The Better Prenup

Introducing The Partnership Agreement.

The keystone of financial intimacy, what we call a Partnership Agreement, is a financially and emotionally binding contract designed to help couples build a mutually satisfying, secure, and beneficial marriage. Unlike a prenup, which is about protecting individuals if a marriage ends, a Partnership Agreement’s purpose is to support your marriage from the beginning. It creates a healthy ecosystem in which your love can endure. These agreements are not standard; there’s no “one-size-fits-all” template. They’re as unique as the individuals who create them. And that’s what makes them so great. 

Getting married is the biggest financial decision you and your spouse will ever make, so there’s no avoiding the fact that a Partnership Agreement deals with money. In this context, however, we promise that talking about money is actually a good thing that can strengthen your relationship. Before you and your spouse talk about creating a Partnership Agreement, it’s important that you identify the pragmatic points you’d want the agreement to cover. Your lifestyle and individual situation will likely determine your biggest priorities, which might include:

  • handling property ownership
  • managing household and personal expenses, especially if one spouse cuts back on work (and therefore income) to help care for children
  • jointly planning for your financial future with investments and retirement accounts
  • receiving an inheritance from family members, or contributions family may make towards things like home ownership or your child’s education
  • outlining how you’ll handle financial obligations, like children or property, in the event of a split

Don't forget to look ahead too—think about if your Partnership Agreement will serve its purpose when you’re, say, 65 years old. Every couple’s list will be slightly different depending on their circumstances.

It’s also important that you articulate your emotions around such an agreement. What are your fears, and where do you think they originate? For instance, maybe you’re afraid that you’ll lose your equal stake and sense of security in your marriage if you decide to be a stay-at-home parent because that’s exactly what happened to your mom—she quit her job to take care of you, and you watched her become a passive, dependent partner. Or you might be anxious to have input in your joint financial investments because a friend let her husband take care of all that, only to discover he’d been making rash decisions and getting into debt. Or you want to make sure you’re a financial stakeholder in your partner’s business because you heard the story about a friend-of-a-friend who financially and emotionally supported her husband when he quit his job to found a start-up, but never thought to ask for equity in his new company (and when they divorced years later, before he sold it for millions, she never got any kind of repayment).

Your hopes for this agreement are vital, too. What do you want to gain by creating one? A structure of financial security that will help you and your partner realize your dreams? A solid plan to make sure your child will have the funds to pay for college? A plan for property ownership that will allow you to buy and share the house you want without overextending yourselves? Emphasizing the shared nature and benefits of these goals is extremely important, because it’s this mutual approach that sets a Partnership Agreement up for success. It’s an agreement that serves both your interests.

Envision how you want the conversation with your partner to unfold. Your intention, language, and tone are central to making it productive. Yet, even with the greatest intentions and most positive of language, discussing personal finances can be challenging. Ideally, you can give yourselves plenty of time to work through concerns about an agreement. Be prepared for your partner’s reaction, which might be hesitant—or even negative. To have this conversation you both need to be vulnerable and open, and getting to that place of emotional and financial intimacy is hard. We can get defensive, angry, reactive. Understand that your partner’s initial response is a reflection of their feelings about the loaded role of money in marriage, and not about you. And be ready to reassure them about the intention and purpose of a Partnership Agreement. We made it even easier for you by creating a Partnership Agreement Checklist. – Heather Pulier & Kristina Royce