- For Love & Money is a biweekly column from Insider answering your relationship and money questions.
- This week, a wealthy reader asks how to get his previously divorced fiancée to sign a prenup.
- Our columnist asks him to take a step back and think through why it matters that she’s divorced.
- Got a question for our columnist? Write to For Love & Money using this Google form.
Dear For Love & Money,
My fiancée is a divorcée. When we met I was a confirmed bachelor. I am well off, but more than my money, I have built my own business from the ground up. I want a prenuptial agreement not because I don’t trust my fiancée, but because I want to protect my business and my employees just in case what happened to her last marriage happens to ours.
My fiancée finds the idea of a prenuptial agreement insulting and every time I bring it up she refuses to even talk about it. I know she finds the conversation offensive because she is embarrassed that her first marriage didn’t work out, and while I feel for her, I still want a prenup.
How can I get her to have this conversation with me, or even better, get her to sign the papers?
I’m Not Saying She’s a Gold-Digger
Dear I’m Not Saying She’s a Gold-Digger,
The problem with prenups is the reality they underline. Marriage, for all the pomp and circumstance of weddings, is essentially a business agreement, and prenuptial agreements are for couples whose circumstances necessitate more elaborate legal protections than the ones offered by the state. But for those of us who grew up on Disney princesses and Brides magazine, marriage also embodies the concept of true love.
Your pragmatism in regard to a prenuptial agreement is understandable, and as a business owner who is responsible for the livelihoods of others, it’s also necessary. But your fiancée’s idealism also holds value. You have to remember there was another time when she loved someone so much she likely envisioned them dying in one another’s arms in a scene straight out of “The Notebook.” I don’t know how things ended, but I know on the day she exchanged vows with her ex, she didn’t see the divorce coming.
Thus, when the ending came, it was more than the minor embarrassment that things “didn’t work out” that you describe, it was a monumental loss — a dream stolen and a lifetime of plans surrendered. The fact that “she refuses to even talk about” a prenup tells me she likely can’t let herself even think about the fact that she’s inviting that potential heartbreak back into her life. And if she told you she finds your insistence on a prenup insulting, that’s probably because the lack of trust you’ve implied has her concerned that this relationship has lower odds than she can bear.
But you’re right, things happen, and sometimes even the best marriages end in divorce. As a business owner, you have a responsibility to protect yourself if worse does unfortunately come to worst. But you are also responsible for your marriage now, and while it is easy to dismiss that as less important than the thing generating your income, if you want your marriage to last, then it can’t be.
Think through all the reasons you want this prenup
Start by examining your real motives. As long as your fiancée isn’t actually a merciless gold-digger (and since you’re marrying her I’m going to go ahead and assume she isn’t), her reasons for resisting a prenup aren’t manipulative. Therefore, how you’re communicating your desire for a prenup may be playing a large role in her feelings about it. To get her to have this conversation with you, you need to figure out what you’re currently getting wrong.
My guess? It all goes back to how you see her previous divorce. Her previous marriage is part of the context of your story, so I appreciate you sharing it with me, but I don’t think it needed to be the entire story. The emphasis on your fiancée’s relationship history in your letter tells me the importance it is playing in how you view your fiancée, and it sounds like she’s picking up on this, too. Be honest with yourself and examine why that is. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a prenup, but you should want it regardless of your fiancée’s past.
Take the time to interrogate your doubts and concerns about your fiancée. If there’s a true lack of trust there, you must either overcome it or do the hard thing and walk away. But if you think about why her divorce is making you extra concerned and you realize it’s simply because it’s a reminder that sometimes not even the best people in the world are able to make it work, center your need for a prenup around that idea, not around your future wife. She doesn’t need the constant reminder. She needs to know you believe in her and you believe in your marriage.
Make it clear this is about protecting your business
To steal a line from “The Godfather,” clarify that your desire for a prenup is “not personal, it’s business.” Tell your fiancée that you envision the two of you growing old together, that’s why you’re marrying her, but that this has more to do with easing the concerns of your employees, possible investors, and your own sense of protocol.
You’re a person who likes to do things correctly, and as a business owner, a prenup is part of that process. It’s like wearing a seatbelt. If you really thought you were going to be in a car accident that day you wouldn’t be getting into the car in the first place. But we wear seatbelts out of respect for our own powerlessness and inability to predict the future. That said, what you shouldn’t do is make your future wife feel like an especially unreliable car.
Explain this to her and also explain to her that no matter what the future holds, you know for absolute certain that the love you have for her is a permanent part of who you are now, and she can depend on that forever.
Rooting for you both,
For Love & Money