Prenup Angst
July 1, 2008 2:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting married in just over 2 weeks time. Some time ago my fiance said he wanted a prenup, and after some resistance I assented. Nothing happened until last week. Now we're in the process and I'm finding it so repellent and depressing that I'm questioning...well, everything. What can I do?

(sorry for all the detail, but as an anonymous question I won't be able to add it in later)

My fiance and I are in our 30s, and have been together for 3 years. My fiance is Asian and I am British. We both work for ourselves. We stay in each other's apartments all the time, but won't be moving in together until we are married. The pre nup and other wedding plans got delayed until the last minute as my fiance had a relative who was sick whom he needed to look after.

I have assets from a flat sale and some inheritance. He has some assets, although less than me (until a couple of days ago when he totted up the value for the lawyers, I believed he had almost nothing, i.e. no gold digging) but his relatively new finance business means he is likely to do well in the future.

He feels it would be unfair to 'work like a dog' (his phrase) and then have me walk away with half of his business if we divorced. I think the terms of the prenup contract he is suggesting are fair: in divorce each will keep the assets we came with, plus maintenance so that I and any children can maintain the lifestyle we have been living, as well as some compensation for what it will do to my business if I give up work to look after any kids. His business can remain his.

When I agreed to a prenup, I guess I assumed it would just be a quick modification and signing of a pre-written template. (I didn't mourn it when it looked like it would fall by the wayside in the pre-wedding rush). Instead it turns out that prenups involve odious meetings with very expensive lawyers, acrimonious fights with my fiance and complicated, opaque legalese. It makes you define and think about the relationship differently: interests, rights, ownership

I know the statistics, but I really didn't contemplate divorce until the pre nup discussions. I felt there was enough love and practical will to get through the hard times to make it worth a confident leap into marriage. I was eager to try for a child with him, even though it is something I'm quite scared of.

I've been shocked by the thoughts and feelings my fiance has expressed during this process: visibly angry talking about the possibility of me turning into a scheming woman who's out to get his hard-won fortune; describing this prenup as a 'test'. I can sympathise practically with my fiance's position - that divorce is essentially alien to him and his culture, and because we are getting married in the UK it is only fair that he should be protected against a legal system which has the reputation of notoriously deciding in favour of the wife. He feels (and I agree when asked to consider it) that arrangements during marriage should be different than in the event of a divorce.

However, I find this whole pre nup business completely alien. My problem is not with the content of the contract, but with the process itself. No one I know has had one, at least openly. There is no one I feel I can talk to as I feel ashamed to admit that my future husband is demanding this.

Circumstances have conspired to make these last few pre-wedding weeks more hectic than normal, even though the wedding itself is low key. Already under pressure with all the practical issues, it feels like they have been dominated by talk of divorce. (I should say that my fiance does say he loves me and can be very affectionate between all of this). We talk about the pre nup, have a fight, reach an agreement and then the whole thing raises it's ugly head again with an email from the lawyer, or another meeting or whatever. I have told him how I feel, but I think he sees me expressing these feelings as emotional blackmail.

I feel that what could be joyful, romantic pre-wedding sweetness is being tainted. I want to be talking about our marriage, not endlessly being forced to mention and think about divorce. I can push this all to one side when the prenup is lying quiet, but otherwise I feel I'm just straining to cover up how bitter and sad this is making me feel, and I'm not that confident that I will be able to get over this feeling.

I am fearful this is not a good way to start a marriage. What should I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (83 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure what to say about the feelings this has been brought up in you. But from a purely legal position, in the UK prenups are not legally binding. (From what you've said, I'm assuming you're in the UK.) In the event of a divorce, a court can look at a prenup as evidence of what was agreed at the time of the marriage, but if it's fair to do so, the court can disregard it when dividing up the marital assets on divorce.
posted by essexjan at 3:01 PM on July 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Let something fall by the wayside so you can _make_ time for premarital counseling. It sounds like you both need to explore his attitudes about women and marriage - either he is suspicious and untrusting, or he's not and you need to be convinced of that. Work it out now - it will make the wedding much more joyful.
posted by amtho at 3:04 PM on July 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

It will soon be over, and he will sleep much better. Think about how uncomfortable he would be if you suddenly said you would not go through with it.
posted by ChabonJabon at 3:08 PM on July 1, 2008

A while back I made this comment about pre-nups. It doesn't address all the aspects of your question, but there some helpful background on pre-nups.
posted by stet at 3:08 PM on July 1, 2008

Well, it sounds like your issue is you feel like your fiance doesn't trust you, and it's freaking you out about the commitment in general. On the one hand, I can't blame you - if it has come to fights and innuendos about scheming women, then it sounds like there are some real issues there. On the other hand, I have seen enough nasty breakups that a pre-nup doesn't sound like an unreasonable idea to me in general.

Couple of suggestions - first, have you talked to your fiance about this? Not about the pre-nup itself, but about your emotions around it. Does he know how upset you are? Because... he probably should. He might be able to reassure you in a meaningful way, and at the very least you will get on the same page about the emotional side of this.

Second, is there any concievable way you could push the actual wedding off? It sounds like a large part of the problem is that everything's happening at once and you don't have enough time to deal with the individual bits. And... well, I hate to be a downer, but if your fiance really does have serious trust issues, you may want to push the wedding off until both of you feel a little more secure about things.

I repeat, I'm not down on the idea of a pre-nup. It's probably a good thing to do, just in case. But there are obviously huge emotional tangles surrounding it, and you need the time and space to deal with them, and you need your partner to be on board with that side of it, too. On preview, premarital counseling sounds like a splendid idea.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:09 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

He feels it would be unfair to 'work like a dog' (his phrase) and then have me walk away with half of his business if we divorced... I was eager to try for a child with him, even though it is something I'm quite scared of.... I've been shocked by the thoughts and feelings my fiance has expressed... I should say that my fiance does say he loves me.... I'm just straining to cover up how bitter and sad this is making me feel.

Why are you marrying this person? You deserve someone who trusts you.

If a friend of mine was in your situation, I'd not only be trying to talk them out of this marriage, I'd do everything short of (and perhaps including) kidnapping them to prevent it. From the slope you're sliding down, I think you're very likely making a bad decision, and you're just afraid to stop yourself now.

Forget whoever you dated. This person you're now seeing, the one who does not trust you and thinks of you as someone out to steal from him? That's the one you'll be married to.

If you must get married, don't have children. It'll make it that much harder for you to get out later, when you realize what you've done.

[He is] describing this prenup as a 'test'...

I think he's right about that. And I think he failed miserably.
posted by rokusan at 3:18 PM on July 1, 2008 [34 favorites]

Maybe it would be possible for each of you to trust your own lawyer a little bit more and empower him/him to decide more for you -- let the lawyers do the fighting and agree to accept what they come up with?
posted by Perplexity at 3:19 PM on July 1, 2008

Let him keep the company, and you get revenues from the company. That's fair, and gives him an incentive to stay engaged.

Sorry if that sounds completely emotionless, that's what prenups are.
posted by Pants! at 3:23 PM on July 1, 2008

I thought pre-nups were unneccessary and unromantic and a throwback to times when women were thought of as property, etc ... until I went to law school and read all those lovely family law cases where people got really, really (really) screwed by someone whom they thought loved them.

It's nasty and too practical a discussion for a time when you're supposed to be feeling are warm and fuzzy ... but think about protecting your interests too. This is not simply about your fiance's money. You're coming into this with your own assets, your own money.

I've now decided that I won't marry without a prenup. (Unless of course, I'm in a community property state ... and even then it's a good idea.)

It's a frightening time for you both ... and it wouldn't hurt to talk to your fiance about his attitudes toward women and all, but in the end, you'll be happy you have that prenup.

I wish you both a long, happy and loving partnership.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 3:27 PM on July 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

I am fearful this is not a good way to start a marriage.

I agree.

What do you have to gain from a pre-nup, other than HIS comfort in feeling protected from the horrible person he is pretty sure you are going to turn into?

Postpone. At the very least you need some time to get your bearings. He has been keeping his finances from you, demanding a pre-nup with the implication that you are out to get him?

