Taylor Swift Thinks Prenups aren’t Romantic



Jezebel reported that Taylor won’t sign a prenup because it’s unromantic.  Whether her marriage (if it happens) will last or not depends upon what she means by romantic.

If she means romantic as an ideal love bubble, she’s in trouble. However, I am reminded of my favorite quote by Alfred Adler: “The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.”

In one sense a prenuptial agreement can be viewed as a lack of trust in the partner. In another, it can imply a lack of commitment, hedging your bets.

A prenuptial agreement can  reflect a lack of trust in yourself. In the boxing world, Bernard Hopkins famously bet $100,000 on himself in a fight against Felix Trinidad. What would it take for you to bet everything on yourself? How much would it be worth to you to actually believe in yourself? I dare say it can be worth everything, even if you lose, to know you really fought.

If someone asks you for a prenuptial agreement, tell them they can have everything you own right now, and if they don’t apologize, leave and don’t turn back. This is neither practical nor sober, but it might be worth it in a world where very little else is.

I’m not saying marriage should be this serious for you, or even that it is good.  However, it can be this way.  And if it isn’t, then I hope you find something else that is.  If you do have something else that is this important to you, then that is a very good reason for a prenuptial agreement.

Being able to talk about the possibility of a future separation can be a good demonstration of maturity – akin to being able to talk about money, sex, family and other adult responsibilities.  However, what people ultimately feel is fair cannot be decided in advance.  Moral feelings supervene on actions, what others actually do.  The prenup is an effort to preempt this, ironically, to commit to something that may not feel fair in the future.  The value of this I suppose depends on how much you trust yourself and how you think your emotions represent the reality of your experience.

The possibility for the romance of marriage in the 21st century is to acknowledge that dreams aren’t real, but that awake, you can dream nonetheless. No commitment, no promise, no obligation exists without your living into them. Marriage is not and never was sacred, but the good news is that you already always are.


11 thoughts on “Taylor Swift Thinks Prenups aren’t Romantic”

  1. “But when you start comparing objects (money, cars, houses) to feelings (sense of contribution or value), things get messy.”

    You can’t just leave me hanging there. Why do you think this is?

    1. One way to say it is that exchange in relationships works well when the pattern of exchange is understood to build or even constitute the relationship. The purpose here is to try to prevent a sense of obligation from developing. Obligation kills joy. If you give something because it’s an obligation in a way it brings you back to even. The Gift (Mauss, 1925,1954) is a good reference to this idea. To maintain a relationship with a sense of aliveness and freedom requires an active attempt by both parties to avoid a sense of obligation, debt and entitlement. The latter can give you a sense of role fulfillment, which doesn’t do much anymore, if ever, since we have mostly lost the sense of existential role fulfillment. Objects, including money, can create an absolute sense of imbalance because they serve as a permanent record of debt. Cultures in the past all needed a pot-latch, jubilee or occasional leveling of the playing field – in politics that meant revolution and in marriage it means domestic disputes or divorce – grand gestures to undo a power imbalance.

      A prenup could be valuable if both parties understood it as a charter to prevent a sense of lopsidedness in a relationship, to avoid inequality. If it reifies and enforces a sense of imbalance, I don’t think it will turn out well. That’s a tall order since it requires continual return to what makes us feel inferior.

      1. Thank you for clarifying. I am with you 100% on “obligation kills joy.” Still, when you are in love with someone, you feel an “obligation” to help them pay their “debts.” And since everyone is in debt… where can one who isn’t find love?

        With consumer debt and student loan debt at all time highs, there is a lot of obligation to go around. Most of the people I know, otherwise very successful people, find hilarious ways to spend more of their (post-housing, post-healthcare, post-food) money than they save, which blows my mind!

        A friend can’t “afford” $30 bucks to go see a show with me but when I’m over at their house their living room is buried in a hundred billion DVDs and action figures. Anecdotal, I know – but people drive me up the wall with this mentality.

        Emerson: “Pay every debt as if God wrote the bill!” That’s not out of some great respect for the lender, but for one’s very self. This connection isn’t a great leap of logic. It takes like two steps:

        Debt = Money owned with threat of force
        Money = Earned by working (for the 99%, as they say)
        Therefore, Debt = Literally indentured servitude

        1. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I’m not sure I follow what your key point was, though I agree with your understanding of what debt means.

          However, and this is a big however, my contention is that debt and obligation are feelings, part of our ontological experience of being human. Money, qua record of debt, reifies obligation feelings and makes it permanent. It is the real object which conceals that obligations are just feelings. You don’t have to pay your debts. In the end, people decide for themselves what they owe.

          So, on your Emerson quote: The ransom sacrifice is a fine example of the esoteric nature of debt feelings. It plays with the concept of obligation. Christians get to feel innocent again because their faith removes their shame and guilt feelings (debts as original sin). Generally, owing your friend a favor means you get to decide how and when to repay him. The obligation strengthens your relationship. If you owe your friend $20, this flips the script. It’s an exact amount, which becomes a burden and poisons the well if not carefully addressed.

          I try to avoid either making or accepting promises. I think they are sado-masochism, and I don’t like masochism.

          1. “I think they are sado-masochism, and I don’t like masochism.”

            Curious choice of words. Do you like sadism? If so, would you admit it? That can be an ugly question, I know.

          2. It was a joke – which always has a bit of truth I suppose. Although hatred is its own form of intimacy. Maybe I’ll write a post on it some time.

          3. “You don’t have to pay your debts. In the end, people decide for themselves what they owe.”

            I’ve been having difficulty working this around in my head. If you truly believe this, why can it not be turned around to say, “In the end, people decide for themselves what they are owed.” And if one decides they are owed more than the law cares to enforce?

          4. I think you’ve got me exactly right. People do decide what they are owed – though “decide” is, to me, always a bit metaphoric.

            Your hypothetical creditor who decides they are owed more than the law cares to enforce often abandons the law.

  2. “If someone asks you for a prenuptial agreement, tell them they can have everything you own right now, and if they don’t apologize, leave and don’t turn back.”

    So what should you do if you’ve earned nothing or less than nothing?

    1. Thanks for the question. In rare moments of clarity I remember not to tell people what they should do. One reason psychoanalysts in the past justified not giving any answers is that people are already playing a one-sided game with them. My explanation is that there are very few answers to give.

      You could talk about it, I suppose, and figure out what feelings are behind this. (Is it a need to control the future?). It can be possible to come to an agreement that both people think is fair. But when you start comparing objects (money, cars, houses) to feelings (sense of contribution or value), things get messy.

      What people actually feel entitled to depends largely on what happens.

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