She Said, He Said: Parents pushing prenups and talking money with your honey can be relationship stressor
She Said, He Said
Dear Lori and Jeff,
My boyfriend and I are recently engaged. We’ve never really discussed finances and have kept most everything related to money separate. We split the cost of living expenses, even when we go out for dinner. After the engagement, he told me that his parents are insisting that I sign a prenup as apparently they have a lot of wealth and, unknown to me, so does he. He insists that he trusts me enough to marry me without a prenup and that it’s all his parents’ doing. I’m a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing. It’s not that I’m against signing one, I’m just not sure what it means and how it will impact our relationship.
Lori and Jeff: There are actually three key issues in your question: how you should feel about the prenup, your lack of communication around finances and the blurred boundaries between your fiancé and his parents.
Lori: The use of prenups is on the rise in the U.S. Millennials are getting married later in life after they’ve had time to accumulate some savings. Additionally, many have divorced parents and are keenly aware of the possibility of their marriage ending. Couples in favor of prenups tend to separate the emotions of marriage from the business aspects of blending lives. They simply see prenups as practical. And yet, I understand how it could sting to be presented with one. We want to believe that when we marry, we become a team with generosity and equality that will last forever. A prenup can emphasize “mine and yours” versus “ours”, and if “yours” is significantly smaller, you could start to feel resentful. If the prenup isn’t going anywhere, it might be helpful to change your view of it. Instead of perceiving it as being against you, think of it in terms of wanting this man that you love to have what is rightfully his.
The prenup also can create a healthy opportunity to explore how you’ll navigate money as a couple. Before signing it make sure you have a shared vision of finances in the long-term. Carve out time to sit together and explore the following:
• What are the feelings, fears and stories that are connected to your approach to money?
• What are each of your current financial situations (savings, debts, spending patterns, goals)?
• What are the expectations for how each of you will contribute? What happens if one partner loses a job or becomes ill? What happens if you decide to have children? Will one of you stay home for a period for a time, and if so, how is that contribution financially acknowledged?
• If you support your husband in his work, how will that be reflected in the event of divorce?
• How will decisions about spending and saving be made?
• What joint goals do you want to plan for (home, retirement, kids, vacations, car)?
Jeff: One of the most significant dynamics we’ve noticed in our work with premarital couples is how the views and perspectives of their parents can impact the relationship. This is particularly evident when the subject of finances arises. Parents often interject their opinions (both overtly and passive-aggressively), wanting the best for their kids. But when these preferences create conflicts in the relationship, it’s time to look at setting some stronger and healthier boundaries. The challenge is that it can feel like we’re choosing between our parents and our partners and our loyalty is often requested to be absolute. Your fiancé may feel trapped in this kind of scenario where he wants to do right by you but also feels pressure from his parents to honor their wishes.
Keeping his situation in mind, you will need to ask some difficult questions about your perceptions of his request. Do you feel as though you are both on the same team or does it feel more like he sides with his parents on issues around money and financial planning? Do you feel like a priority and believe he’d be willing to challenge his parents in order to stand up for you and the relationship?
Jeff and Lori: Money is one of the top relationship killers, and it tends to grow more lethal in silence. Now is the time to reflect on what has gotten in the way of talking about money, and what each of you needs to do to create transparent conversations about it moving forward.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.