Really, I'm fairly close to DTMFA.
posted by dirtdirt at 3:28 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have to say that the whole "test" thing would really upset me. I also think that this is a terrible time to be doing something so emotionally difficult and legally obtuse. That being said - are you really going to call off the wedding over this? If not, then just grit your teeth and get through it. Try not to read too much into it - a lot of guys get weird when it comes to money - and definitely put it out of your mind when your not actively dealing with it.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:29 PM on July 1, 2008

Your concerns are very reasonable. Those opinions would be a red flag to me, too.

Sometimes I don't trust my instincts, and then when something plays out the way I suspected it would, I realize I knew it all along. That doesn't mean you have to jump to any conclusions, but it might be worth looking closely at this issue with him somehow.

Also, have you posted about similar issues between you two before? There was a previous anonymous question about a fiance and money that felt similar to me. (Though I'm sure there is more than one engaged couple with questions about finances.)
posted by salvia at 3:34 PM on July 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

This suggestion may be impractical, but here goes:

When I got married, there was the ceremony, and then there was the separate signing of the paper that was the legal marriage. Is yours arranged like this? If so, I wonder if you two can agree to something like, "Since the family illness delayed us, to finish the pre-nup before the ceremony is adding unnecessary stress and acrimony. Let's put it aside till after the ceremony, then work out all the details, then sign the marriage license."
posted by xo at 3:34 PM on July 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

He does not trust you.

To be locked into a room with a person who does not trust you, and whom you would be wiser not to trust in turn, sounds a great deal more like a prison sentence than a marriage to me.
posted by jamjam at 3:35 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

If a friend of mine was in your situation, I'd not only be trying to talk them out of this marriage, I'd do everything short of (and perhaps including) kidnapping them to prevent it. From the slope you're sliding down, I think you're very likely making a bad decision, and you're just afraid to stop yourself now.

This. In spades.

First, as essexjan said, prenups are not legally binding in the UK. So there's that.

Second, he views this as a 'test'? Who does that? Living your lives together is the test. Red flag.

I am fearful this is not a good way to start a marriage.

Red flag.

What should I do?

Don't get married. At least not yet. Get counselling, both together and singly.

He feels it would be unfair to 'work like a dog' (his phrase) and then have me walk away with half of his business if we divorced.

Red flag. The thing about divorce settlements is that they take into account (well, usually) the fact that in many cases, one spouse must give up their own chances of success in order to support the other in being successful. Does he think it would be unfair for you to walk away with half his business if you spend the next ten years looking after home and children so that he can concentrate on the company? If he does, then don't just delay the marriage, cancel it entirely.

Summary: Delay the marriage immediately, seek counseling.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:41 PM on July 1, 2008 [9 favorites]

Good prenups make good marriages. Marriages are about (among happier things) rights and property, and not thinking about it at the start just means you'll be the less prepared to think about it later. He's right, you're wrong, and since you admit that repeatedly, you really are just emotionally blackmailing him by resisting.

You should accept that he loves you and wants to forsake all other women for you and raise children with you, but is still thinking rationally and logically about the future. You should love him the more for that, and deal with the prenup as another part of the bureaucratic crap you have to deal with to get married.

Mazel tov.
posted by nicwolff at 3:42 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

What I understand from your question is that it's not the prenup itself that's freaking you out, it's that the process has become acrimonious, and that your fiance has expressed some troubling opinions. Frankly, I think that some of the things that are coming out sound like personal and cultural differences between the two of you.

Things like this:
I have told him how I feel, but I think he sees me expressing these feelings as emotional blackmail.
IMO, point to fundamental problems with communication.

It sounds like you're in a really really sucky situation right now, and I'm sorry I really don't have any advice for you, except to talk with your fiance about your concerns, and to consider couples counseling, perhaps one with a focus on your different backgrounds.

Also, if I were in your shoes, I would say, "Look, honey, I trust my lawyer to make the best decisions with regards to my current and future assets. From now on, please leave me out of this, for my mental sanity." In your situation, that might not be the best thing to do, but I'm just throwing it out there.
posted by muddgirl at 3:42 PM on July 1, 2008

Boy, I'm with rokusan on this one, from what little you've told us.

But definitely, definitely get some pre-marital counselling, and if you can get it from someone familiar with money issues it'll go better. For some reason a lot of therapists are very uncomfortable with money issues and avoid them, or try to tell you they aren't important, and the REAL issue is X (which is may be, but the money's tied up in it, too). There are such people as money therapists and a lot of our clients have had great luck with just one or two sessions.

It sounds dumb, but the attitudes people grew up with concerning money have huge impact on how they handle it themselves. Culutural differences affect relationships, too. For instance, there are cultures that DO talk about money openly and freely and there are cultures that refer to it only obliquely, and anything more is gauche. Just that little difference, without any of the individual and family attitudes thrown in can really gum up a relationship.

Not that it's any comfort, but you are far from the only couple running into this sort of thing.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:42 PM on July 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Understand that by the time people are adults, most have experienced or heard of enough situations in which two people who loved each other turned venomous, spiteful, and scheming in the after-math of a failed marriage.

The problem is not usually the person your partner is at the start, but who they become when things have fallen apart and there are hurt feelings (and worse) floating around.

It's a hairy thing, though. Demand a pre-nup and you could signal that you don't think the marriage will last. Refuse one and you could signal that you really are trying to take him for a ride. It's not easy on either side, although I think it would be much easier if people just thought about it like insurance.

Do you plan to run your car into a tree? No, you don't. But you buy insurance anyway... because you don't want to be the fool whose life is ruined because you purposefully ignored a substantial risk at the outset.

That said -- talk with him about the emotions behind this whole thing.

If his strong desire to protect something he's worked hard for is enough for you to call the whole thing off, you both probably deserve better than each other.
posted by toomuchpete at 3:43 PM on July 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Also, yes, if you were a very close friend of mine I would be strongly, strongly urging you to postpone the wedding, but I don't know you, so I hesitate to make that judgement.
posted by muddgirl at 3:44 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why are you marrying this person? You deserve someone who trusts you.

This "romantic" attitude is what leads a great many people to go into marriage without the protection of a pre-nup, and then get screwed.

Insisting on a pre-nup is not saying "I don't trust you."

It's saying, "In light of the fact that a huge percentage of the marriages that start off just as happy and loving as ours, end up in misery and acrimony, let's enter into this agreement to determine how we will divide property if we, too, end up hating each other."

A pre-nup is really a brilliantly rational and smart thing to do. In law practice, I constantly see situations where a couple is getting a divorce, and while the spouses are mild-mannered and don't really want to "stick it to" the other one, THEIR ATTORNEYS do. Their attorneys, with their desire to "win," are pushing their clients to make all sorts of shameless moves to secure the biggest chunk of the marital estate possible. The attorneys may believe that they are not earning their fees if they don't fight tooth-and-nail for their clients; maybe they think that down the road, the clients will question their attorneys for not getting the biggest possible settlement/judgment; or maybe out of the sheer spirit of agonistic competition, the attorneys feel like they need to go for the jugular. Perhaps the attorneys are just trying to run up their bills. The clients essentially lose control. Whatever the reason, it happens all the time.

A pre-nup is a way of stating, while you are still loving and rational, how the property division will be satisfactorily resolved in the event that the marriage falls apart. It is really smart to do this before the attorneys get involved, while the spouses are still in control.
posted by jayder at 3:44 PM on July 1, 2008 [19 favorites]

What I would do is walk away.

Not because of the prenup itself (though that would freak me out a lot), but because of the way he's handling it and the fact that he's calling it a "test". A test of what? How much you love him? Whether he can do things that make you feel awkward and still get away with them? Only he can answer the question of what it's a test of, but I'd really have to think twice about getting into a relationship with someone who wanted to test me.

Trust between two people is (or should be) at the centre of any relationship. When the trust goes, everything else goes out with it. He either trusts you, or he doesn't. My thought is that the prenup is kind of a give-away of how much he trusts you....
posted by Solomon at 3:48 PM on July 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

Yup- the pre-nup isn't the problem. I heart pre-nups. The problem is how he's handling it. Pre-nups are always uncomfortable but they shouldn't be acrimonious. At the FIRST whiff of acrimony you call the whole thing off until you can get a counselor and then a mediator.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:50 PM on July 1, 2008 [8 favorites]

describing this prenup as a 'test'

It is a test, of sorts. It's a test to see whether you can handle nuts-and-bolts issues as a couple without it degrading your love for one another.

