigid a requirement. I mean, maybe your definition of marriage does, but, you know...

A prenup is a great idea in this case, and probably every case. I think all marriages should be required to have prenups. That would take away the stigma and force everyone to actually think about things in advance, rather than hiding their fears and concerns until it's too late.

It also keeps the logical (valid) concerns separate from the emotional (valid) concerns. These are two tracks, two parts of the relationship, and as the wise nadawi pointed out above, they shouldn't be placed as opposing sides of any argument. You have emotional positions as well as logical ones, and so does she. You two need to discuss things by comparing logic with logic and emotion with emotion.
posted by rokusan at 2:18 AM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

It sounds like your parents are concerned about their money and don't want to marry her. Great. They shouldn't marry her then. Are you willing to walk away from your inheritance (no guarantee you would get it even... the number of friends I have that discovered their parents left more debts than assets is a not-insignificant number)?

The reluctance to attend pre-martial counselling is worrying, however, I will admit I also refused joint counselling at one point because it was very clear to me that my partner was not operating in good faith and was not interested in a conversation but was looking for an opportunity to badger me into doing what they had decided was the "logical" thing for both of us. And in that case their parents were ALSO part of the badgering so I, like your fiancé, was feeling very much ganged up on and dismissed as "emotional".

I agree with others that it sounds like this relationship is to ready for marriage yet and slowing down is the best option - but also taking the prenup completely off the table and assuring her that it will never be raised again, otherwise it sounds like you are threatening the ultimatum to cancel the wedding unless she signs.
posted by saucysault at 3:15 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, my marriage also has significant inheritance issues. When queried, the fancy, trusted family lawyer basically said "Look, we've set things so the inheritance is as protected as it can be, and a pre-nup isn't going to change that. However, in my experience the process can be quite fraught and my recommendation is that it is unnecessary." He also pointed out that if those assets are used jointly (buying a house, for instance), it's a different story anyway.
It is your parents' responsibility to protect their money and make sure it goes where they want it to, and you don't need a pre-nup to do it.

That being said, my spouse and I communicated with each other about this, expressed our fears and hopes, and worked together to resolve the issue. Nobody laid out any ultimatums or made unilateral decisions. We also did premarital counseling, because we knew that our very different backgrounds could lead to difficulties down the road. That is thinking with your head, not assuming that your way is more logical. I think it'd be good for you and your financee to slow things down and work on communication and conflict resolution before getting married.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:01 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also think you should abandon your framing of "head vs. heart." It's such a misleading way to think about this issue. Both of you have issues of heart; it's not like one is using your head, and one isn't. You both are taking both an intellectual and emotional point of view.
posted by Miko at 5:45 AM on November 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Thank you all.

Given the number of responses I can see that there is no one right answer here but that I just need to take a judgement call.

I had brought up the idea of premarital counseling to her but she's refused bluntly. At what point would that be too big of a compromise to make if she's not willing to talk through issues as an adult?

Also, we've postponed any celebrations until we can figure this out.

Once again, thanks for the differing view points on this sensitive, yet important issue.
posted by rippersid at 5:56 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, think of it like this. Is this your first major conflict (as in, relating to Big Life Stuff) with your partner? If so, it may set a template of how you handle conflict going forward, potentially for the duration of your marriage. So how would you like that to be?

If you're up for making sacrifices in order to keep the peace in a marriage, then that might indicate that you could drop the idea of a pre-nup, and the idea of counselling, and go with her wishes on this one. On the opposite end of the scale, perhaps you're expecting her to make sacrifices, in which case you may find yourself leaning towards a "pre-nup/counselling or nothing" ultimatum.

I'd suggest that a more comfortable middle ground would be to hope and aspire towards making such decisions not only together as a couple, but with the driving force being for the benefit of your future as a couple. For example, in this case, that might be compromise on both sides - you dropping the pre-nup and her consenting to try counselling.

A final note that's just a thought - if you are from different cultures, there may be widely varying attitudes about counselling and whether it is a commonplace, helpful thing or a weird taboo. This would definitely be something to be patient with and sensitive to.
posted by greenish at 6:33 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

"I had brought up the idea of premarital counseling to her but she's refused bluntly. At what point would that be too big of a compromise to make if she's not willing to talk through issues as an adult?"

