|So, you're engaged to "the one" — a man you can see yourself with forever. And he's just as crazy about you. But while gazing into each other's eyes over a candlelit dinner one evening, your honey unexpectedly pops the "other" question: Will you sign a prenuptial agreement? |
If you're like 26-year-old Geiselle James, you'd probably look at him like he just dissed your mama. "It's like going into a relationship with no trust," says the graduate student, whose attitude toward prenups is informed by her Trinidadian background. "In the islands, they believe that if you love and marry a person 'till death do you part,' you wouldn't be thinking of having a prenuptial. That's how it's always been." Period.
To sign or not to sign?
Although many of us are financially savvier than our mothers and grandmothers when they got married, a significant number of sisters share Geiselle's anti-prenup sentiments. When asked, "Would you sign a prenuptial agreement?" nearly a third (32.8 percent) of Essence.com visitors said "No way!" But, surprisingly, a combined 41.8 percent (31.1 percent said "Yes," and 10.7 percent said "If the price was right") were likely to sign right up. About one-quarter replied "Don't know."
Journalist and author Denene Millner is in the "No way!" camp. She playfully debates the subject in her book, Money, Power, Respect: What Brothers Think, What Sistahs Know (William Morrow & Co.) with husband and co-author, Nick Chiles. "I'm against prenups," she says. "They just throw all kinds of negativity on the relationship before you even make it down the aisle."
But many experts agree that in the event of a failed marriage, prenups can at least save you from financial stress.
"They can be a great tool because they force couples to discuss money," says Glinda Bridgforth, money expert and author of Girl, Get Your Money Straight: A Sister's Guide to Healing Your Bank Account and Funding Your Dreams in 7 Simple Steps (Broadway Books). She stresses taking a hard look at your financial status and habits (i.e. what you own and owe, your credit report, saving and spending habits, etc.) and discussing them with your partner before merging finances.
Bridgforth adds that more women are protecting their growing assets these days. "As a financial consultant, I've had a couple of cases recently where my female clients were ordered by the court to pay their spouses alimony," she says. "Since many women are becoming more aware of alternatives that benefit them, the prenuptial agreement is becoming less stigmatized."
Paula, a 32-year-old independent television producer, agrees. Eager to protect her growing assets, she'll insist that her future husband sign a prenup. To her, it's only fair. "Men have an easier time buying cars, homes, etc., while women still make 68 cents to a man's dollar. Why should men get alimony, too?"
The bottom line — talk about it
So, what do our attitudes toward prenups say about our beliefs regarding relationships and money? While some of us still believe a prenup has no place in a romantic relationship, others are learning that there's nothing wrong with considering what a prenup can provide — protection of the assets you had going into marriage as well as protection from your partner's debts should you divorce.
Whichever side you fall on, the money issue definitely has its place in relationship discussions, especially premarital discussions. Prenuptial agreement or not — are you really trying to get caught up in drama because you didn't know your man's checks have more bounce than an NBA ball? It's chattin' time, ladies.
- Red Carpet