And, apparently, he is the one failing the test, if he's "visibly angry talking about the possibility of me turning into a scheming woman who's out to get his hard-won fortune."

Don't get married until you seek in-person counseling.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:50 PM on July 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

I don't have any good advice for you (I'm getting married soon and if my fiance were acting like yours I'd be having second thoughts, too) except that you need to tell him how you feel.
posted by bananafish at 3:52 PM on July 1, 2008

But there's a good chance a lot of this is cultural miscommunication around money. (But for god's sake figure it out BEFORE you marry. If something bigger, like different role expectations, NOW'S the time to find out.)
posted by small_ruminant at 3:53 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would ask him if he feels that staying home to raise young children is equivalent in value to "working like a dog."

I would also clarify what he thinks your role would be during the marriage. Does he expect you to demand to stay home and not work, even without kids in the picture? That might contribute to his fear of being taken advantage of.

It seems like you don't know the answer to these questions, but he does.

It must be terrifying you that have no information about how you will be treated once you're his wife, or what role he expects you to take. Model homemaker? Woman of leisure? Barefoot and pregnant mum? Bringing home the bacon, just like him?
posted by sondrialiac at 3:55 PM on July 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Circumstances have conspired to make these last few pre-wedding weeks more hectic than normal, even though the wedding itself is low key. Already under pressure with all the practical issues, it feels like they have been dominated by talk of divorce.

Postpone the wedding. As you said, circumstances have brought unplanned for and unexpected demands on your time and attention. Then get some pre-marital counseling with your fiance so you can work through these issues before doing anything legally binding.

I say this part as a lawyer: (I am of course not your lawyer.) I have a colleague who practices family law who used to draw up pre-nups as a matter of course. When moving offices he reviewed his files and realized that almost all of the clients he'd drawn up pre-nups for had divorced within five years of marrying. Now he refuses to do pre-nups, and when asked, tells his clients to go get premarital counseling instead. (Yes, he's one of those cranky old school lawyers.)

I say this part as a person who has divorced and since re-married. Getting divorced sucks moose farts. The only thing worse than getting divorced is being trapped in a truly unhappy marriage. I have been divorced once, and I never want to go through that again. I did not sign a pre-nup the second time around. I would not want to marry someone who was not utterly 100% committed to making the marriage work.
posted by ambrosia at 4:06 PM on July 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

I would have thought pre-nups are a natural thing for the middle to upper-middle class; it seems like the laws for custody, support, and alimony can get hugely distorted when there's a lot of income growth. On the other hand, mindless signing of pre-nups can be perilous too: witness the youtube rant of a divorced wife: here and youtube. In this case, a woman finds herself alone and unyouthful, when surely she expected companionship into old age [this is sort of an extreme example].

My tendency would be to go with Perplexity: "let the lawyers do the fighting" and Jayder. Maybe sit down with him and discuss how the process is making you feel angsty, then come up with a plan let your individual lawyers know one more time a survey of your priorities, then let things happen as they may. Any possible split up will be more equitable than it might have been originally, and strife will be minimized.

On preview, I see many wise voices. I almost decided not to post. Please accept my inexperienced and naive thoughts.
posted by gensubuser at 4:10 PM on July 1, 2008

Your fiance is a businessman in all areas of life, including love. He refuses to let the emotions he may have cloud his judgment, and sees nothing unique in you and your relationship that differentiates it from 'the average relationship' of statistics that empirically has a 50% failure rate. To him, by marrying you he is rolling the dice just like in any other investment and wants to control the risk through legal contract just as he has been trained.

Obviously this hurts you, as you believe you are unique (and would never become a 'scheming woman') and that the impersonal abstraction of your relationship to the statistical "average" shows a willful lack of empathy and personal awareness on the part of your fiance.

However, it seems to me you are a bit of business woman yourself; or at least you were obviously impressed enough by this businessman to agree to marry him. Furthermore, nobody's getting younger.

It seems to me you should either accept that your fiance is a businessman first and a lover second (which you seem likely to do) or cut and run.

To me, the world has enough businesspeople and I would drop him like a sack of potatoes but a) I do not know anything about him other than what you have provided and b) I am younger so I would have that luxury. 2 cents.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 4:17 PM on July 1, 2008 [6 favorites]

What XO said.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 4:18 PM on July 1, 2008

I have told him how I feel, but I think he sees me expressing these feelings as emotional blackmail.

To me, this part stands out more than anything else. You should find out if he does, indeed, feel this way and what he would rather you do. Spouses need to work through difficult times and feelings together. You’re having a hard time with some of his actions and feelings, and he is having trouble with some of yours. No one can really say that either of you is right, because of your different cultural backgrounds. (Though I will say you don’t seem to be claiming such, yourself.)

You both need to find understanding despite your cultural differences, and to find a way to progress together. I would worry that, if you (collectively) can’t do that now, it could be a sign that you will have trouble doing it down the road.
... and, in my experience, it will be an issue down the road. I married someone from a completely different culture, and, despite how things seemed before we got married, that has caused plenty of problems.

Don’t let him just shut you down.
posted by SirNovember at 4:35 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Not because of the prenup itself (though that would freak me out a lot), but because of the way he's handling it and the fact that he's calling it a "test".

Agreed. I also see the utility value of a prenup in saving acrimonious legal disputes in the event of divorce. Where I see a problem is that he seems to perceive his future income as a result of his new business as something he will be entitled to completely. In your shoes, it would concern me that he would not see these profits as profits of the marriage.

To some extent, when one partner in a couple is doing well, it is at least partly because of the presence, if not the concrete contributions, of the other partner. Sharing living expenses frees up that much more capital. Sharing a domicile frees up that much more time. And that's before you even get to questions such as: who will do the housework and the errands? Who will take responsibility for the bulk of child care? Who will sit down and balance the household budget and pay the household bills? Who will make financial decisions?

If prenups are an unemotional legal and business agreement, then these questions should be on the table, too. What, in his mind, are the contractual obligations of your marriage? If he enjoys business success while married to you, there's no way to separate the fact that your presence in a legal partnership with him, and funds and services you provide, are among the factors that helped to create the success of that business.

It worries me that his particular financial plan seems to be to consider himself single, entitled to all the profits of labor that you will both contribute to (directly or indirectly), except for the part about being married.

I'm with those who say "postpone." Maybe you can use the family illness as an excuse: say "We got so behind on planning due to the illness, and we are still getting our affairs in order. It seems better to wait until we are less stressed and things have resolved." And I also agree that counseling is in order.

In fact, the first thing to do is probably pick up a phone and talk to a counselor - maybe even the kind small_ruminant suggests. It will help you tremendously to talk with a third party who can view the situation unemotionally, and you won't have to make a single decision until you go. But you'll need to act fast so you can get an emergency appointment.

I just wouldn't want to go into the wedding feeling like you feel. Nosirree. The whole thing would be a lot harder to undo after the fact than before the fact, if that's what you decide.
posted by Miko at 4:36 PM on July 1, 2008 [10 favorites]

I see two possible outcomes to this marriage (assuming the prenup):

1. You live happily ever after, sharing everything.

2. You divorce, in which case you are supported, your children are supported, and you are compensated for the opportunity costs associated with sacrificing your career in favor of child rearing.

Where's the problem?

Oh wait, option 3 has been taken off the table, wherein former loving and devoted wife takes poor trusting sucker for everything he's worth, including wealth he accumulated before he even made her aquaintance, splitting the proceeds with bottom-feeding attorneys.

If preserving option 3 is so important to you, who's entering this marriage with the wrong intentions?

If you love him, marry him. If you love capital gains, invest elsewhere.
posted by dinger at 4:36 PM on July 1, 2008 [7 favorites]

Maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t really understand the problem with pre-nups.

Love is faith. Love is believing that you’re going to spend the rest of your life putting up with someone’s crap. Love is thinking that as long as you have each other, the rest of life is manageable. Love is belief, and feeling, like no other, where it’s only you and him/her.

Marriage is not love. Marriage is a legal contract designed to share legal benefits. Marriage is getting medical benefits, or tax incentives, or privilege in the event that you’re forced to testify against each other. Marriage is just the legal codification of love. Nothing more than a piece of paper that says, “Hey, we love each other.” But it’s not love.

Signing a pre-nup is simply a legal extension of getting married. Signing a pre-nup has nothing to do with love, or faith in each other. It’s protecting yourself in the event that your legal contract (marriage) goes bad.