Yikes. My first thought when I read your update was "Why on earth would anyone refuse premarital counseling?" To put it in broader context, attending premarital counseling sessions is required by some churches in order to get married there, and at least from what I know, it's considered best practice even beyond religious circles. I wonder: was there some confusion about the term "counseling" when you brought it up with your fiancee by any chance? Many people also refer to it as "premarital education." Either way, it's totally normal and advisable for any couple (whether or not a prenup is under consideration) to do it. Here is a helpful link from the Mayo Clinic about why premarital counseling is useful.

If someone did indeed understand what premarital counseling actually is and then still refused to participate in it, then I would certainly see that as a red flag.
posted by pinetree at 6:34 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

it might do you some good to go to individual counseling to find out why you want to marry a woman who you think is a hysterical child...
posted by nadawi at 6:49 AM on November 4, 2015 [12 favorites]

Yeah, I think you need to be sure that she understands what premarital counseling is. Is it possible she interpreted premarital counseling as "therapy to convince you to sign a prenup"?

One thing I find a bit strange is why you and your parents are so determined to ensure that your beloved doesn't receive anything from your inheritance? What if you framed the prenup as a way of ensuring that she would share some portion of your inheritance?

I would find it off-putting if someone wanted to marry me but cut me off completely from "their" inheritance.
posted by Gray Skies at 8:25 AM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

> I would find it off-putting if someone wanted to marry me but cut me off completely from "their" inheritance.

The thing it: it is their inheritance. The scare quotes have no place. I would find it off-putting if someone wanted to marry me (and I had an inheritance) and they thought of my family's money as their own even before we became engaged. That might be described as "off-putting" as well.

All of these people talking about it not being "fair" that an inheritance might be carved off from the marriage: how is it "fair" that someone who never had any legal right to it to begin with (let alone emotional right) should have money imparted to them? Money that they did not earn themselves, that was not earned during the marriage, that was not earned by any of their own ancestors/relatives....on what account could it be fair to expect to automatically walk away with half?

I'm not saying that a person who inherits familial wealth shouldn't spend any of that money on the marital/family unit: of course they should, because they will have shared goals that, perhaps, the money can facilitate. But the expectation that the non-inheriting spouse should automatically get a big chunk if there is a divorce? It seems wholly presumptuous to me.

rippersid: As others have mentioned, perhaps the best way to protect this money is for your family/parents to do it for you through some sort of trust. So that would take the issue of the pre-nup off the table. And if you girlfriend then complains about the trust (if you decide to tell what your parents have done), then she would certainly make me very uncomfortable as a potential lifelong partner. Yuck.

But you DO still need to talk about money/finances more generally, not to mention the many other hot-button issues that could potentially derail a marriage (if and how many children, if and what kind of god, libido, and so on).

I get the impression you two don't actually know each other all that well. Drop the discussion of marriage (and even marriage-related counselling, since that implies that you two are effectively engaged) and spend more time with one another. You need to experience a lot more life together to see how resiliant you are as a couple. What is the rush, anyway?
posted by Halo in reverse at 10:02 AM on November 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

I would find it off-putting if someone wanted to marry me but cut me off completely from "their" inheritance.

For me it would entirely depend on the reason. Let's take a hypothetical. Imagine that the inheritance will include the family home. In a typical divorce the home might be sold and the money split. If you don't want that then you can have a pre-nup that says that that won't happen.

Or perhaps you have certain assets that have huge sentimental value and you want to make sure that you keep them in the event of a divorce. Maybe that could be spelled out in a pre-nup.

There are other ways to do it, of course, but a pre-nup covering inheritance doesn't have to be about cutting someone off. It all depends on the details.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:16 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

"she can't imagine sitting across a table having this conversation with lawyers involved. This whole concept to her feels alien. To her having a prenup is setting the marriage up for failure... I had brought up the idea of premarital counseling to her but she's refused bluntly."

Sounds like she has some unexamined biases going on here that are perhaps rooted in some fallacies, plus some One True Way negative thinking about words like "prenups" and "premarital counseling." So right now you're hearing that she does not wish to seek out the legal and financial facts and/or to talk this thing through with you. Not exactly the most secure footing from which to launch a marriage, and in your shoes, her utter refusal to get more information and work together on this would be a total dealbreaker for me, but YMMV.

You've just listed several fundamental incompatibilities, and yet you're still in the honeymoon phase of your relationship. You have not known each other all that long, and frankly, this is where it shows. I also take it that unlike you, she happens to be a non-Indian and/or did not grow up in India like you did? If so, there are perhaps some cultural differences at play here (i.e. things such as your parents should not expect to be cared for in your home when they are very elderly and infirm). Of course you see yourself as having 50/50 divorce odds here - because there are Big Issues happening right now. Of course your Indian parents are not feeling safe about the future of their only child and their money. Of course individualistic Western people in this thread think your Indian parents' opinions should have no bearing on how you choose to navigate the prenup and inheritance issue. (I disagree, and I think you should respect their advice if you're willing to accept their very generous future gift to you, but I digress.)

