The Prenup Conversation We Don’t Want to Have (Especially in Church)

Young Couple Thinking
The prenup conversation is just one of those conversations that are so unromantic for most people that the very mention of it is bound to make both people seriously uncomfortable and will even cause many to feel that there is a red flag in the relationship.

And since the church doesn’t believe or advocate divorce, by default, the church doesn’t believe in or promote prenuptial agreements. That is totally understandable.

Over the past several months, 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.and I have spent the past few weeks trying to understand it so I can present an objective perspective for the Christian single who wants to have a bit more clarity about it.So I have spent the past few weeks trying to understand it so I can present an objective perspective for the Christian single who wants to have a bit more clarity about it.

Well, here it is. Here is my mini-investigative journalism or peek into the issue of Prenuptial Agreements from the perspective of the believer. It is important to emphasize that 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 GOES IN IT?

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.

Here are some interesting prenups I came across:

  • 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 in their prenup.
  • One couple's prenup 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 -so she put it in their prenup.
  • One wife stipulated in her prenup that her husband can only watch one football game on a Sunday per season.

The list is HERE

PROS -WHY PEOPLE FEEL THEY NEED IT

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 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. Like these examples I came across:

  • Someone who is coming into a second marriage with children who got an inheritance from the 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.

Like the story I read of a man who filed for divorce in a state that was a no-fault divorce state …..which means that no matter what the person that broke the marriage agreement does, they still can take advantage of the the innocent party financially. This guy “had 4 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, and he got him DNA tested, 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 not to be his. The Court not only gave her alimony as if she had done nothing wrong due to no-fault divorce, they also said he has to 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 lifetime alimony. It gets worse, the neighbor divorced his wife and moved into the house my co-worker had to give up to her. His ex-wife won’t marry the guy because then she loses her alimony.”

Or stories of women who sacrificed so much to help raise kids and etc 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 are 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 cons that are important to consider.

CONS-DOES IT SOLVE THE PROBLEM IT IS MEANT TO SOLVE?

So…in light of the logical argument for getting one; in light of the reasons people give 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…especially as a 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 reduce the court battles during a divorce can and actually cause and fuel the very battles it was supposed to prevent.

1b) people assume that prenups will get the awkward money stuff out of the way...but I think that in an attempt to prevent the discomfort in splitting monies and assets and etc upon divorce, we actually create the problems that lead us there- faster. One interesting statistic I came across said that “Even more than 50% of law students believe that a prenup would increase their chances of experiencing a divorce later on in a 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.”

That’s just talking about not SHARING bank accounts ….not even a prenup.
Marriages are built on using everything we have to make the other person better. If you don’t feel that way, it may not be best to get married

I have consistently heard that it is intended to reduce arguments over money and so on. I perceive that:

While a prenup may reduce the arguments/conversations about money, it does not (and absolutely cannot) remove the FEELINGS both people have about money issues. Prenups don’t solve those. Trust does… honest conversation does… mutual respect does… compromise does. These are the things that actually reduce arguments over money.

2) Prenups are almost never truly fair.

3) Prenups almost always cause strife, resentment, and lack of trust

4) It empowers 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.

5) 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.

6a) For those super detailed prenups that predetermine the behaviors within the marriage (sex, spending, cooking, allowances how many children etc), it looks simple on the surface but at its core, it is an attempt to avoid the work, patience, and process of working these things out in marriage. It is an attempt to avoid the negotiation about the things that matter to you…but what in irony! Because IT’S THOSE NEGOTIATIONS…THOSE “GIVE AND TAKES” THAT MAKES A MARRIAGE.
It takes a lot more work to work those things out (no pun intended) than to just get a prenup but that’s what creates a bond.

6b) Prenups that have marriage behavior clauses like I mentioned above, may guarantee those acts but that actually causes the very harm it was meant to eliminate. How? because 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.

7) 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.

8) 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

9) Many times, prenups are not really about money and assets, they are about creating and maintaining power and control. And when one person seeks that power over the other, it plants the seed of resentment and strife.

10) People who initiate the prenups …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 great as you, make just as much money as you or better, you don’t worry so much about a prenup.

11) 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.

12) 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  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.

13) Class matters and yet it doesn’t: Prenups are most common in situations where one person comes from a wealthy 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, but this scenario is where prenups do the most damage ..where 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?

14) 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 preexisting 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.

SO AS A BELIEVER, HOW DO YOU NAVIGATE THESE WATERS?

