We know one thing about love and relationships today—something that is really difficult to admit: despite our hopes and dreams, the odds of making a relationship work are, at best, fifty-fifty. So we—a divorce attorney, a former divorce court judge turned domestic relations mediator, and a financial advisor—wrote this book to help your chances of being in the half of committed relationships that last as long as your dreams.
Our myths about permanency, consistency, and security in relationships have been assaulted in the movies, in the media, and in real life. We may all long for the good old days when marriage and relationships seemed more sustainable, but closing your eyes to reality won’t make it happen. If you are reading these opening lines, we are sure you are saying to yourself: “I’m in love and I don’t want to hear this!”
It’s part of our DNA to want relationship security, so we recoil when the possibility is questioned. The notion of a prenuptial agreement or a relationship contract feels like an attack on your treasured survival mating master plan. We know that. So in response to this thorny dilemma, the three of us got together to figure out a way for couples to adapt to these harsher realities without destroying the romance.
We know that’s what you want—a forever relationship that rises above the seemingly mundane issues of money, and property, and financial planning. You want the moonlight and flowers and the emotional high. But with an agreement or not, reality will soon set in. We believe that creating the appropriate agreement will not destroy your romance, but enhance it, because you are no longer fearful of the unspoken issues that might eventually divide you.
Perhaps, you’re feeling pressure not only from each other, but from friends, parents, or an ex-spouse or adult children. They feel they should have some influence on your new relationship, whether because they have a financial stake in how you move forward, or just because they think they see potential roadblocks to your happiness.
While written relationship agreements are not new, we offer not only a different way of looking at them, but techniques to make your relationship even stronger and more sustainable. We are giving you skills and strategies for protecting your relationship, so that inevitable disagreements do not lead to avoidable breakups.
We know that it’s difficult to create permanency in an era of accelerating change. You can’t play the new game using the old rules of relationships. We are not living in our parents’ relationship. Many people reading this book are children of divorced families, or may be helping rear children of a loved one’s previous marriage or relationship.
Previous generations married for love and rarely just lived together. They trusted in the concept of “till death do us part”—whether or not they actually stayed married. Having a child out of wedlock was a public sin. Even conception before marriage was frowned upon, as family and friends counted backward nine months to the marriage date.
The world of relationships has changed dramatically, yet we have not changed our laws, our rules, or our expectations. We still believe in love and the possibility of a permanent soul mate—no matter what form these relationships take. But we need new ground rules for the many arrangements we choose to display our love. In short, we have not prepared ourselves for the New Love Deal.
The rules and roles of the Love Deal have completely changed. We are cohabiting in record numbers and marrying later. This is not just a generational issue. Census figures show that the number of cohabiting unmarried couples with at least one partner over age fifty has grown to more than 1.5 million households. That is a 500 percent increase since the mid-1990s.
For the first time in American history, more children are born out of wedlock than into traditional families. And, despite the economy forcing people to stay together for financial reasons, the divorce rate is still nearly 50 percent.
Married or not, couples are usually both employed, and incomes are likely to be uneven. These couples—married or not—buy property together, have children, and share debt. They may be same-sex couples and may have biological or adopted children.
But while we recognize these changes in social acceptability, we lack legal guidelines and procedures for navigating these turbulent waters. As a result, breakups are messy—and not only from an emotional standpoint. They are also wreaking havoc on each party’s financial future—destroying credit reports, devastating retirement security, generating legal fees, and creating one financial crisis after another.
This book is about acknowledging those changes and structuring your own New Love Deal—a guideline for making your relationship succeed, or for dissolving it in a way that prevents additional tears and pain. As you read this book, you will see that we have integrated the power of love with the power of rationality to create the best outcomes for your entire life.