By the way, the correct response to anyone being on the receiving end of any iterations of "Hey Future/Spouse, I flat out refuse to go to counseling with you" is for that person to immediately go to counseling by themselves, and put all wedding plans on indefinite hold until these issues are sorted out. (You say "Also, we've postponed any celebrations until we can figure this out." Good for you. Very prudent move indeed.)

I'm with Halo in reverse here in that I think inheritances should generally be construed as separate property, not marital property, unless the funds have been commingled-- and I live in a state where this happens to be the default rule. I'll also note that the advice to have your parents set up trusts to protect this money in case of divorce are overlooking the considerable transaction costs, recurring fees, and potential taxes involved with using trust devices. In terms of the actual transaction costs over time, trust devices vs prenups are not necessarily equal, so definitely consult an attorney in your jurisdiction, and encourage your folks to do so. Good luck!
posted by hush at 3:47 PM on November 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

how do you conclude that these are significant issues that can't be overcome?

Based on your updates, each of the following situations strongly suggests "significant issues" in a relationship:

1) When you can't talk to each other about important things like this (if you can peacefully resolve them by yourselves, great, but otherwise yeah, premarital counseling)
2) When you've talked and talked about important things, but still can't get roughly on the same page ("agreeing to disagree" or compromise can work in some cases, but any lingering resentment will cause problems later)
3) When you start thinking of your partner as childish or irrational (even if you never speak those thoughts aloud!).

It's possible that these issues could be overcome with time and effort from both of you (and probably help from a counselor of some kind). You absolutely need to resolve them before you finalize your plans to get married, though, or your marriage will suffer for it, perhaps fatally.
posted by randomnity at 4:25 PM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hush really has this one in spades.

By the way, premarital counseling/education is all about going through a list of issues that tend to be the dealbreakers in marriage success, and discussing them to make sure there aren't incompatibilities. There's no need to re-invent the wheel or crowdsource opinions on what's important. The data is there and it's not mysterious. It's stuff like: how will you handle/share your money. How many kids will you have and how will you raise them. What happens if you turn out to be infertile. What happens if your prenatal test shows defects. What happens if you can't find a job in the area. What happens if your parents become infirm and want to move in with you... stuff that you really don't want to find out too late that you have different ideas about, basically.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:53 PM on November 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

... there are perhaps some cultural differences at play here (i.e. things such as your parents should not expect to be cared for in your home when they are very elderly and infirm).

Conversely, she may be aware of those expectations and willing to take them on and be your parent's caretaker but then question why she would be excluded from their inheritance after years of her work. For vast majority of hetro couple I know, it is the wife that takes on a lot of that physical and emotional labour - even for the husband's parents, which is already devalued in many ways. To then expect her to not see any financial reward would be twisting the knife in further about how little she is valued by you and your family.
posted by saucysault at 6:49 AM on November 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

I think Hush and Halo in reverse have written clear and comprehensive responses.

You might also want to consider that your parents might change their mind as they get to know your wife. It's understandable for them to feel like a person they don't know really well feels entitled to half of what they have scrimped together over their lifetimes.

Conversely, she may be aware of those expectations and willing to take them on and be your parent's caretaker but then question why she would be excluded from their inheritance after years of her work…

It is a terrible idea to make decisions now based on what someone might hypothetically do thirty years down the line. If it comes to pass that your wife acts like a daughter to your parents, your parents will change their will, and then if you divorce anyway, she will have access to half of what they saved.

To be honest, this kind of thinking is really gross. What if your parents had saved nothing? Would your wife turn her back on them because there's nothing in it for her? Will you help take care of her parents even if there's no inheritance for you? Is she really "living with her heart" if she refuses to marry you without your inheritance? This sense of entitlement is tremendously off-putting.

I agree with you when you say that there is no right answer. Relationships are about negotiation. If she won't negotiate, then it sounds like a very difficult marriage.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 9:00 AM on November 5, 2015

It is a terrible idea to make decisions now based on what someone might hypothetically do thirty years down the line.

