Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 3 2003 9:45 AM

Prenups: Safety Nets or Relationship Killers?

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Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click hereto sign up.Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

Dear Prudie,

I am a 25-year-old woman who is eight weeks away from getting married for the first time. My intended is more than 10 years my senior and financially more established than me. However, I have established my own career and have been quite successful on my own, so I do not need anyone to support me. He has previously been married, and I guess one could say it was bitter. She put him through the wringer financially after only a year and a half of marriage. I have always said I understand why men or women feel it necessary to have a prenup, but now that I am faced with it, I feel quite differently. I feel like the magic of our marriage, our partnership, our friendship has been taken away. What do vows really mean? Nothing if in lieu of them there is a contract. I feel as though this is a reflection on me and a remark that he does not trust me. Not only that, I feel like I am giving this man the best years of my life and there are no guarantees for me, either. He is planning for our divorce, and I am planning on our future. I am about to give up on the dream of true love, and maybe I should realize marriage is a business deal. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. 

—Shell Shocked

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Dear Shell,

Prudie is sympathetic to your feelings. It is not hard to see why this would feel like, "Sign on the dotted line, or forget the whole thing." Perhaps it's small comfort, but that's the way things are going these days, especially with people who are big earners or who have inherited money. It would be nice for you, as well as romantic, if your betrothed didn't feel so burned by his failed marriage, but he does, and that's the way things are. Whether there's a prenup or not, marriage IS a contract, and maybe it's "progress" to plan ahead for a failure (since 50 percent of marriages, now, do fail) rather than deal with it when emotions are raw. The prenuptial agreement, by the way, in no way takes the place of the vows. It is a contingency financial arrangement, not unlike a preplanned funeral. And because these agreements are two-way streets, you might feel better if you asked for a "best years of my life" clause. Prudie knows of a case where custody of the dog was written in. Do try to put this aspect in the background and program yourself to concentrate on the romance part.

—Prudie, acceptingly

Dear Prudence,

I have been married for six years, and for the most part, my husband and I get along great. We do have one recurring argument, however, and that's about giving money to his parents. For a variety of reasons (low-paying jobs, a lifestyle they can't afford, poor judgment, etc.), his family is always broke (to the point where they have no money in their pockets and none coming in for a couple of weeks), and they are constantly asking my husband for money. He is the only one out of five kids who makes a decent living. He informs me of their request, I get irritated, and he winds up giving them the money anyway. We're not wealthy, and we have things that we need to save for (home remodeling, vacations, having kids), and I resent giving my hard-earned money to people who never seem to be able to improve their situation. I understand my husband feeling this need to take care of them, especially when they made sacrifices for him when he was growing up, but isn't that the job of parents?

—Not a Bank

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Dear Not,

This is always a sticky wicket and an understandable source of irritation. Perhaps the only workable solution is a) for you to accept that your husband cannot NOT help his parents, but b) for him to agree on a certain amount of money each month that will not be exceeded. Sometimes this just goes with the territory.

—Prudie, charitably

Dear Pru,

My best friend of many years finally ditched her louse of a husband. He did nothing at home, did not contribute to household finances despite having a good job, and ignored my friend except when it was sex time. Then she was told he had another woman on the side! She ditched him, after 15 years. He got half of everything. Now he is back in her life. They "see" each other and have spent weekends together. It is very awkward for us because I have made it clear I don't like him. I think she will take him back. This woman has a great job and is very well thought of. Why would someone who has it so together want such a jerk in her life? I would lose all respect for her if it happens. I fear our friendship may drain away, and I don't know what to do.

—Disturbed

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Dear Dis,

Whatever the reason for the louse's return, you are not the one who has to take him back. Regarding your relationship with your friend, let her take the lead. Chances are you will meet, now, as girlfriends and not as couples. If you really can't stand the prodigal louse, there's no use pretending. As for why people have jerks in their lives, Prudie cannot help but think of the old joke: When told her son was wanted by the police, the woman said, "Well, there's no accounting for taste."

—Prudie, philosophically

Dear Prudie,

My parents were married for nearly 40 years but were divorced last year because of my father's infidelity. Things happened about six years ago when he hooked up with a 19-year-old girl. We (my other two siblings and our mother) struggled to try to rescue the marriage during that period. The final standoff was that if he went with this girl, he wouldn't have us. He made the choice by divorcing my mother. (She was then in her early 60s and just a helpless housewife.) Just for some sexual pleasure, he gave up his wife and all his children. I totally lost respect for him. About three years ago, I stopped bringing my daughter to see him. The hard part of this ordeal is explaining it to her. She has asked about grandpa many times, saying that she misses him. I've been telling her that grandpa is busy or on a business trip, etc. But as she grows older, she is starting not to believe what I say. I know that some time I will have to explain it to her in a way that makes sense—but I don't know what to say. Sometimes I think about inviting my father over to see her ... she is just a small kid and deserves a granddad. But on the other hand, I don't want my daughter exposed to such an unethical person. What's your opinion about this? 

—On the Horns of a Dilemma

Dear On,

Boy, these geezer-Lolita couplings give Prudie a pain … but that is not the question you asked. Regarding your little girl, you really only have two options. Your father's association with the nymph is unlikely to influence your child, so you might consider letting them have visits while you make yourself scarce. If you absolutely want nothing to do with him and wish there to be no contact, then you will have to find a way to explain that you and grandpa have had a serious disagreement, which means, for all intents and purposes, that her grandpa is essentially gone from her life. If Prudie had to choose for you, it would be to let the two of them get to know each other without your feeling that you must relate to him as you did, pre-Lolita.

—Prudie, parentally