Dear Quentin,

My boyfriend recently made a jump in his career and makes around $230,000 a year. I am in my last year of law school and make nothing. He recently told me that when we get married he wants a prenuptial agreement. 

This upset me because I have always felt that a prenup means that he does not want to take care of me, and that he is prefacing our marriage with failure, and that generally he does not want to be part of a partnership, and keep what is his. 

Could a prenup be beneficial for a woman in a relationship? Or is my first instinct right — and is it generally a deal breaker? Please help.

If Or When I Marry

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Dear If Or When,

The fact that your boyfriend feels confident enough to bring this up now — and, granted, that may be bolstered by his six-figure salary — speaks well for your relationship. Entering a marriage with misgivings or unspoken concerns is far worse than laying his cards on the table in this way.

It is possible to be realistic and romantic, optimistic and pragmatic, assertive and sensitive. These approaches or qualities are not mutually exclusive, and I don’t believe you should overreact to his suggestion, particularly given the differences in your current circumstances (as brutal as this might sound in black and white).

If you think marriage is difficult, try going through a divorce where there are no goal posts — and everything is up for grabs. For that reason, prenups are increasingly common — one 2019 survey suggested they had risen in popularity by 62%, primarily due to millennials.

People include provisions covering everything from alimony, debt, child custody and incapacity to pets, penalties for infidelity and even what partners can write about each other on social media. Prenups outline a blueprint for a possible divorce, but can also set the expected standards for the marriage itself. 

Prenups outline a blueprint for a possible divorce, but can also set the expected standards for the marriage itself. 

The time to hash out your differences is before you get married — not five or 10 years down the line. If you can’t agree on a prenuptial agreement, then have a very long engagement. If you find areas of compromise and common ground, you will both feel more comfortable saying “I do.”

You are not alone in asking whether or not you should be offended by the suggestion of a prenup. It’s not the kind of conversation anyone relishes having, but important discussions are often the most difficult to have. When you are ready to sign — like all legal documents — don’t do so without legal counsel.

According to Hekmat Law & Mediation, “If financial discussions or prenup negotiations do end with a breakup, you may want to consider that it wasn’t the prenup itself, but the reluctance or inability to be honest, transparent and respectful about money matters,” the law firm says.

“A huge part of being married involves money transactions—mundane regular expenses such as utilities and groceries, and bigger purchases like a home. So avoiding it before marriage doesn’t set you up for success within the marriage,” Hekmat Law & Mediation adds.

You probably feel chagrined because you have less separate property going into the marriage. But look at it this way: if and when your law career takes off, and you end up making multiple times what your boyfriend/husband makes, you may be thanking your lucky stars that you signed it.

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