Once upon a time, a French Guy became King of Jerusalem. It was 1180 during the Crusades, when Guy of Lusignan, a French knight, rode down to Jerusalem. The well-connected Guy scored an arranged marriage with Sibylla, sister of the leprosy-ridden King Baldwin IV. Following the king’s demise, Sibylla was eventually named sovereign, on the proviso that her marriage to Guy (who was by now on the outs with his in-laws), be annulled. Sibylla agreed on the condition she would have the right to marry anyone she wanted after that. Upon her investiture as queen in 1186, Sibylla chose none other than Guy to remarry, and promptly handed him her crown.
Which just goes to prove – even in medieval times when marriages were arranged purely for financial and political considerations – love and romance could prevail.
Nowadays, we modern North Americans prefer to approach marriage on the basis of romantic love. The trouble is, so much of love involves trust, belief and promises. And so much of life involves change, personal growth and shit happening. According to Alain de Botton, in his Essays In Love, “We can perhaps only ever fall in love without knowing quite who we have fallen in love with. The initial convulsion is necessarily founded on ignorance.”
Nor can financial considerations be avoided. Over time, a marriage brings co-mingling of finances, various interdependencies and the sharing of assets, income and expenses. Research has proven that money arguments are the leading predictor of divorce.
So if every marriage is a bit of a gamble, all we can do is commit – and try to improve our odds. Shared values, good communication, a kindred spirit, and a similar sense of humour go a long way, but to cut to the chase, a good prenup can help too.
Prenuptial agreements are often feared as unromantic, awkward, materialistic. Yet without a Byzantine panel of township leaders to determine our spouses and territories, we must turn to lawyers to parse out the practical details and protect the financial interests that each person brings into the marriage, ideally preventing future conflicts down the road.
In the case of blended families, prenups are particularly helpful for designating assets and beneficiaries. For example, keeping a share of a family cottage passing down through the children rather than a spouse.
There is no need to cloud romance or second-guess love. A prenup should not be a system of punishment or rewards. Rather, it is merely an extension of the marriage contract, outlining the realities that existed before the relationship and preparing assets for the future.
For those with substantial assets who want to be completely objective, why wait for a relationship to find a lawyer and get a first draft started? To misquote Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice, it ought to be a truth universally acknowledged that a single person in possession of a good fortune, must certainly be in want of a prenup.