So sign the bloody pre-nup, and never forget that you’re in love. As long as there’s love, you’ll be there forever. And in the event that the love fades, the pre-nup financially protects both sides (arguably it protects him more than you, but theoretically, if his business does take off, I’m not sure what love had to do with it). It seems to me that he’s even arranged for additional compensation in case of kids and loss of pay. If it’s money you want (i.e. half his stuff), then don’t sign. Hold out for a guy that’s willing to love you AND give you half his stuff in the event that things go bad. But if it’s love you want, I think it’s right in front of you.

Disclaimer: I really have no idea whether or not the guy loves you. I just hope he does. But involving a pre-nup is a legal decision, just like marriage. And I think people sometimes need to be reminded of that. Marriage is just a legal distinction. It’s not love.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 4:36 PM on July 1, 2008 [13 favorites]

Relationships are about trust. If the relationship needs a Prenuptial agreements then it's not off to a good start. I'd walk.
posted by mattoxic at 4:48 PM on July 1, 2008

Prenups are simply a fact of the modern marriage dynamic in progressive cultures, so you'll probably end up looking down the barrel of one in any case. It sounds like a lot of the "acrimony" is coming from your reaction to the prenup rather than the prenup itself.

My advice would be to look deep inside to find out why you're not comfortable with the idea of giving up entitlement to his company, which from your description is the only thing you agree to let him keep under any circumstances. Counseling, counseling, and more counseling, for both of you.
posted by Willie0248 at 4:48 PM on July 1, 2008

So you have more assets than he does, you say you love him, he loves you, and you are a 100% sure the marriage is going to work out (aside from this issue of course) then what is the problem? I'd say that if you were sooo confident that everything was going to work out then you wouldnt worry but I feel that you also share the feeling that things might not work out and in that case you would like to have half of all his stuff (even though at the current moment you have more than he does and even though his business looks like its going to do fine there is no guarantee that it will).......marriage is a contract (is not love as somebody else mentioned) and in modern times part of this contract is a prenup
posted by The1andonly at 4:55 PM on July 1, 2008

To the people who are posting pro- and anti-prenup sentiments, please read the other comments, and indeed the question itself, before posting. The problem is not with prenups in general, it is with the apparant acrimony involved in this particular prenup.
posted by muddgirl at 5:03 PM on July 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

I think you're mistaken, muddgirl. While the poster is looking for ways to ease her pain through this ordeal, and to get some indication from the crowd as to whether this is "worth it", I think that understanding that a pre-nup isn't necessarily a bad thing can help get someone through the process. Especially when trying to understand the legal consequences and implications, and especially when the original poster has no concept of a pre-nup to begin with.

I'll give you an example. I learned to drive a manual transmission car these past couple of weeks. It's a pain in the ass at times, especially since I had no experience with it before. And people who have never driven a stick think I'm crazy for knowingly causing myself angst. Why bother learning to do something when automatic transmissions are so common? I said because it was something I wanted to experience; I knew people who had gone through it and know people who enjoy driving stick. The original poster here has no concept of the pre-nup, and has no friends who have signed a pre-nup. So I think speaking to the relative innocousness of a pre-nup is fair game, and really should be discussed for the original poster to have a perspective on it.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 5:12 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am no lawyer, and I understand little about the ins and outs of all this, but apparently the law may change regarding prenups in the future, and it's already different in Scotland to the rest of the UK. (Anon doesn't say where in the UK she is).
posted by Helga-woo at 5:21 PM on July 1, 2008

I wish I could easily tell which answers here belong to guys and which one belong to women. It might be illuminating.

Women that decide to stay home and take care of the kids and house so that their husbands can "work like dogs" to achieve business success is a traditional, if outdated norm. Women that are then left empty-handed after years of marriage when their now-rich husband decides he'd like a younger model of wife who is not so tired from running around after the kids is also a standard trope. That woman is now years behind on any career or education she left behind. Usually she's still in charge of caring for the kids full time and can be left financially destitute. The fear is real.

To have that guy turn to you and say, "I don't wanna be screwed out of my fortune when we divorce and you turn into a conniving harpie." That should really give you pause.

Marriage is a partnership. A statement like that tells me, at a minimum, that he doesn't want a family. Or, you should pose the question, as to how much he plans to work like a dog around the house as well? I mean, if you're 50-50 then he'd need to be just as dedicated to child-rearing and home life so that you can be out there working hard to be assured of your own financial assets so that you won't be left holding the bag when he decides he isn't in love any more. How will you guys handle that lifestyle?

Also, pre-nups do not seem to assure an acrimonious-free marriage any more than they guarantee an acrimonious-free divorce. I echo everyone else, postpone the wedding, get couples counseling.
posted by amanda at 5:33 PM on July 1, 2008 [8 favorites]

I would not marry without a prenup. Just like I would not own my house without home owner's insurance. I'm not a particularly pessimistic person but you just never know what is going to happen and like many have said already in this thread: marriage is basically a legal contract that dictates benefits within your relationship.

I would also want to be very sure that the person marrying me was doing so for me. Not for my current or future assets. The prenup is a simple gesture that displays this.

The terms of your prenup seem reasonable, and I wonder why signing it is taking so many meeting and so much time. Is there something else going on here? It could be that he is under tremendous pressure from his family here, who are actually the people forcing the prenup to be so detailed (if that's what's taking so long). Add this to the pre-wedding stress and the stress of a sick relative and he's suddenly lashing out at you. This action is what would worry me - the prenup is simply the instigator.

I feel that what could be joyful, romantic pre-wedding sweetness is being tainted. I want to be talking about our marriage, not endlessly being forced to mention and think about divorce. This is why friends of mine who have signed prenups have done so months before the wedding. Then it's out of the way and the joyful part can commence. I'm very sorry this wasn't possible for you and I hope that you are able to work this out.
posted by meerkatty at 5:51 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

The thing that's so wrong about your situation is that you're having to deal with the prenup issue in a rush, at the last minute. I know that circumstances forced this to happen, and it's nobody's fault. But it's causing all the problems nonetheless. Your guy feels the pressure of time; he knows he should have handled the matter earlier, and better. He doesn't want to postpone the wedding, and he's afraid to get married without protecting himself. He knows you're troubled and he's not very good about communicating about such things.

I'm not making excuses for him; it sounds like he's behaving badly. But it's important to recognize how a difficult situation can snowball.

Is it possible for you to postpone the wedding? It would be awkward, but can you do it? It would help a great deal. Delaying it would allow the two of you to kind of start fresh on the prenup issue. You wouldn't feel rushed, he wouldn't be lashing out because he feels like a jerk. You could talk with a lawyer and with your fiance as much as you want or need to. The laws and norms -- where you live now and in the future -- create a default contract for marriage and divorce. It's not easy, but you really would be better off creating your own deal based on your own values and lives. But you can't do it in a hurry -- legally, maybe you can, but psychologically, you can't.
posted by wryly at 6:07 PM on July 1, 2008

why you're not comfortable with the idea of giving up entitlement to his company, which from your description is the only thing you agree to let him keep under any circumstances.

Wow, that's not the problem the poster is having, at all:

"I've been shocked by the thoughts and feelings my fiance has expressed during this process: visibly angry talking about the possibility of me turning into a scheming woman who's out to get his hard-won fortune; describing this prenup as a 'test'. I can sympathise practically with my fiance's position - that divorce is essentially alien to him and his culture, and because we are getting married in the UK it is only fair that he should be protected against a legal system which has the reputation of notoriously deciding in favour of the wife. He feels (and I agree when asked to consider it) that arrangements during marriage should be different than in the event of a divorce."

She's tired of arguing about divorce in the two weeks leading up to her wedding. She's not pleased with her fiance asserting the liklihood of her turning into a "scheming woman". Unhappy with dealing with odious lawyers when she's been looking forward to the wedding. I'm not sure why that seems to be so difficult for so many people here to understand.

OP, your post raises serious red flags for me too. If anytime you express your feelings about somerthing you're unhappy about, you're told it's "emotional blackmail", that's going to be a huge problem in the future as well. Many, many stressful things are going to come up when you are married; do you feel you'll be able to communicate with your future husband about those things? I think slowing down and postponing the wedding until your life is not fraught with angry arguments is what I would do.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:18 PM on July 1, 2008 [13 favorites]

I wish I could easily tell which answers here belong to guys and which one belong to women. It might be illuminating.

