I’m the proud owner of a used diesel car. It purrs in that ‘I’m a diesel’ kind of way, and sips daintily from the gas tank, which is much appreciated by me. The purchase of this car wouldn’t be possible without my Mom. Here I am at 47 years old calling on Mom to come to the rescue so I can stop feeding an insatiable V8.
I’m grateful, and I was angry.
According to the dealer, I would have needed to provide a fully executed divorce decree, 6 months of cancelled support checks and say, I’m really sorry I’m a stay-at-home Mom who got divorced after discovering my marriage was a fraud, while balancing my wounded heart, a laundry basket and a biodegradable bag of dog poo on an empty ring finger.
After being bailed out by Bank of Mom, I sat at a desk in the dealer showroom signing a multi-page contract. If I want to bring the car back within 3 days for any reason I have to buy, for $250, a guarantee that allows me that privilege. I have no recourse in the event the car fails to do things like be drivable on day four. I have to contract with the state for a license and registration, pay taxes (So this is the second time the car is taxed? I vaguely recall learning that double taxation was a no-no.), and trust that the car is being represented to me accurately. They won’t trust me to pay monthly for it, but I must trust them.
Sign here, here and here.
After all that signing and check writing we went outside. There she sat, shiny and clean, likely for the last time. We climbed in, me in the driver’s seat. For the last 8 years I’ve driven one vehicle. An automatic. I knew where every button was, how they worked and could drive and drink coffee at the same time. Now I looked at a foreign cluster of instruments and a gear box that wanted desperately to see me stopped at a red light, nearly vertical, on Filbert Street in San Francisco.
It took three days to plead my case and buy the car. Three days. Then I got 5 minutes of a run through on how everything worked with phrases like, I’m not sure and It’s probably in the manual, along with a whole lot of experimental button pressing. 5 minutes.
Buying a car is expensive and a huge commitment. Often it comes with a loan and interest to pay. And the vehicle doesn’t always work, even if it’s new. The warranties seem to expire at the perfect time. Then there’s the gas tank. Feed, pamper and hope the engine turns over. With so much invested in a purchase, why is the transaction more about what I am going to do for the car than what the car will do for me?
You’re going to do this, and this and this. I’m not guaranteeing anything. That warranty? It’s good for the honeymoon period, but if something major happens we may determine it’s your fault anyway.
I drove away, into the wide open world where my car could be smashed to smithereens at any point in time, thinking, I’ll figure it all out eventually, but at least I have a car. (Unlike the person I passed a half mile later who had only the back end of a car after the front was sheered off by a distracted driver who blew a stop light.)
Kind of like how many people feel when they walk down the aisle, under the Chuppah, or over the threshold. We’re married now. We committed to each other. It’s official. Till death do us part, through thick and thin, no matter the challenges ahead. Half of those couples eventually walk into the offices of a divorce attorney, all that love and goodwill torched. Partners for life become adversaries. Decisions to leave careers to raise children are now entitlements. Mutually agreed upon choices that can be punished, penalized and reversed. What took an hour or so to create at the cost of about $100 for a license will, in most cases, take months and thousands of dollars to rip apart.
The collateral damage is beyond pricing out.
A prenuptial agreement is stigmatized as a cold-hearted move to protect assets from gold-diggers. Eyes widen in tandem with a gasp as a hand covers the mouth of a friend being told of the multi-page document awaiting review. It sits next to invitations and tasting plates of wedding cake. Sterile. Full of legalese.
They’re reducing our love down to a contract!
A prenuptial agreement is the most loving pre-wedding move ever.
Marriage is the zenith of life commitments. Far exceeding the responsibility of a new job, the purchase of a home or vehicle, or the creation of a business partnership. I’ve never been funded by a venture capital firm (unless you count my Mom!), but I imagine that relationship comes with a contract of epic proportions filled with deliverables and guarantees. A pact that governs every step, with stipulations and warranties and pledges and obligations. And clauses for this, that and every what ever.
There is no post-commitment negotiation.
Marriage requires a few I do’s and two signatures. And a whole lot of faith. To get a license you need a picture ID.
It’s harder to buy a pair of jeans than to get married.
It’s easier to win in Las Vegas than to avoid divorce.
Which is not a surprise to anyone. So why are we so reluctant to create an enforceable marital contract, instead of the one that’s a dash of Will you and a splash of I Do? You know, set the table before you serve the food. Lay it out in the open. The contract to reserve the reception hall is more binding than the commitment of marriage itself.
But we love each other!
Then the timing is perfect for the creation of a contract that governs the union. The most successful partnerships begin with a solid foundation where all parties are clear in what is expected of them to satisfy the goals of the union.
Take, for instance, monogamy. It was understood that our marriage would be monogamous. We talked about commitment and honesty. My intentions were pure, and I believed that The Genius’ were as well. Even my Mom felt the need to have an agreement in place, expressing to The Genius her concerns that his job and travel would lead to infidelity to which he replied, I would never hurt her in that way. (She should predict natural disasters.) Imagine my surprise when The Genius told me he didn’t believe in monogamy in and around the 5 year mark. (I may have the date wrong but I know we were in Santa Monica and he also shared with me that he didn’t like my breasts. I remember things like that.) Had we crafted a smart premarital agreement, and he chose to be honest, I would have already known this (maybe not the breast part) and been given the opportunity to decide if I was willing to proceed.
Had we crafted that agreement and he changed his mind, something us humans do, I would have a roadmap to follow as we dismantled the marriage, one designed to protect me. To protect us. To protect any shred of hope that we would walk away with divorce papers in hand and some degree of a relationship still intact.
That agreement ought to have provisions in it for the breaking of the marital contract. As it stands now, we can do anything shy of murder and rape and there’s zero consequences. Imagine if we raised our children without consequences for their behavior. Bedlam. Not much different than the state of marriage today. Imagine if there were no consequences for breaking contracts in general. We’d trust nothing. No one.
A contract without consequences for breaking the contract is not a contract.
It’s a big wish.
Without consequences for behaviors that are destructive we are sanctioning those behaviors.
So, The Genius, and millions and millions of others, can break the marital contract through adultery and the only consequence is their own guilt, should they choose to not justify away their poor choices and ignore that guilt.
Moms, Dads, anyone who knows someone who is going to get married, please sit down and have a conversation with the engaged about a prenuptial agreement. It’s a common sense move. We can’t ignore the facts. At least half of marriages end up in divorce. Why not simplify the agonizing process by having a game plan in advance?
Fear. Fear of never making it down the aisle because we can’t make it past the bargaining table. The thing to remember and never, ever forget about fear is that we create that which we fear.
The enforceability of a prenuptial agreement is questionable. But that can change if we accept that it’s natural. If we demand that it be part of the marital process. No court would ever allow a house to be sold or a business partnership to be created without a contract governing the commitment of the parties involved, a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, and consequences for not abiding by the rules of the contract.
If we’re serious about marriage and serious about wanting to see changes in our marriage laws to support equal rights, how about we get serious about establishing the rights of the individuals post-marriage before entering into marriage? We prepare for all sorts of disasters, why not plan for divorce while planning the wedding?
It seems like such a loving thing to do.