A man who was previously married to a morbidly obese woman included a maximum weight clause for him and his wife in their prenuptial agreement. If she ever weighs more than 170 pounds, or he more than 240, the "overweight" spouse would have to pay the other.
One young couple agreed to have sex three to four times per week.
One couple ensured that there wouldn't be any smoking in their household.
One woman included a clause that fined her husband $10,000 for each time he was rude to her parents.
One man included at least four home-cooked meals per week in his prenup, and if he didn't get his minimum number of meals, his wife would lose her shopping allowance.
One wife wanted her husband to be home on time every night.
One wife stipulated that her husband could only watch one football game on a Sunday per season.
Prenups. It is just one of those conversations that is so unromantic that the very mention of it will make both people seriously uncomfortable and will even be seen as a red flag. Also, since the church doesn’t believe or advocate divorce, by default, the church doesn’t believe in or promote prenuptial agreements.
Over the past several months, though, I have been asked several times about it by students in my course, readers of my blog and other Christian singles who (even though they agree that they don’t want to end up in divorce) still have questions about prenups and at least want to have a conversation around it to help them be better grounded on the matter.
Here is my mini-investigative journalism or peek into the issue of prenuptial agreements from the perspective of the Christian believer. Note well: I am not a lawyer and this is NOT legal advice.
I have decided to break this down into a few sections. Here we go:
What is a Prenup?
A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract that two people create before they marry. It typically addresses issues such as outlining the property/assets each person is bringing into the marriage and what the rights of each person will be if they end up in divorce. However, it could even include issues like the everyday operations of the marriage and what would qualify as grounds for divorce. That could mean the number of times a week they will have sex, the number of cooked meals they will have at home per week, guaranteed individual spending accounts, how many children to have and yes…everything you can think of.
It can address what the ramifications would be for certain acts. So, for example, I came to find out that it’s quite common for celebrities to have prenups that state that if person A cheats, they will no longer have access to person B’s assets.
A list of different kinds of prenup stipulations can be found HERE.
I have to admit. Some of the stories I have read are shocking. Men being left with practically nothing because their ex-wives wiped them clean. Women being left with nothing because their ex-husbands walked away with everything. In fact, I personally know people who are suffering from their divorce because their ex-spouses decided to cripple them as punishment because the marriage didn’t make it.
Many say it protects them from the emotional lashing out of the other person if a divorce were to happen…and that’s understandable. When one person is so hurt that they decide to make the other person suffer financially because the matters of the heart did not work out.
Another benefit people state is that it protects from the debts of the other spouse. I get it. It’s insane out there. People are reckless with each other’s hearts, people end up in divorce….they end up in pain, and as we know…hurt people hurt people.
In fact, one thing I get VERY well is that most people who ask for prenups have good intentions and are trying to do what they feel is best to protect themselves. Here are some scenarios:
· Someone who is coming into a second marriage with children and got an inheritance from their deceased parent
· Someone who is coming into a marriage with a trust fund set up for them by their parents, for their children (grandparents to grandchildren) and their spouse has a drinking problem...a shopping problem, gambling or whatever problem
I mean there are entrepreneurs who feel they have slaved away for years in the dungeons of entrepreneurship and want to keep the fruit of their labor separate in case of a divorce.
People are really terrified of being taken advantage of.
In a no-fault divorce state, no matter what the guilt party does, he/she still can take advantage of the innocent party financially. For instance, there was a guy who had four children with his wife, and he had a nagging suspicion she was cheating on him with the neighbor. One of the kids didn’t look like him, so he ordered a DNA test. Sure enough, the kid was not his. He filed for divorce and, even though he thought all the other ones were his, one of the girls turned out also to not be his.
The Court not only gave her alimony, due to no-fault divorce, they also ordered he pay child support for all four kids because they recognize him as their father! So, this guy, who makes a good living on paper, forks over most of his money to pay child support and a lifetime of alimony. It gets worse. The neighbor divorced his wife and moved in with the adulteress. However, the adulteress won’t marry the neighbor because she would lose her alimony.
There are also stories of women who sacrificed so much to help raise kids, only to be left with nothing because the divorce did not factor in the work she did with the family. I personally know a few women who have been left, more like abandoned to take care of children WITH nothing.
I can’t understand it. I know that hearts break but providing for the children is a matter of honor.
This list of reasons is endless…and a number of them are legitimate concerns.
That said, here is the flip side and the drawbacks that are important to consider.