Well, I'm female. And I think the OP should sign the pre-nup and stop presuming that a financial document has as much mystical importance as a solemn vow to have and to hold, for richer or for poorer, death do you part, and all that. A pre-nup just an insurance policy that says that if something bad happens and things sour, at least you won't have financial headaches to deal with on top of the crushing heartache. It's a scary and somewhat distateful thing to contemplate, sure. But it sure won't be the last yucky legal/finanical chore of marriage you'll ever have to deal with, like getting life insurance policies or buying cemetery plots or writing up living wills that specify who gets to pull the plug and when. That's the administrative side of marriage, which is a legal institution, not to be confused with love, which is much nicer and prettier. If you don't want to deal with the messy legal issues inherent in marriage, there's a very simple solution: don't get married! Just live together and enjoy plain old love.

As SeizeTheDay said so well:

"Signing a pre-nup is simply a legal extension of getting married. Signing a pre-nup has nothing to do with love, or faith in each other. It’s protecting yourself in the event that your legal contract (marriage) goes bad."

And remember that this contract cuts both ways. From the details given, it's clear that the pre-nup would protect the OP, too, and any children they might have, and would provide for them. So the issue is not that the OP thinks the terms of the contract itself are unfair, but that she thinks it's weird to have a contract in the first place. I think she's wrong and the OP's fiance is right, frankly: clearly, this is a test of whether she can commit to being with him, and not for just his possible eventual money. If the legal issues are too scary, perhaps the OP should consider merely sticking with not-legally-recognized love, instead of marriage.

On the other hand, I grew up in an upper-class family that is chock full of lawyers, and even they generally don't believe in pre-nups except for the following two propositions:

1) The two people getting married come from very different financial backgrounds, have very different net worths, etc. This includes people who may be heirs to a large amount of family money at some point, which should stay in that spouse's family, if possible.
2) The marriage is a second marriage and there are existing children involved whose interests need to be protected (to prevent "wicked step-mother/step-father" syndrome).

In either of those two cases, I was always taught that a pre-nup is an essential thing. The OP's situation does not fit into category #1 nor #2, though, which makes me think that even my pro-pre-nup relatives might have some pause at this situation.

OP, my gut feeling is indeed to sign it and not let it stand as some mystical test of love eternal and everlasting. That's not how real life, in its messy and sometimes (>50%!) sad reality, works. Again, there's marriage-the-legal-entity, and love-and-happily-ever-after. It's best when they go hand in hand, but frankly, sometimes, they don't. Don't think badly of your fiance for trying to ensure that possible future problems with one will not wreck the other.
posted by Asparagirl at 6:23 PM on July 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Here is a previous question with some similarity.

I also feel like there is some talking past one another here. Half the room is saying "prenups are great," and the other half is saying, "wow, I wouldn't marry someone who said they thought I might be a 'scheming woman who's out to get his hard-won fortune.'"

For those of you who have posted only to say that you support prenups in general, I'm curious, would you still support a prenup in the specific case where the person said "I am asking you for a prenup as a test. I don't want to work like a dog my whole life and have some scheming [wo]man take it away from me! No, don't start emotionally blackmailing me by talking about your feelings now." Or would you see a red flag there?

I ask because I think comments saying "prenups are great" tend to give the impression that you think the guy's overall behavior is great.
posted by salvia at 6:26 PM on July 1, 2008 [5 favorites]

Good news: you found out that this will probably be a bad marriage before you got married! Cut and run. I know that sounds harsh and difficult, but I truly believe this is a wonderful opportunity for you to correct a mistake, just as if he hit you or cheated on you prior to the wedding.

Consider: he obviously doesn't trust you, and he's harboring some anger or resentment towards you for something you haven't actually done; he seems to be basing it on what others have done, or on fear, or on a stereotype. Should you be marrying a person who thinks of you that way?

So yes, for some couples a pre-nup might be a good idea, but that's not the problem, and in this case the pre-nup is the solution: it revealed some of his nature to you that you find abhorrent. At the very least, delay the wedding while you think about it, and make it clear that it wasn't about the pre-nup, but about his behavior surrounding it. After all, do you think it's an accident that he waited until the last minute? A considerate person would give you sufficient lead time to consider the arrangements before committing to it; it seems to me that this timing was driven by a desire to make you cancel the wedding, or get so stressed out about the impending wedding that you'd sign on the dotted line to avoid disrupting the wedding plans. Not classy.
posted by davejay at 6:55 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

A pre-nup just an insurance policy that says that if something bad happens and things sour, at least you won't have financial headaches to deal with on top of the crushing heartache.

I'd agree that's true, but you have to consider that, since the pre-nup is (as you call it) the business side of marriage, two people who love and care about each other should be capable of working out these business dealings in a straightforward, non-emotional fashion with sufficient time that both are comfortable with the end result. Trying to do it at the last minute and being abusive about it is not a sign of love, caring or a fair business dealing.

Also, I previously missed the part about divorce being "unknown in his culture"; I have a personal friend who comes from a similar culture (as does her husband) and the stigma attached to divorce for them culturally (particularly for women) has put them in an interesting position: he treats her like an object, and abuses her and their daughter regularly (verbally) -- and she wants to get divorced, but knows that if she does remarriage in her country of origin is pretty much impossible, so she'll be a single mother for the rest of her life.

In the situation you describe, you can think of the pre-nup as a way to create a penalty for divorcing, so make sure that it's fair to both of you; it's not just for his protection, it needs to be for yours, and you need a clear head and time to think so that you're adequately protected. Postpone the wedding.
posted by davejay at 7:01 PM on July 1, 2008

I am fearful this is not a good way to start a marriage.

Recognition that marriage -- government sanctioned marriage -- is a legal contract is an excellent way to start a marriage.

The conflation of marriage and love is a relatively recent thing in the west, and it is by no means the standard in the rest of the world. The fact that you're feeling so weird treating it as a legal issue is a relic of the culture you grew up in.

If I were in your position I would be giving some serious thought to having the wedding and living together the rest of your lives, but not signing the papers that make you legally married until you have time to really think it through and decide if you want to mix property.

This also has the benefit of punting on the pre-nup issue until after you've had a proper honeymoon and are ready to get down to some serious newlywed fighting/make-up sex.
posted by tkolar at 7:04 PM on July 1, 2008

I'm weighing in on there being nothing wrong with pre-nups (not that they are necessarily all that useful either). However, there is definitely something wrong with both his behaviour and with the timing. In your shoes I'd definitely postpone the wedding or the pre-nup until you are sure that you can get through the process without acrimony. I don't know UK law, and/or if you are having a religious ceremony, but if it is possible to have the ceremony seperately from the legal union, that might be the best compromise.

Clearly you love each other, and that should count for a lot, but you need to be able to get through this with your respect for each other intact. I feel that you need to make your cultural expectations of marraige explicit in the environment of counseling. We all come into marriage with a different set of assumptions about what the contract implies. The differences are magnified the further apart you are culturally.

Also, you need time to explore what assistance you will be in building his business that he might be taking for granted (hosting business guests, 100% of the child-rearing efforts, picking up dry-cleaning). Otherwise every time he asks you to do something for his business, you are going to remember that it is his business and it will stick in your craw a bit.

Also, to add to Asparagirl's list, the third good reason for prenups is when one partner has debts, legal judgements, or legal liability that may affect the other's assets. The not-so-good reason for a pre-nup is if someone is planning an exit strategy because they want to trade-in for a new model in ten years.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:15 PM on July 1, 2008

I've also read the posts in this thread praising prenups, along with the the two or three situations in which their utility outweighs the anxiety they provoke.

But none of those situations apply in the OP's case, AFAIK. Instead, I see a situation where, as amanda and Miko note, the OP's fiance holds an inequitable and sexist view of his future marriage and future wife. He now seeks to cement those views with a contract that could leave the OP with fewer rights overall, compared to what she may have under default divorce and custody laws.

My advice to the OP is to re-read Miko and amanda's posts, listen carefully to what her lawyers are telling her about her statutory v. prenup rights, and ask them to explain again if she doesn't understand something.