1) Not everyone who asks for a prenup is selfish, thinks they will get a divorce or wants to shut you out financially. People have seen a lot, they may have seen other people suffer or they may have gotten advice from places they probably shouldn’t. So don’t instantly demonize someone for bringing up the possibility of a prenup in your marriage. Have an honest and transparent conversation. Really discuss the concerns on both sides and prayerfully do what will set you up for a successful marriage.

2) Unless the circumstances are extreme and unique, my suggestion is NOT to get one. I have a feeling that getting a prenup is like a person who says they never want intruders to break into their home. So they will build a shed right next to their home and make that shed really beautiful so that if intruders and thieves ever pass by, they will pick that shed and not their home.
Well, that will be true at first. But the reality is that the presence of that pretty shed increases the possibility of thieves robbing the shed and therefore it increasing the likelihood that the home will be robbed sooner or later.

3) The general divorce rate maybe 50% but research after research confirms that the divorce rate for practicing Christians (and people of deep faith in general) is significantly lower. So don’t be caught up in the fear. Don’t let the media tell you as a believer that working with God in selecting and living with a spouse still leaves you at a 50:50 chance your marriage will implode. It is not true.

4) Marriage takes work and no matter how many legal documents you sign that seek to guarantee you certain dollars and certain behaviors, your marriage will crumble if you are not willing to put in the work and be 100% committed.

5) God knew what he was doing when he instituted Marriage:
*Marriage is meant to reflect our relationship with him.
*Marriage is meant to reduce the self for the sake of the unit not protect the self against the unit

6) A prenup can put us in a STATE OR HEART & STATE OF MIND that works against the total surrender and dedication to each other that God intends to happen in marriage

7) From what I have gathered on prenups, they (especially financial ones) imply that the couple is saying “Once we separate our most cherished resources, we can get back to loving each other completely”

I don’t think that holds true. I think the Bible is on to something when it says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” -Matt 6:21. It goes further to say in verse 25 that “You cannot serve God and Mammon” -Meaning “even God can’t compete with your attachment to your money and your physical assets.

If God loses when you are attached to those things, I think it’s easy to say that your human spouse will lose too.

Phew! That was a lot. Hope this helped!

Comment below with any thoughts or experiences with prenups? (Don’t forget to share this!)

Here are some of the articles referenced:

New York Times: If you want a prenup you don’t want marriage
Forbes: Why I decided to get a prenup and so should you
Christian Broadcasting Network: Church divorce rate way lower than anyone thought
Focus on the family: Divorce rate in the church as high as the world?
Huffington Post: Prenup Slideshow

 

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  • MGTOW IS AWESOME

    If we say that Christian men need to sacrifice themselves, have their money taken, children stripped from them, because Jesus sacrificed himself, then you don’t care about men other being useful to you.

    • Bora Bosna

      Since when did Christians ever care about men? All they advocate is one way male sacrifice. They claim, like this article, all the “housework” women do is somehow equivalent, and women deserve all the child support and alimony they get “in return” for their “hard work”.

  • Bora Bosna

    This is a very anti male article. “Women who have been left with nothing” Really?

    80%+ of divorces are initiated by women. Women get full custody of children 90%+ of the time. In these 90%+ of the cases women lie in court about being abused or their children being abused by the man. No evidence necessary. 96% of people in jail for back child support payments are men.

    You cannot expect anything more from traditional conservative Christians. All they advocate is male sacrifice, and cry about how bad women have it.

    No thanks.
    MGTOW

  • dan

    Prenups are a last ditch effort to bring back the old days of fault divorce. No fault divorce in the US has ruined marriage.

    Marriage is the only legal contract in the west that can be unilaterally broken by the offending person while that same person makes off with cash and prizes.

    What if you were a renter and signed a lease for one year. This lease stipulates the terms under which the contract can be broken. You just decide you don’t feel like following the terms of the contract so you unilaterally break the lease. Because a lease is an enforceable contract, you will incur penalties and the landlord will be able to sue you. Now let’s say the government changes the law and makes it so that not only can you as the renter unilaterally break a lease, but that when you break the lease, the landlord has to pay you $5k. In that situation, you would see landlords who are very wary of signing up to be a landlord ever again.

    In the same way, we will see the downfall of marriage in our country. It won’t happen instantly because social change takes a few generations, but we will see marriage rates gradually falling and people, especially men, dropping out of marriage entirely.

    • Hey Dan! This is really good and objective feedback. I agree that the system is deeply flawed and broken. The institution of marriage is in deep trouble. It takes two people who really get it to make it. Thanks for this Dan!