Marital Pre Nup

Prenuptial agreements are commonplace now.  Many engaged couples hash out the details of how they’ll divide current and future assets—the  Facebook stock or the house in Amagansett—in the event of divorce.  They focus on protecting their property and other financial assets in the face of potential marital disaster—and that’s a prudent thing to do.

I advise couples who see me for premarital counseling to contemplate a second prenuptial agreement, this one focused on emotions and communication rather than possessions.

This agreement—an emotional prenup—is neither legal nor binding.  But the couples who create it—either on paper or verbally—become closer and more trusting of each other as they set down guidelines for how they will communicate and resolve conflict in their marriage—and not repeat the mistakes that sabotaged previous relationships. The “prenup” goes something like this:

We contemplate marriage in the near future and wish to establish our respective rights and responsibilities regarding each other’s need to be treated with dignity and respect, to be addressed without contempt, sarcasm and superiority, and to value  the emotional and spiritual bond we are  now acquiring together as much as we do our individual and mutual wealth.

We have disclosed to each other all of our fears about intimacy, and of the history of our past relationships and the liabilities that have in the past affected our ability to be loving and supportive partners in a committed relationship. We will try our best to communicate honestly and openly with each other and will not have secrets or hidden agendas that sabotage our relationship.

To create a successful emotional prenup, each member of a couple must be willing to say:

  • I’m entering into a committed relationship mindfully.
  • I want to avoid repeating past mistakes I’ve made in relationships or that I’ve seen my parents make.
  • I know conflict is a part of marriage, but I want to resolve ours with trust, respect, dignity and honesty.
  • I want my partner to know that his/her happiness is as important to me as my own.

As with any agreement in life, the devil is in the details.  It’s important for couples to not just establish ground rules about boundaries, communication and conflict resolution, but to be very specific—and honest—about small things they need to be happy in a relationship.  Here are some very specific and personal requests my clients have put into their emotional prenups:

  • “I need to relax and play golf at least twice a month.”
  • “I need to be equal partners in parenting and other household responsibilities.”
  • “I need you to be spontaneous in your gestures of love—take a moment to show you appreciate me, and not only on Valentine’s Day or my birthday.
  • I want to spend holidays with our extended families, but not long vacations.
  • I get jealous very easily: no flirting with anyone else!

Would marriages be ending at a rate of 50 percent, if couples valued their emotional capital as they do their financial capital?  I don’t think so.  An emotional prenup is a great exercise for any engaged couple who wants to ensure that their legal prenup never needs to be actuated.

More posts about weddings, marriage, and pre-nups:
Are you prepared for a marriage, or for a wedding? (October 28, 2012)
Saying ‘I Do’ to a Prenup (October 1, 2012)
Buddymoons (July 14, 2012)
The Emotional Prenup (June 14, 2012)
Cohabitation and a Healthy Marriage: Fact or Fiction? (May 6, 2012)
Does Couples Therapy Work? (March 21, 2012)
What makes a marriage viable—or not? In a word: trust. (February 6, 2012)

More posts about therapy:
Men and Therapy (November 16, 2012)
Does Couples Therapy Work? (March 21, 2012)