IF her lawyers have explained the prenup, IF she understands and accepts its terms, and IF she understands and accepts her fiance's view of marriage as embodied by the prenup -- only then would I concur with SeizeTheDay's comment that love is love, and marriage is marriage, and it's sometimes good to include a prenup with a marriage.
posted by hhc5 at 7:25 PM on July 1, 2008

I think it's really hard for anyone to tell from the outside whether his actions are a sign that they shouldn't be getting married or whether the OP is just reacting very sensitively to the feelings and discussions that any pre-nup is likely to bring up ("I feel that what could be joyful, romantic pre-wedding sweetness is being tainted. I want to be talking about our marriage, not endlessly being forced to mention and think about divorce.") With the emotional turmoil of the pre-wedding period added to the emotional turmoil of the pre-nup discussions, she could be jumping to conclusions and overreacting to things. (I'm not saying I think you necessarily are, OP, just that it's a possibility that we can't really know from afar.)

I do think that it's highly unlikely that he's revealing something in this process that has never been revealed before in the past 3 years of the relationship. So I think really the OP has to think hard about the history of the relationship. Do the things that worry you about his actions echo concerns you've had previously? Or is it really out of the blue? It seems unwise to make "call off the wedding" decisions based solely on the unpleasant experiences of an intense couple of weeks, but if those weeks illuminate something that's been there under the surface for a while then that's a different story.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 7:25 PM on July 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

You will need your own laywer.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 7:32 PM on July 1, 2008

I'm not against prenups. I am against marriages between people who can't have a civil conversation about the distribution of assets in the event of a future break-up.

This is who he becomes in financial discussions. Marriage has a lot of financial discussions. Many of these occur in stressful situations. Do you want to be married to that?
posted by 26.2 at 7:32 PM on July 1, 2008 [8 favorites]

I really believe in community property -- I think it's the most fair, and the most in line with my own views -- so I personally would not be willing to sign a pre-nup that excluded my interest in a business developed/grown during the marriage.

I know you say it's the process of the pre-nup and not the substance of the pre-nup but --- are you sure? Again, I'm biased because I've lived for 20+ years in a community property state, but -- waiving all rights to a business developed during a marriage based on a promise of maintenance for your children sounds, well, that's a big decision. What if you don't have children? What if the marriage lasts for 25 years? Do you think the proposal would make sense for every eventuality? Do you think the agreement should automatically dissolve at some point during the marriage?

I really like the idea of your doing the ceremony/wedding, but not the legal part, until you have time to figure out a pre-nup that works for both of you. I definitely would not just "delegate" the prenup to your attorney. (I've never heard of that, anyway -- you have to agree to the substance of the agreement and think it's fair, or it's really not a good situation.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:47 PM on July 1, 2008

A pre-nup is really a brilliantly rational and smart thing to do. In law practice, I constantly see situations...

With all due respect, I find it slightly amusing that many of the people in this thread encouraging the OP to stick it out and sign a pre-nup are in fact lawyers, who, due to benefit of training and work culture, etc., are quite used to the concept, and quite used to selling the concept (it's what they do to earn money, right?)

Intellectually, pre-nups make a lot of sense. But the issue here isn't whether or not your should create a prenuptial agreement. The real issue, it seems, is your continued compatibility with your fiance.

Is he merely stressed, or will he continue to behave as is right now? Will he dismiss future entreaties as "emotional blackmail"? I can't imagine saying something like that to my wife (and my wife is Asian). I really can't.

At the very least, make sure the pre-nup is something you can live with. If it seems unfair, don't sign, even if that means postponing your wedding.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:58 PM on July 1, 2008

Something else: your fiance is worried that you will somehow gain control of wealth he hasn't even created yet. He's making a mountain out of a molehill. What he should instead do is try to protect his interests once he has made the money, by creating holding companies, etc. and otherwise compartmentalizing his personal assets.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:02 PM on July 1, 2008

My two cents (tuppence!) (I am female and divorced but the issues in my case were not financial. I would have signed one if asked, but we were young and poor at the time and did not bother.):

I think pre-nups can be very good, especially in cases like yours when one or both parties have or likely will have significant assets. It's businesslike and smart to think about these issues, discuss them, and sign on the dotted line.

However, as many have said - his attitude is really wonky. The "test" thing is a red flag, as is his accusations of "emotional blackmail". And with you being worried and stressed (and pressed for time!), this is not an auspicious way to start a marriage. He may be a complete ass, but he may be expressing himself poorly, or you may be having cultural/social differences, or he may have a friend or relative who has the guy all wound up with marriage horror stories. Maybe you misunderstood him (not my personal hunch, but possible).

Whichever of these is/are true - counseling, I think, is warranted. If he gets angry talking about money, if you worry about him mistrusting you, if he mistrusts you, if he is being railroaded by someone else, etc. - these are really best handled *before* the marriage. If I were in your shoes, I would delay the wedding and see a counselor, and hopefully rediscover the man you fell in love with. Good Luck!
posted by pointystick at 8:16 PM on July 1, 2008

My thought on pre-nuptual agreement are:
1. As tkolar said, marriage is a legal contract. It is a structure created, recognized and adjudicated by the government, using the law and common tradition recognized. As anything associated with government, it has it good and bad: it is equitable (everyone equal under the law), but it can also be discriminatory (favor the mother), unpredictable (lawyers), arbitrary (vast range of outcomes), and bureaucratic (divorce cases may be long and bitter).
2. Knowing thus, it is entirely rational to seek an insurance or clarification *of the marriage* right at the outset, so that both parties can attempt to address factors and risks associated with the common law marriage. The pursuit of justice and risk reduction is beneficial to both persons in the arrangement, not only in educating yourself about what law are related to marriage but also how they would apply to the marital state. Pre-nup should not be thought of as planning for divorce, but as an effort to understand what marriage means, legally, and how it affect you both.
3. I agree with many above that you need more time to flesh out details and seek common ground on some fundamental issues about the marriage; and it'd be a disservice to both of you to rush into this. From your question, I see difference in attitude about money; expectation about money; and method of sharing money. I do believe pre-nup is a useful thing, but I think pre-nup should be like the constitution: stating principle and method of fair sharing. You can proceed to apply that principle and method on your current status, but it should be treated as a thought exercise; and understand that as things change, it should also change.
posted by curiousZ at 8:29 PM on July 1, 2008

There is nothing wrong with pre-nups whatsoever. If I ran the universe, I'd make all pre-newlyweds get a pre-nup.

That said, while I realize that the time just before the wedding can be extremely stressful, you can't have a relationship with trust and security, and it doesn't sound like your relationship is strong on either point at the moment. This is not a matter of either of you doing anything "wrong" per se, but it does seem like a variety of strong, mixed emotions are swirling around you and making a pretty thing ugly. Needless to say, things should not be acrimonious between you two on any level if you're planning on legally joining your life and assets!

It's interesting that the pre-nup is so important to him if it's apparently not going to be legally binding in your country. Something other than money is the topic of conversation. You no doubt already know this.

You should really think about pre-marital counseling. You two need to talk with a professional. It might sound weird now, but I sincerely believe that you'll love what comes of it. Best of luck.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:54 PM on July 1, 2008

1) Get your own attorney that you have found yourself to be your advocate;
2) do not rush into signing ANY contracts. The worst time to do legal, binding contracts is when you are distracted, under stress or feeling emotional;
3) seek counseling to hashout clearly what you and your fiance believe are the contributions and expectations of the marriage.

My background is Asian, female and yes, I agreed to a pre-nup in my own marriage. However, I aways kept in mind my personal interests and the interests of any future children. I also, confronted how I felt about my fiance and marriage. It was bracing, it was necessary, it was cruel. Did my love survive? Why yes, it did. Did my ideals regarding my fiance? Well, no and that was a good thing. In the end, no man is a hero to his wife.

If your future husband is a good businessman he should respect you, a fellow business woman, to not rush hastily and to negotiate the best possible arrangement for yourself. If he does not, well that does say something about what he thinks of you in the business arena. An arena, I might add, that both of you seemingly respect the prowess of the other. It is in the end, a question of respect. Make him respect you by not being cowed; being clear eyed and businesslike negotiating this crucial transaction.

