He wants a prenup. She’s insulted.

Michelle Singletary
Columnist July 8, 2013

This online feature may include questions adapted from my weekly live chat. It’s also an opportunity for me to answer questions I couldn’t get to during the discussion. I may also respond to questions you send by e-mail to (colorofmoney@washpost.com), Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary.com).

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.” View Archive

Would a prenup be a deal-breaker?

Q: I’m a 32-year-old woman who has just started a fantastic relationship with a great guy (he’s 39). We’ve been together for approximately three months and we both would like something long-term. The other night, he told me he would not get married without a prenup. I felt a divide between us when he said that.

I guess I’ve always thought someone that wanted a prenup is someone selfish and doesn’t want to share things or their full life with someone else. I come from a family of refugees who have worked from the ground up. My family hardly has any assets, and I have a middle-class salary and only a small 401(k) and stock account -- $50,000 and $15,000 respectively. He’s been working many years more than I have, makes double what I make, and his family is definitely more wealthy, although I wouldn’t expect a huge inheritance because he has many siblings, and he’s doing great financially.

I talked to him a little bit more that night and haven’t brought it up since; I just don’t know what to think. Sometimes I cry when I think about it. I just don’t want to get married, get divorced and have a guy kick me to the curb or I move into an apartment. If a prenup let’s him keep all his money, then I’d rather not continue staying with someone like that. And if that’s what a prenup is, why get married at all? Not that I’m marrying for money, but I want a marriage to be one where we take care of each other in various ways, including sharing resources. I wonder if this is a deal-breaker and if I should bring it up with the risk it will end things between us. If he won’t get married without one, and I don’t know if I will sign one, what should I do?

Michelle Singletary: I think you should take a step back. You’ve only been dating for three months. I’m a bit surprised this came up so soon, but now it’s out there. Give yourself time to calm down and perhaps feel less insulted.

Generally, I agree with you. Once you get married, you should treat all assets and liabilities as if they belonged to both of you. But, and that’s a BIG but, if both parties agree about a prenup especially if they are older and there are children from previous relationships, I don’t think a prenup is a bad thing.

However, you do object. You do have a different viewpoint about this than the guy you are dating. And, yes, it should be a deal-breaker if you continue to feel the way you do. Besides, he made it clear, right? No prenup. No marriage.

So, if you continue to date, at some point soon, when you aren’t so outraged, ask the guy to talk about it. Tell him what you told me. Tell him you aren’t feeling this prenup thing. Let him explain why he would want one.

If he insists there must be a prenup before a wedding, perhaps he isn’t the right guy for you. But make the call before you fall in love and become so invested in the relationship that you make a compromise you may regret — resulting ending in the need to use a prenup.

Readers weigh in on whether to sign a prenup:

— “Having just gone through the process (and originally being anti-prenup), they aren’t as horrible as you think. You both have to have fair representation, and generally the rules change after you’ve been together so many years or have children. If we divorce after a year, I get nothing. But if, five years in, after a house and kids, it doesn’t work out, there is equitable compensation to account for the income I’ve lost raising kids and to cover the cost of raising them. The advice our priest and attorneys gave us was to go into this with the assumption that you are going to be married forever and live that way. The prenup is just to protect each party in case something happens.

— “I would want to know if [a prenup] would be a requirement for any woman that he would consider marrying, or whether it is just something he’d want from you. If it is just you, then I would move on.”

— “I am not crazy about prenups either, BUT I don’t think [it’s] quite accurate in that a prenup means she gets nothing. Sure, like another poster said, after one year, nothing, but a prenup could also say that the signers split everything 50-50 or 60-40, or something like that. I can see where the person with more assets doesn’t want to lose everything. The boyfriend might be thinking that he’d be willing to sign a prenup that gives X amount, a fair or even generous amount, rather than risk being sued for everything he has. I’d still be sad if someone asked me to sign one.”

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or e-mail michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to postbusiness.com.

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