Signing on for Life...and Love

Prenuptial agreements are a complex issue, and there's more than one reason for doing them

In his Beliefnet column on prenuptial agreements, Rabbi Shmuley Boteachsays, "Those who insist on prenuptial agreements are more interested inmoney than in love." I couldn't agree less with this black-and-whitethinking. Marriage is not about choosing either money or love; it's aboutnegotiating a terrain of values and sometimes making difficult choices.

And prenuptial agreements are not the instruments of evil that manynaysayers claim them to be.

In the late 1800s, along with countless other Eastern European Jewishfamilies, my great-grandparents arrived in this country and struggled tomake a comfortable life for their family. They settled in St. Louis andwent into the business of making and selling jewelry. My great-grandmotherkept the books, my great-grandfather made the jewelry. They were scrupulousabout finances, and they were able to accrue significant savings.

The money they earned was carefully invested and safeguarded within thefamily when my grandmother, their daughter, married, and again when my mother married my father in 1969, in both instances with a prenuptial agreement. That money paid my college tuition. It paid for summer trips when my brother and I were children. I never knew it existed.

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But when I became engaged to Daniel, my now-husband, my mother told me abouta promise that she had made to her mother--that my brother and I would signprenuptial agreements, no matter who we married, in order to protect mygreat-grandparents' savings for future generations.

When I discussed the matter with Daniel, he balked at first. If we ever gotdivorced, he said, he would be so devastated, the last thing he would careabout would be money. I said, "I know. I don't think our marriage will everend. Our commitment is forever. But this has nothing to do with who youare or who I am. My great-grandmother was afraid of one thing when she wasalive--that a stupid mistake would bring her family back to the poverty underwhich she had suffered. We'd do this to honor her."

Daniel agreed to sign the document, after long conversations with me, mymother, and my father


--who had experienced his own reservations about signing a prenup. My father said that my grandfather had told him two simple things to assuage his concerns.

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Joanne Greene
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