The benefit of a contract is not to accuse the other person of something, it is to remind all the parties involved of what they were thinking at the time. Details are boring but it provides insight to that moment in belief and expected actions of everyone involved by providing clarity. Do not defer any part of this crucial negotiation and let it serve as a reminder to your future husband that you don't plan to get rolled. A contract, if negotiated well, allows all parties to be properly informed and incentivized.
posted by jadepearl at 9:15 PM on July 1, 2008 [5 favorites]

you can't have a relationship with trust and security,

Whoops! That'd be "withOUT," rather. I have full faith that you can have a relationship with trust and security.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:06 PM on July 1, 2008

This is complicated, moreso than some are making out. It seems like the timing of this is a significant aspect of how stressful it is, but this was an accident of chance caused by his family obligation. It sounds like you harbored a secret hope that it would get forgotten because of the rush prior to the wedding: this was probably a mistake (i.e. you should have discussed what was going to happen rather than getting your hopes up). A factor impossible to correct for in answering your question is the degree to which you might be misreading or misrepresenting his attitude and what he's saying about it, because of the distortion the combined legal/relational and more normal pre-marriage stress and the basic unpleasantness of the situation is creating.

But assuming your characterization is more or less correct I think that there are at minimum a couple things your husband-to-be needs to come through with. One is to acknowledge that characterizing you as someone with the potential to turn into a "scheming woman" out to rob him is a fear he has, and that expressing it thusly is extremely unloving and tactless. You are making a concession to his anxiety and he better be able to acknowledge that it is anxiety and that in his heart he believes that you are with him honestly and fairly, for love not money. It might not hurt for you to ponder that his fears aren't unnatural: they're pretty normal, pretty human. We all fear betrayal.

I think he needs to be able to hear and respect the natural feelings this process and its timing have created in you, and to exhibit some compassion for you. It is a disappointing mess to be dealing with at this point on the path to marriage, and if he's honestly seeing your expression of disappointment as emotional blackmail that's a real problem, a serious strike against his character and behavior towards you as a lover. It might help to frame getting into your feelings again with the assertion that you are fully willing to go through with the pre-nup, that you aren't trying to get out of it. But I think he needs to hear that the process, and the attitudes he's expressing, are making you doubt the marriage.

I think jadepearl makes some really interesting points about the possibility of there being a positive aspect to this negotiation, albeit one with some significant challenges. Dealing with disappointing messes is, I'm sorry to say, part of marriage, and in my experience having one come in the run-up to marriage or hard on its heels is not uncommon because it is a stressful time under the best of circumstances. I think the real "test" here is whether you can find an honest, non-manipulative way to stop covering up your sadness and bitterness, which need to be acknowledged and out in the open, and whether he can deal with them and acknowledge and atone for his role in them. I don't think you should get married now if you can't come to a better and more mutually honest place about this situation.
posted by nanojath at 10:27 PM on July 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

Rokusan: Why are you marrying this person? You deserve someone who trusts you.
Jayder: This "romantic" attitude is what leads a great many people to go into marriage without the protection of a pre-nup, and then get screwed.

I won't claim to be unromantic, but your understanding of my attitude is off.

My experience and intiution and pretty much every fiber of my being says that those marriages that you refer to, jayder, were doomed anyway, prenup or not. None of those people who "got screwed" should have married in the first place. Why not? BECAUSE THEY DID NOT TRUST EACH OTHER. Simple as that.

Can you manufacture a marriage that works between two people that don't trust each other through judicious application of prenuptial agreements or other devices? Probably, and you might get a passable charade of a marriage out of it. But those aren't the sorts of marriages I'd recommend, either, no matter how well "protected" the two parties are from each other.

Prenups qua prenups are not the problem, to me. Notice, for example, that I'm not suggesting that the OP in this case get married, but demand to do so without a prenup. That would be crazy, to me, based on what she's said here about her boyfriend.

I am saying that the way this person's fiance is treating her sounds awful, sounds frightening, and sends up so many red flags for me that I would run away, if only to regroup and rethink. I am guessing that the OP is so far along and so close to completing this marriage that she hasn't really thought about it for awhile, even though there are many clues in the post itself that she wants to see the problems... and that is why I responded so strongly.
posted by rokusan at 12:24 AM on July 2, 2008

Wait - something very critical is missing here.

I'm American and married a Dutch national last year. We both currently reside in London, where I've lived since 1997.

Unless things have changed since last summer when we last looked into the matter, pre-nups are not binding in England.

There was a recent case that honoured a pre-nup, but that was only one case against a very, very long string of other defeats. While some might say the situation is changing in England, I wouldn't agree until there were more legal precedent.

Now our particular financial picture was sufficiently complex as to render the cost of getting a "proper" pre-nup in place astronomical (we have flats in London and Amsterdam, property back in the US, and offshore financial assets) so we didn't bother. The only effective approach we could have taken would have been to create a wrapper vehicle owning all the assets, and then executed a pre-nup against that. Of course we'd have to domicile the trust somewhere and if was located offshore (always prudent from the perspective of minimising taxes) a pre-nup in England couldn't be effectively enforced against the trust.

Sure, a British judge could lay down any order he or she wanted to, but enforcement against assets held offshore, perhaps in a country that won't honour foreign judgments, would be problematic at best. In our case, the tax implications of executing that trust would have dwarfed the very high costs of establishing and maintaining it so we passed.

And after all that we were told judges in England have great leniency in these matters, and any pre-nup wouldn't necessarily be effective. Looking at the costs involved, as passed.

"...we are getting married in the UK it is only fair that he should be protected against a legal system which has the reputation of notoriously deciding in favour of the wife."

Are you sure he's not thinking of Germany or some of the other continental nations? I'm in banking and know some guys that have gotten divorced here in England. Nasty, drawn out and public divorces where everything was laid out on the table (kitchen table as in tabloid fare) and I can't think of one wife who was granted even decent treatment by the courts, let alone favourable.

I think you need your own Solicitor. Something isn't making sense here.
posted by Mutant at 3:16 AM on July 2, 2008 [5 favorites]

whoops! still ingesting AM coffee - his post too quickly

"I think you need your own Solicitor. Something isn't making sense here."

And make him pay for it. If he wants to bring Solicitors in the picture, especially so at this late date, you shouldn't be out of pocket. You want someone of Fiona Shackleton's calibre.

Don't go into a room and listen to what HIS Solicitors are telling YOU. Bring your Solcitor with you.
posted by Mutant at 3:22 AM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

1. Prenups are for people who don't trust each other. Go to premarital counseling.
2. People who say "prenups are good" and "marriage is a legal agreement" are misleading you... marriage is not a legal agreement, it is a personal commitment. While it does have legal ramifications, they are the least significant.
3. I understand how you feel about the process, I would feel the same way. It is difficult to have the person you love and trust the most prepare for your betrayal of them, and ask you to sign documents to protect them from you.

Given all this, and given that your partner is focusing on his legal defense rather than on insuring that you have independent legal representation, I'm concerned that the self sacrificing component of your relationship is underdeveloped. Premarital counseling should happen before the prenup. It can help you both understand the depth of your commitment and the direction(s) your marriage will go in.
posted by ewkpates at 4:17 AM on July 2, 2008

If I understood the OP's post correctly, she currently has more assets than he does. He has a "relatively new financial business" which may do well in the future, but which is not yet doing so.

OP, are you willing to share what you have now with him, in the event that his business does not take off and you wish to divorce? If so, the pre-nup is useful to nail that down before his business succeeds or fails; even if it's not binding in your country, it does indicate a reasoned agreement before the bad times started, and is worthy of consideration. (I am not saying that the divorce would be because of his business failure, but business failures are extremely emotional situations. That the fiance seems to have issues about women and money, and women-and-money, may compound that if the OP remains successful in her field.)

nthing everything about delaying the wedding. How he responds to that suggestion would provide another insight into how he sees your marriage. Counseling, at least for you, will help to figure this out.
posted by catlet at 6:32 AM on July 2, 2008

OP, whatever you do, protect YOUR interests. What's to say he won't become the scheming one if things fall apart? The pre-nup should be about both of your assets and not just his. Delay or walk away. Don't go forward with the wedding this month. You need more time to work through this.

(Married over 14 years with no pre-nup. We had nothing when we married.)
posted by onhazier at 8:11 AM on July 2, 2008

I was just coming back to mention the cases I've run into where pre-nups seemed required, but I see asparagirl and BrotherCaine mentioned them already. It's slightly odd that he's requiring one when it's a first marriage for both of you and your assets are more or less equitable. That wouldn't be enough to raise red flags for me, though. It's the rest of it.

