There are better ways to discuss prenups, marriage contracts

Addressing the uncomfortable possibility of a break-up is improved with a simple change in language

There are better ways to discuss prenups, marriage contracts
Steve Randall

Once the exclusive domain of the extremely wealthy, the prenuptial agreement or ‘prenup’ has become mainstream for many canny couples prepared to think the unthinkable.

Perhaps it’s because divorce has become more common over the years – there were around 2.71 million divorcees in Canada in 2020 (source: Statista) – and because people are more aware of the potential risks to financial security when relationships sour.

But while the word prenup is understood, along with Canada’s ‘marriage contracts’, financial advisors might be better using more explanatory language according to a study from North Carolina State University.

That’s because word like prenup can be seen as negative with some people believing that using the word in financial planning discussions suggests a lack of faith in the marriage from the outset.

So, what language should you use when discussing this element of a client’s finances?

Lynsey Romo, corresponding author of the study and an associate professor of communication at North Carolina State University, acknowledges that talking about finances can contribute to a healthy relationship.

Romo and fellow researchers used Redditt forums to weigh people’s views of prenups and found an almost even split of positive and negative opinion.

Financial ‘safety feature’

Among those who were positive, they used metaphors such as insurance to describe prenups as something you hope to never use but should have: "Nobody plans on crashing their car, getting cancer, or having their house burn down but they still get car, health, and home insurance," said one commentator.

Others talked about “safety features” to avoid getting hurt, likening a prenup to airbags.

"It was clear from following these online dialogues that metaphors served as a powerful tool for helping people not only understand what prenuptial agreements are, but what purposes they serve," Romo said. "Metaphors helped many people reframe and understand other perspectives on prenups, including whether they are inherently problematic.”

Romo believes that this study will help financial advisors and legal professionals to fuel understanding of prenups among their clients.