Dear Ask a man:
My boyfriend and I are thinking of getting hitched. I run my own business and have managed to build up quite a substantial amount of money. I’ve also inherited a decent sum. My significant other has been very supportive of my work and I imagine that will continue. The problem is his own career prospects are flagging. My family thinks I should ask him to sign a pre-nup. I don’t want to upset him and am worried he’ll interpret it as a bad sign. What do you think I should do?
Asking for a prenup is not the best way to set the mood. That’s likely why most couples don’t have one. But don’t let a man’s lack of assets delude you: if he has change of any kind, he would much rather keep all of it than hand any of it over to you, should your relationship turn sour.
Unfortunately, men in love (or lust) make plans based on how they “feel” right now, not on what they know could happen later (mainly because how they feel right now makes them think they’re going to have loads of fun just a little bit later).
To prove my point I can provide one example: Paul McCartney. Really, need I say more? This guy doesn’t write silly love songs for nothing. If ever there was a poster guy for marrying dumb, it’s Sir Paul.
But just as any man expects certain things out of a marriage, so do women. Let’s face it, though: The promise of a lifetime entanglement is a much bigger investment for a woman than a man. And I truly believe every woman who enters into a marriage deserves to get a return on her investment, too. So why not treat marriage as what it is, namely an investment? In so doing, you treat both parties not as man and woman but as investors.
Think of your marriage as a defined contribution pension plan. The lesser earning partner in the plan puts in a certain investment, namely services to be determined (cooking, cleaning, etc). The higher earner agrees to match the investment to a certain degree (determining a percentage of the overall labor cost and writing that into the agreement, for instance). At the end of the marriage, the lesser earner receives the value of the investment at the time.
In this case, if all services have been rendered faultlessly or even increased over time, the lesser earner would receive full value of the investment plus accrued interest during the contract period. If, however, the lesser earner sees a fall-off in production or output, the equivalent of a market downturn, during the course of the contract, the return is smaller.
Now, some may argue that the distinction between earners isn’t fair. There are intangibles that men and women bring to a marriage on which you cannot put a price. The shoulder to lean on, for instance. Or the ear to bend whenever needed.
That’s hogwash. Those things are part of the consultation services already accepted as an obligation in exercising the contract for the initial investment. And anyway, most married men and women will tell you the “intangibles” largely disappear after the honeymoon.
So, dear PJ, if you phrase the suggestion in a way that seems mutually beneficial, your loving partner may be more receptive. Clarity about your cash may even prevent any fights over funds down the line. If he balks, well, in the long-run, you may be glad that you asked.
Category: Ask a Man