But... are the other commenters correct in saying you don't have your own lawyer? For god's sake, woman- get your own lawyer! This is crazy!

And I still say you should postpone the wedding, even if it's a hassle.

I'm going out of my area of expertise here, but the people suggesting you hold the social part of the wedding without the legal part... that would be really weird for me. The social part is where you are declaring to your friends, family, society, the world that you are becoming one social unit, probably for forever. To me that's the "real" wedding. To do that and not really commit legally (when you have the option) seems like a raw deal for everyone else.

posted by small_ruminant at 8:30 AM on July 2, 2008

Is one of "the odious lawyers" representing YOU? If so, and you're not happy with this person, I would suggest finding a lawyer with whom you're comfortable.

Having been involved with someone who tried to milk everything he could out of me-- and being in the second bracket of US taxpayers-- I would insist on a prenup if I ever got married.
posted by brujita at 8:32 AM on July 2, 2008

I love Carolyn Hax (the advice columnist) and I think one of the wisest things I've ever seen her write was

The best question you can ask yourself before making a serious commitment to someone is, will this person make my life hell if we ever break up/separate/divorce? Not one of the best, the best.

And if the answer is yes, then get out now, today, at the first possible opportunity. A "yes" is your notice that this person, even if you stay together, will not take care of you, will not regard your feelings as equal to his/her own, will not do the right thing if it happens also to be the difficult thing, too -- I could go on. But it all adds up to your notice that you're with a "me first" person, and that means there's only misery in it for you, even if you agree to the letter on the whats, the wheres and the how-manys. Better to have your misery now and get out. The stakes in a relationship rarely get smaller with time.
(from here.)

I'm pro-prenup, and everything you've written makes me really, really hope that you delay this marriage (the legal aspect, at least, if you feel you can't delay the ceremony part) until you've had a chance to work this out. The terms of the agreement--like ClaudiaCenter, I tend to believe that if this business gets started and run while you are both married, it's a bit much for me to swallow to belief that you would somehow not have contributed to that success at all--along with his claim of "emotional blackmail," and the fact that you two have never lived together*, give me pause. Don't let the events and your feeling that you're rushing around steamroll you into something that you're not 100% on board with yet. If he's the right guy this month, he'll still be the right guy in a few months.

*I just point this out to say: many men with traditional views on gender roles (which it sounds like you're beginning to find out your fiance may hold) also can do a 180 in terms of what they expect their wife, as opposed to girlfriend, to do around the house. If that's not a problem for you, no worries. But if it were me, I'd want to have a very serious conversation with my fiance about how exactly he saw the household labor being split once we married.
posted by iminurmefi at 8:51 AM on July 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

What nanojath said.
posted by salvia at 9:10 AM on July 2, 2008

The worst part -- and to my mind, the most telling -- is that the fiance mentioned the pre-nup concept some time ago, the OP was not resistant, but nothing more came up about it until 3 weeks before the wedding. He's holding a gun to her head, plain and simple. She should put the whole thing on ice.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:16 AM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Signing this close to the wedding would tend to make a US court look twice at the validity of the prenup.

The way I understand it is that the courts here would look closely at whether you're signing under duress (being forced to sign).

You're basically being threatened with the loss of your wedding, the money you/relatives/friends spent on it, which could be a huge amount.

That doesn't mean it would be considered invalid, but it would probably have more chance of being upheld by the court if you had more time to consider it.

This must be amazingly stressful. Take care of yourself.
posted by sondrialiac at 11:00 AM on July 2, 2008

We had a pre-nuptual agreement, at my request. Each of us owned a small business. The absolutely most useful thing the lawyer did was to explain how the law regards marriage & property. My now-ex had debt, and still has no financial smarts.

If the lawyers are being adversarial and difficult, and if the document is hostile, decline to sign it, even if you have to call off the wedding. You must have a common-sense lawyer who will represent your interests. I would be very wary of getting married without a better understanding of his concerns, fears, assumptions, and I would be unwilling to sign any document that was hostile to my interests.
posted by Mom at 11:56 AM on July 2, 2008

I believe this is relevant to your interests. (and very timely—it just got posted today!)
posted by darkshade at 12:55 PM on July 2, 2008

I'm sorry to hear your wedding plans are being clouded by this.

The things that stuck out to me (and several other commenters, from what I see) is the troublesome issue of who he thinks you will become. It's one thing to say hey, just in case, let's do this so we don't have to deal with it in the event of divorce. It's another thing to keep painting this picture of you as some money-grubbing gold digger.

Marriage will change you both and it's tough to trust someone because we can't predict the future and see who they will become. It sounds like he needs to address his fears in this area if you two are going to be happy together.
posted by lacedback at 1:02 PM on July 2, 2008

Isn't there such thing as a post-nuptial agreement as well? If the whole thing is about dividing up hypothetical business assets that he may build up later, rather than about currently existing assets (and you really aren't worried about protecting your own current assets), is there really any urgency to doing a pre-nup now rather than a post-nup in six months or a year? (This may be a terrible idea and I have no idea what the legal differences are between pre- and post-, but I'm trying to brainstorm ways to get out of the trap of feeling the looming pressure of the scheduled wedding.)
posted by yarrow at 1:35 PM on July 2, 2008

Yarrow, in the US you can sign an agreement after marriage, but I'm not sure if it applies in the OPs case. If her spouse feels like he is marrying into a culture of betrayal, I'd think he'd want his bases covered before marriage. Also, she can't protect her own assets at that point unless he signs the post-nup, which means he's got a lot more leverage to force her to agree to his terms. Basically, I think that's the worst possible idea for her. Any nuptial agreement should be made prior to the marriage.

On a more practical note, if you did decide to seperate the ceremony from the legal union (I agree with small-ruminant that it is weird, and would not have suggested it if it weren't for the lousy timing), keep the wedding gifts in a returnable state until the union is legally binding. I was actually at a wedding ceremony where the 'groom' never signed the license. His former fiancee had to force him to return the wedding gifts, and/or re-imburse the guests. The whole process was somewhat messy for both of them. I hate to say this, as it is one more crappy thing to think about when you should be thinking happy thoughts. I hope things go well for you.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:09 PM on July 2, 2008

I wouldn't marry a person who required this of me, personally. I think it represents the wrong attitude with which to approach marriage, and I think it's vaguely insulting because it assumes later wonderful success on his part and not on mine, and for all the other obvious reasons about the implicit assumptions.

But I'd also note that this represents a very deep divurgence of values in general that suggests a lack of compatibility--your trust and hope versus his suspicion and cynicism--and mutually shared values are, IMO, what make or break relationships.

I'm sorry you're going through this--it sounds heartbreaking.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:41 AM on July 4, 2008

Since divorce is alien to him and his culture why don't you agree not to divorce?

I agree with the couple of posters upthread that pre-nups tend to encourage divorce more then prevent them (unless there is huge wealth disparity or a pre-existing family business/inhgeritance to protect). It also seems that the conditions of your pre-nup are completely favourable to him, not you. Women rarely come out ahead after divorce, especially if they have given up their personal income in exchange for an "allowance". If you give up your business in order to support him and his business then you should be fully compensated for that loss (not "some compensation") and you should share in the profits of his business that you both will contribute to. When you are married it is the joining of two people, there is no longer and "his business" or "your business". Your contacts will probably use his services after meeting him through you, you will be able to travel to meetings for your business while he looks after things on the homefront. Either you are partners in this marriage or else you may as well sign a business agreement with him agreeing to scrub the toilets on Tuesday as long as he bough the eggs on Wednesday. Are you sure you aren't bringing anything to this marriage (immigration status? networking contacts? social status?) that would make HIM the gold digger?

In addition to couples counselling you should also look into financial counselling (after all it is the main cause of friction in marriages), especially since it seems to be a very sore point with him and he has already been hiding important financial information from you. That is a trust issue, can you trust him to be honest in the future?

I am so sorry you are going through this on top of the normal stress of pre-wedding planning. It is in the stressful times that a partners true character comes out (after all it is easy to be the perfect partner when everything is swimmingly). If this is the first really stressful stretch in your relationship then perhaps you should talk about how both of you deal with stress, it sounds like he gets angry.
posted by saucysault at 6:58 AM on July 6, 2008

« Older Belching, farting and other icky stuff. What the...   |   Quarter Life Regression, or how to get back into... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.