Why a Marriage Manifesto is Better than a Prenuptial Agreement
No, I’m not a marriage and family counselor. I’m not a legal advisor either. The truth is that I have been married and divorced three times, which makes me an expert on what not to do. Actually, I’d prefer to keep that little fact a secret because it’s embarrassing and carries an unpleasant stigma.
But I’m willing to be vulnerable here because by sharing my life with you, you might avoid some of my mistakes or get a new idea that challenges your thinking. And, if you are brave enough to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments, I can learn from you, too.
Image Credit: Katsu Nojiri
As we get older, two conditions are likely to become fact:
- Failed relationships, and
- Fear of losing whatever assets we have built in the event of another failed relationship.
These facts are not gender specific and lead to the idea that a prenuptial agreement is the answer to protecting yourself against fact #2.
It has been nearly 14 years since my last marriage ended. And you might find it odd that I would consider remarrying given my track record and fact #2. Call me what you will, but I do believe in the institution of marriage and I love building a life with my person.
Given that’s how I am wired, I’ve given thought as to whether or not I should consider asking for a prenuptial agreement if marriage was ever up for discussion.
Here’s the conclusion I came to: a Marriage Manifesto is better than a Prenuptial Agreement. If you are curious to know why, keep reading!
The Tone of a Prenuptial Agreement
Whenever I read about, or hear people talk about, prenuptial agreements, the message is always steeped in doom and gloom. It sends messages such as:
- I don’t trust you.
- I put my safety above that of my partner or our relationship.
- What’s mine is mine. Period.
- Your efforts to make our life good only count if there is cold hard cash involved.
I don’t know about you, but that seems to be a terrible way to formalize what is supposed to be a lifelong journey you have already embarked upon with the other person. I just can’t get comfortable with it. But that’s okay because I believe there is a better way to help ensure this is the last marriage you enter and that your fears can be tossed in the trash along with the rest of the garbage.
Consider a Marriage Manifesto
My definition of a Marriage Manifesto is a document that acts as a roadmap in the relationship. It puts in writing the non-negotiable needs of each person so that there is no question about what success looks like.
It defines the dangers to avoid and clearly spells out the consequences for violating the trust of the other person. It covers how each person behaves in the relationship. It’s an agreement of the heart, mind and spirit.
The Tone of a Marriage Manifesto
A prenup is all about the money and self-protection. In contrast the tone of a Marriage Manifeso sends these messages:
- I care enough about you, my partner, to listen carefully and understand what is important to you.
- I have a clear understanding of what it will take to make you feel loved, understood and happy.
- I would not enter into a marriage with you until I felt we were both in agreement with the Marriage Manifesto we created together.
Doesn’t that sound better? Wouldn’t you expect a marriage to have a better chance of success when it starts out like that?
How to Create a Marriage Manifesto
A Prenuptial Agreement is likely created in secret with an attorney and then landed on the other person to read and absorb. In contrast, a Marriage Manifesto should be created together. You could sit down together and create it, but I think this would be a better approach:
- Talk about the idea of creating a Marriage Manifesto and make sure you are both interested in building one. Consider it a red flag if the other person isn’t interested in the discussion. Be sure you talk about it enough that you share a common definition for the term Prenuptial Agreement and the idea of a Marriage Manifesto.
- Independently write out what you would like to see in the Marriage Manifesto. This will help ensure you don’t defer to what is important to only one of you. Of course, the beauty of the Marriage Manifesto is that you can improve it over time as long as you both agree to the revision. In fact, it would be lovely to set a time each year, perhaps on your anniversary, to reread your Marriage Manifesto, see how well you are both doing at holding it up and update any changes you agree to make.
- Set up time to compare notes. During this conversation, each person should talk about their list and begin to merge the lists to create the Marriage Manifesto. Build on the commonalities and respectfully discuss the differences.
- Don’t settle. If you can’t come to agreement on a Marriage Manifesto that resonates with both of you, that should be a red flag. It doesn’t mean that you jump ship but it is a predictor of future bumps in the road. Better to get things resolved before getting married.
My 10 Marriage Manifesto Tenets
I’ve given a lot of thought to why my past relationships have failed. When I think of what I would want in a Marriage Manifesto with my partner, here are 10 tenets I would hope we could agree upon:
- We put the relationship above all else. When things get bad, and they will, we’ll remember that all the “stuff” doesn’t matter but the relationship does.
- Mutual trust and respect are the cornerstone of our relationship and we each do everything possible to earn both from the other. We each guard the trust the other has placed in us and protect it fiercely.
- Each of us takes responsibility for being attractive to the other.
- Open communication is the lifeline to our relationship. We are each willing to dig deep, ask the hard questions, listen and work to understand each other.
- Each supports the other in our independent quest to be the best person we can be and achieve our personal goals as long as they are not in direct conflict with our Marriage Manifesto.
- Transparency is non-negotiable. We don’t hide important information even if we know it may cause distress and put us out of harmony with each other. Transparency includes: what’s going on financially, our interaction with others (including past relationships or new ones), facts (past or present) that are material to supporting the other tenets, etc.
- We don’t use credit beyond what we can pay in full each month.
- We build and protect our assets. We do not encumber our home or use money earmarked for retirement to satisfy any other goal.
- We value fun and adventure and commit to that as a key to enjoying our life together.
- Violation of any of these tenets would be the kiss of death to the relationship. With that at stake, we both commit to uphold our part in honoring them.
What About You?
Have you entered into or asked for a prenuptial agreement? How did the other person react? Do you think the idea of a Marriage Manifesto has merit? I’d love to hear from you, please share your thoughts or story in the Comments below.
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