So…in light of the logical argument for getting one, here are a few things to know …especially as a believer who is not just trying to be married but as one who is trying to create a home that looks like what God intended and as believer who intentionally wants to rely on the teachings, guidance and principles of God in their marriage. So, here we go:
1) People assume that prenups will eliminate court battles but that is not always so. Many divorce attorneys actually agree that even with prenups, couples can still end up in court battles to dispute the prenup. In other words, the prenup that was supposed to eliminate the court battle during a divorce can actually cause and fuel the very battle it was supposed to prevent. People assume that prenups will get the awkward money stuff out of the way.
2) Prenups empower the divorce rate. It says “since so many people are getting divorced I better protect myself from it.” It almost suggests that divorce is not within one’s control. It plants a seed at the back of our minds that may grow to be an unhealthy tree in marriage. Prenups are almost never truly fair. Prenups almost always cause strife, resentment, and lack of trust. One interesting statistic I came across said that, “even more than 50 percent of law students believe that a prenup would increase their chances of experiencing a divorce later on in a marriage.”
3) Prenups are born from our violation of marriage. When we continue to hurt each other, we open a void for something like this. I don’t blame people who seek prenups. They are reacting to what marriages have become.
4) For those super detailed prenups that predetermine the behaviors within the marriage (sex, spending, cooking, allowances how many children etc), it may be an attempt to avoid the work, patience, and process of working things out in marriage. What satisfies us in marriage are not necessarily just the acts or things our spouses do for us in of themselves…it’s the knowledge that they voluntarily and genuinely wanted to do those things for us and make those sacrifices for us. When they are already spelled out in a prenup, we get the acts but we don’t get the satisfaction of knowing that WE created an environment where our spouse voluntarily does those things for us… so that prenup becomes counter-productive.
5) I think there is a false assumption that a prenup that preserves your money and assets for you in case of a breakup, won’t affect how you spend your money and assets DURING the marriage. But the reality is that it does affect how money is spent and the conversations around money during marriage. It WILL creep into how we spend money and control money during marriage. Let me take this further. I came across research that showed that “married couples who do not pool their income are 145 percent more likely to end up in divorce court, compared to couples who share a bank account.”
6) People get prenups in order to protect themselves from their own bad judgment of character…from their own potential mistake in assessing the character of the other person…but that is why we say as Christians, that you should have a leading by God
7) People who initiate the prenup …whether they admit it or not, are under the assumption that the other person in the course of the marriage, will not reach and surpass their own financial or asset level. Think about that. If you are marrying someone you know is going to be as great as you, make just as much money as you or better, you don’t worry so much about a prenup. I perceive that it will be seriously difficult to fully invest in the growth and development of each other if there is a prenup in place. There will never really be a fusion of resources to build the home and therefore there will never really be a true sharing of successes and failures.
8) A prenup is a legal document that dictates the behavior and outcomes of a marriage. What we are saying (as believers), when we get one, is that that we want what happens in our marriages to be dictated by the legal system. Let me put it this way. We are entering what we know is a SPIRITUAL COVENANT, but insuring it with a LEGAL (PHYSICAL) CONTRACT. The legal system is fine when it comes to buying property or paying taxes, etc but the legal system did not create marriage, the spiritual system did. The problem is that we have made such a mess of it that people feel they have to depend on the legal system to get what God instructs us to give each other spiritually. We can’t really blame people for that.
9) Class matters and yet it doesn’t. Prenups are most common in situations where one person comes from a class that is significantly higher than the other. HOWEVER, this is also the scenario where a prenup is most damaging to the relationship. Get it? So in this case, a prenup can perfectly protect the person in the higher class from the financial cost of a divorce. One person feels they are not trusted, have been looked down on and reminded about what they don’t have. Then there is the scenario where BOTH people come from a similar class of money or similar class of no money. Well, I am thinking that a prenup will have less effect on the relationship itself but then wouldn’t that negate the need for one in the first place?
10) Everyone entering a marriage is actually already entering a prenup dictated by the state or country they got married in. YUP. Once you marry, you already have one. Each state/country has marriage laws and many of them are actually pretty good (depending on what country you are in). When we talk about prenups, we are usually talking about the ADDITIONAL clauses that people add to the pre-existing law. So it might be a good idea to look into the nuptial law in your state or the state you intend to get married in.
Tobi Atte is a certified Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner, motivational speaker and the writer behind IJustMetMe, a lifestyle website for young adults who need a good dose of daily inspiration to tackle tough life issues. Tobi is also the creator of the new online marriage course Ready for Forever, the author of the book How to Make Sure Your Values are Aligned: A Guide to Avoiding Relationship Frustration. For more on relationships, motivation, fresh perspectives on faith, personal improvement and more, read/learn more at www.ijustmetme.com, watch him on YouTube HERE and download his free e-book HERE.