In 2021, researchers Lynsey K. Romo and Noah Czajkowski published their study on cultural perceptions of prenuptial agreements, which have been stigmatized for decades, as if the existence of a couple’s prenuptial agreement would necessarily suggest a lack of trust between the partners or distasteful ulterior motives at play.
But the times are changing, as Dr. Romo and Mr. Czajkowski discovered through an inventive method: they analyzed the linguistics used by “Redditors” when discussing prenuptial agreements. Reddit is a world-wide online messageboard.
Specifically, the researchers focused on the type of metaphor the Redditor used when discussing prenuptial agreements. A metaphor, according to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.”
The study’s analysis relied on metaphors because metaphors “guide individuals’ everyday thinking and behaviors” to make abstract concepts into a more concrete reality. Images employed in the metaphors suggest the connotations, not the denotations, that a person associates with prenuptial agreements. The connotations indicate the emotions coloring the Redditor’s perception of prenuptial agreements.
For those who are not familiar with this messageboard, Reddit describes itself as “the front page of the internet.” Nearly any topic is valid, depending on whether you can find the thread for it.
The researchers’ stated purpose was to obtain “valuable insight into how people rationalize something that remains taboo and stigmatized in society, despite [prenups’] potential benefits to people’s interpersonal and financial well-being.”
Dr. Romo and Mr. Czajkowski employed what they call a “reflexive thematic analysis of user-generated Reddit threads and a sensemaking lens” in this study.
In this study, the majority of the analyzed discussion ranked prenuptial agreements as favorable; however, some naysayers still clung to their position that prenups remain distasteful, and they used terms that “compared prenuptial agreements] to escape or back up plans and harbingers of doubt.”
The good news is that the majority of Redditors “viewed prenups as beneficial, conceptualizing them as a safety net (a form of insurance or prevention) or [an] essential contract,” which would be something akin to a contract establishing a business partnership.
For example, some Reddittors spoke about a prenup as a safety net. For them, “not having a prenuptial agreement was as irresponsible as being uninsured,” and they believed a prenup was simply “a prudent, responsible aspect of getting married and even of demonstrating love to one another.” In this regard, a prenup existed as a neutral entity, such as car insurance or health insurance. Along these lines, some Redditors compared a prenup to air bags in a car. Prenups bore no stigma for people who thought in these safety net metaphors.
For Redditors who saw a prenup as an essential contract, they perceived marriage as not only an emotional and physical union, but “a financial partnership” too in joining two lives, which made the prenup “an essential component of a fair and committed relationship.” These Redditors perceived a prenup as a responsible act toward a partner, a “sign of love and commitment.”
The researchers’ conclusions point to the need for couples to treat money as one more facet of a romantic union. Finances deserve as much discussion as wedding venue details and whether/when to have children. The study’s “findings…underscore the need to destigmatize prenuptial agreements in order to encourage premarital conversations about money.”
In evaluating the metaphors used to talk about prenups, the researchers uncovered the “hot spots” regarding couples’ comfort with talks about money. In their work, Dr. Romo and Mr. Czajkowski uncovered “many myths…that could prevent people from preemptively talking about money and financial goals with their partner,” which, in turn, can foster the stigma surrounding prenuptial agreements.
The researchers recommend that couples should reconceptualize “prenuptial agreements…as less about protecting assets and more as conduit for having important conversations about money prior to (re)marriage.”
The published study cites the 2016 work, “Rethinking premarital agreements: A collaborative approach,” of E.R. Carter in the New Mexico Law Review: “[A] prenup can help [to] combat the money taboo that can keep finances off limits to the detriment of romantic relationships.” Carter emphasized that couples can “adopt an estate planning model that emphasizes joint goals and expectations and collaboration for the good of the relationship.”
At JustPrenups.com, when discussing prenups and postnups, we emphasize teamwork in reaching shared goals. If this approach resonates with you, please contact us for a free consultation to learn about our process.
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