...what? Prenups are literally based on the idea that people want to make decisions now based on what people might hypothetically do thirty years down the line.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:27 AM on November 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

I wanted to add that I'm not reflexively anti-pre-nup; for instance, my sister founded a successful tech startup, and I recommended that she get one for the sake of the company and the investors as there are literally hundreds of millions at stake, as well as the livelihoods of hundreds of people. But phrasing it as pre-nup=logical isn't helpful and isn't necessarily true. FWIW, I am also Asian, and I don't think this is an eastern vs western thing. It's about deciding what kind of marriage you want, and whether your visions of marriage mesh.

I'd recommend two scripts:

To your parents: "I understand that this is important to you, but you are asking me to create conflict with my fiancée. Can you meet with an estate lawyer and get a legal opinion on your options? Please understand that once the money is inherited, it is mine to do as I wish, and it's unrealistic to expect that I not spend it on my family at all. I understand that there are difficult things that need to be considered in any marriage, but a pre-nup is not always the best way for us to discuss them, and I would rather not do it in an adversarial manner if there are other options."

To your financee: "I hear you about the prenup, and I understand why you are uncomfortable. I have asked my parents to explore alternative options to relieve their anxiety. However, I believe that successful marriages don't just happen; there are skills and tools that help make them happen. I would like us to practice those skills together. Here is a list of questions that I would like us to explore together with a trained professional. This is not about whether we are compatible; I love you and am committed to a life with you. However, I want to put us in the best possible place to succeed, and I need you to meet me halfway."
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:09 AM on November 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

...what? Prenups are literally based on the idea that people want to make decisions now based on what people might hypothetically do thirty years down the line.

Right, my point was that it is asymmetrical to contribute half his inheritance now on a distant possibility that happens later. It makes more sense to wait thirty years and let his parents control their money — they can change their will at that time.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:11 AM on November 5, 2015

I had brought up the idea of premarital counseling to her but she's refused bluntly.


Is it possible she interpreted premarital counseling as "therapy to convince you to sign a prenup"?

It sounds from your responses, and which answers you marked as best, that indeed, your idea of therapy here is to show her how silly it is to resist the prenup. Don't marry her, please. This is just hateful and manipulative and she deserves someone who loves and trusts her as she is, not someone who at her (as you put it) "judgement call", decides the best way to nullify her feelings is to get a therapist to back you up.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 11:08 AM on November 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:23 PM on November 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

We didn't do a prenup. We didn't even talk about doing a prenup and sometimes I wish that we had. The thing is, though, whatever financial arrangement we would come to in the event of us splitting up would be worked out according to the history of the relationship, not according to how we predicted the future relationship would go when we got married. For example, Jubey's comment about how she gave up a lucrative career to raise children was something that she predicted when they were discussing a prenup, and something that did turn out to happen, but wasn't a guaranteed thing... but was a necessary consideration. I think a prenup that genuinely encompassed the relationship and all the directions that it might grow would have to include a huge number of if/then clauses. When I thought about it, I couldn't predict all the possible situations, much less how I would feel in those situations (if inheritance, if my/his job takes off, if my/his job tanks, if kids, if kids cared for by me/him, etc) so the best decision for me was to trust that my future self (and his future self) would still be getting along well enough in case of divorce to address those questions at least as fairly as our idealistic and uninformed young selves.
posted by aimedwander at 2:36 PM on November 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm not threadsitting but after reading the responses here and on MetaTalk, I feel compelled to say a few words.

I've unmarked the best answers because as I've come to realize that there is no one right answer in this situation. The answer is - "It depends".

I'd also like to apologize for not having framed the question properly - maybe this wasn't a good question for an AskMe precisely because there is no one right answer. I merely wanted to get an idea of the best way to proceed. I wanted an opinion based on people's personal experiences, based on what they would've done given my situation.

Further, I didn't mention my ethnicity for a reason and that was because I would prefer to get responses that aren't biased. Please if you feel compelled to answer the question, do so given the information at hand.

And finally, I may have come across as a cold, calculating person who's giving off the wrong impression. The reason I marked some answers as best was not because I wanted to validate the notion that the reason we needed premarital counselling was that I wanted to convince her that it would be stupid of her not to sign a prenup, but rather just the idea that we needed it in the first place. I have no qualms about having an adult discussion about the topic and am willing to compromise. She was hesitant about doing so even if we weren't to bring up the prenup during the conversation. The reason I think we need counseling, and the reason I marked those answers was because I feel that we do since I don't believe we can reach a conclusion about the issues (prenup aside) that may derail the marriage.
posted by rippersid at 6:26 AM on November 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

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