He Says / She Says: Prenups
Author: Keith Kelson & Jean Wharton | Photographer: Photography By Anne
Kanye West threw down the gauntlet in his song, “Gold Digger,” when he challenged men who weren’t punks to demand prenuptial agreements. Now, normally I don’t recommend that you take marital advice from any recording artist unless he’s a blues or country musician. B.B. King or Johnny Cash can be trusted to give you good marital advice, so readers my find what I’m about to say next shocking: I agree with Kanye.
Now, I know most of the women are rolling their eyes and wagging their fingers saying, “Hey, aren’t you the guy who’s always talking about romance? Prenuptial agreements aren’t romantic, pal.” Prenuptial agreements have gotten a bad rap, ladies. You’d be hard pressed to find any legal document that’s filled with romantic prose, so it’s unfair to bash prenups. Truth be told, the marriage laws of the state you reside in already has a prenup built in. People are always yammering on and on about how much the government intrudes in their personal lives. Well, why let the state decide what happens to your personal assets should a marriage end in divorce?
I say true love conquers all and if a woman wanted me to sign a prenup, I wouldn’t bat an eye. In fact, I’d probably love her even more. My whole mindset about prenups is that they’re just like auto insurance. You don’t drive around looking to crash your car into guard rails on the interstate or large 18-wheel trucks, but should an accident occur you want to be covered.
Now, some weak minded men are going to say that if you really were in love with someone you wouldn’t be planning for divorce. I say to those guys that they need to develop a spine and join the 21st century. I say that if the love is real, deciding what happens if a split occurs is prudent. We’ve all seen what happens when love walks out the door and the divorce lawyers get involved.
Michael Jordan’s ex-wife, Juanita reportedly got 160 million dollars in a divorce settlement. I’m not saying that Juanita was a bad mother or that she wasn’t a loyal, loving wife. I’m saying that she didn’t dunk one basketball or thrill millions of fans with her uncanny knack of hitting buzzer-beating jump shots. In other words, if I were Mike, she wouldn’t have gotten 160 million dollars from me. I’m a romantic and a nice guy, but anything over 20 million dollars is where I draw the line, man.
I’m pretty sure that during her marriage to Mike, Juanita wasn’t working in some coal mine to help supplement the family’s income. She enjoyed all the perks that came with being married to one of the most visible basketball players on the planet. Now, when they both decided that the marriage was over, how come she needs to be compensated with 160 million dollars? Why not four million? But hey, maybe they just decided to split 320 million down the middle and call it a day.
People are more than willing to whip out the calculators and start number crunching when a couple decides to split, but if you have a preup, you’re not being “romantic.” But if the state says that a couple’s assets are to be divided right down the middle, that’s cool. There’s a prime example of hypocrisy. Where are the cries for romance when the divorce lawyers get involved? Suddenly, a relationship once built on “love” has now turned into a two parties negotiating a business deal.
I’m a romantic but I’m not naïve. I know that divorces have been happening since the days of the Bible. Back then life was fairly simple, and God would actually have personal conversations with ordinary, common folk—unlike today where he just talks to televangelists who bear a striking resemblance to used car salesmen. Couples got married and divorced back then, too even though their former in-laws might stone them or declare war on their kingdom.
So, when a modern couple decides they want to marry, I say just get a prenuptial agreement drawn up, but don’t focus on it. Don’t focus on the material things that aren’t all that important when the going gets tough. Love your husband, love your wife and honor your marriage vows.
A prenuptial agreement is just like a marriage license: a meaningless piece of paper if true love is not involved. But at least with a prenup you’re not out on the interstate driving without insurance.
On several occasions over the course of penning this column, I have found myself in unfamiliar territory; wherein I, through lack of experience or presence of scruples, am asked to generate a response to a topic that either baffles me completely or is so distasteful that I shudder to create a cohesive argument. I find myself somewhere in between both bafflement and distastefulness with the topic of pre-nuptial agreements.
Everything I know about prenuptial agreements comes from television, tabloids and celebrities. I am not proud of this, given that I believe the first time I remember being aware of what a prenup was, I was sick in bed watching a soap opera during in the late ’80s. Please don’t hold it against me that part of my social awareness came from watching Santa Barbara. (The show also taught me the terms incubator and elope, but that’s beside the point.)
The basic gist of a prenup is that the two people about to enter into marriage agree upon the division of assets should the marriage fail, right? Assuming that a couple is, in fact, marrying for romantic reasons, I can think of nothing less romantic while planning to make a lifelong commitment than to be dealing with lawyers and legal documents negotiating the splitting of bank accounts. Maybe this is the romantic, sentimental side of me, but I don’t want to start my marriage with a conversation about how it will end.
We’re all aware of the divorce statistics that seem to serve in no way as a deterrent to couples’ desire to walk down the aisle. I can understand a person’s need to protect his or her assets, especially fortunes and inheritances. But like comedian Chris Rock said, it is not just the wealthy who need to protect their finances: “Everybody needs a prenuptial agreement. People think you gotta be rich to get a prenup. Oh no! You got 20 million and your wife want 10, big deal! You ain’t starvin’. But if you make 30,000… and your wife want 15, you might have to kill her.”
I rest my naive notions that marriage can last forever (I rest that notion right next to the Easter Bunny and Santa). People get divorced after 25 years of marriage and have a lifetime of debt and assets they have built together that need to be handled ethically and without anger or other torrid emotions. It seems rational that a previously agreed upon document would help make the business aspects of divorce easier to deal with, right? It’s the celebrities and headline makers that give us regular people the idea that we need a prenuptial agreement with outlandish clauses to assure that she (or he) ain’t gonna get squat when they hit the road. There have been some over-the-top, insane prenups that almost seem to give a couple license to be unfaithful and deceitful. In many cases, the prenup gives a price tag to the less desirable behaviors of one or both partners.
This is all assuming that the prenup is binding. When couples get cut throat at the end of a marriage, they seek out the lawyer who is going to help them get the most out of their years of misery with their spouse—a shark of a lawyer who is out for blood…the green kind that lives in the bank. The shark lawyer busts through a prenup like Jaws crunches through boats, and compromise is left at the door.
Don’t have a shark lawyer to tear a prenuptial agreement to shreds? Cut your losses and exit with grace and dignity. Ladies, it is 2010. Don’t put yourself in a weak, vulnerable position of utter dependence on a man or a marriage. Gentlemen, show some character in your approach to marriage and follow Kanye West’s advice: “If you ain’t a punk, holla we want prenup, WE WANT PRENUP! It’s something that you need to have, cause when she leaves, she gonna leave with half.”