One patient asked me: “Is it normal to anticipate failure in potential relationships, just because I am divorced?” Because of the possibility of divorce, she had asked for a pre-nup or a post-nup with her fianceé, and he was insulted.
She wanted to know, “Isn’t it OK for me to ask?”
I am seeing more and more women whose marriages have ended, and who finally realize that it was money issues that caused a lack of trust, jadedness, and bitterness.
If they are in a new relationship, they are especially eager to prevent this in the future. Some are even going as far as "date"-nups, contracts for who pays what, so there are clear boundaries. This isn’t as necessary for a night at the movies, but it becomes more so with expensive restaurants and trips out of town.
Many couples I counsel worry about how to deal with money issues. If they are living with someone, they will even tell me they don’t want to talk about money because it will spoil the romance, ruin their sex lives, and cause resentment.
If they are engaged (especially after one of them has been divorced), they may be concerned about money issues, but they are still reluctant to discuss finances.
They want to have peace at any price.
A Harris poll says that 47 percent of couples do not talk about money before getting married, and 51 percent do, but don’t do it properly.
If couples don’t talk about money, there is no way they can arrange a pre- or post-nup. But discussing money triggers a cascade of emotions and childhood issues. Those feelings can contaminate intimacy and destroy trust, and eat away at the foundation of the relationship.
Men and women struggle with the balance between money and commitment. Pre-nups and post-nups provide assurances their finances will not plummet if their relationship ends, especially in such an uncertain financial climate.
Remember when it was a custom to provide a dowry to ensure women a degree of stability financially? Men and women today want to know that they will be taken care of if they exit a relationship. That guarantees that they are not staying just for financial reasons.
With a pre-nup or a post-nup the two of them won’t have to guess about money, and it will actually encourage trust and make boundaries.
Monetary issues — debts, hiding spending, forgetting to pay bills, even gambling and compulsive shopping — may become deal breakers later on, when times get rough.
It’s instructive to know that some 40 percent of 25 to 55 year olds polled in a 2005 Harris Interactive Survey of 1,700 people said they’ve lied about money. And although women admit they lie about money more often than men, the figures are relatively close, with only 6 percentage points separating them.
It’s often easier for the woman in a relationship to lie about money, mostly because wives handle the household bills. But while wives might hide a new belt, husbands may try to hide a new boat.
You want to be in a relationship where both of you are up front about money.
I told my client who asked about the pre-nup that she was doing the right thing and this is the way to find out if he is going to be transparent and truthful to protect your assets and his. I told her to plan a private time to begin a dialogue about how to handle financial planning. And I told her she had to be concrete about why: for your inheritance, to make sure your children are protected, etc.
Emphasize that this full disclosure will ensure you and your fianceé a sense of security about money and your financial future.
Many of my patients who deal with money concerns before the wedding actually report feeling more "connected" and closer and start their financial future on the right foot.
Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil is a therapist in Manhattan and the author of “Financial Infidelity.”
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