Whether you marry for love or money, sooner or later you’re going to have to sit down and talk about money…

It’s the single biggest issue in any marriage, and talking about it in an open and healthy way may be the best opportunity you have to keep love and romance aglow.

Marriage is a contract between kindred souls, bonded as one by love, trust, respect, and understanding.

What more do you need, beyond the dreamy shared gaze, the glittering band of gold, the echoes of “I do” that invite the happy couple to seal their magical moment with a kiss? Well, for one thing, you need a good lawyer.

Planning for divorce before you get married

For all the romance we associate with marriage, it is also a legal proposition, calling on both parties to choose whether to share or divide their possessions in the event that the glitter wears off.

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“You need to plan for divorce before you get married,” says Kirsty Bisset, entrepreneur and blogger. “Marriage, without all the fluffy stuff, is a transaction. It’s a binding agreement to spend the rest of your life with somebody.”

That may come as a jolt to those of us who believe in the fluffy stuff, but, people change.

Marriage, without all the fluffy stuff, is a transaction. It’s a binding agreement to spend the rest of your life with somebody

And so may your feelings for each other, 10 or 20 years down the line, which is why it’s good to have those “healthy and happy conversations” while you still can.

The chief subject, of course, being money, and how you should divide your worldly goods in the event of an irretrievable breakdown.

“Courageous conversations”

Psychologist Dorianne Weil, calls these “courageous conversations”, and argues that they’re not really about money after all.

“It’s really about what’s mine and what’s yours. It’s about power struggles. The mindset is me and you, not us. The money becomes the natural scapegoat.”

Dorianne, known as Dr D on radio, also believes that people don’t fall in love, as they do in the movies: “You fall in lust, and you grow in love,” she says. “The fantasies that you have are almost always positive, you’re making decisions that are going to last the rest of your life, very often without even knowing anything about the person.”

A good and lasting marriage depends on what Dorianne calls the Platinum Rule, which is: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”

Marriage is more than a relationship, it’s a regime

But for attorney Aleisha Oliver, marriage is more than a relationship; it’s a regime. And it’s very important for the parties to choose the “marital regime” that will best govern their finances: an antenuptial contract with community of property, or out of community of property, with or without accrual.

Either way, says Aleisha, there must be equal communication, and equal respect at the heart of the negotiation.

“Money is at the root of problems, 80 to 90% of the time.”

Kirsty agrees, which is why, every few months, she sits down with her husband, Barry, to discuss finances over a glass of wine and an Excel spreadsheet.

“Money is always a huge issue between two people, so we’ve kept the conversation very open. We have access to each other’s bank accounts. You need to meet each other halfway.”

Healthy communication is the key to a healthy marriage

For Dorianne, healthy communication is the key to a healthy marriage. “You go into marriage with hope and an open mind,” she says. “You want security, you want friendship, you want continuity, some shared interest, kindness, concern for the other person, respect. Marriage isn’t the icing on the cake. It’s the nourishing fruit-cake underneath.”

There must be equal communication, and equal respect at the heart of the negotiation

How you choose to divide that cake can make all the difference to the way your marriage thrives and prospers, for the good of both parties.

But it isn’t easy: “It’s hard work,” says Dorianne. “You have to keep asking yourself, what if? You have to face up to certain realities. You have to sit down and talk about your hopes, dreams, and intentions.”

And if you get that right, if you manage to find what Dorianne calls the balance between closeness and intrusion, space and distance, you’ll have more than enough time to celebrate the fluffy stuff – the love and romance – that brought you together in the first place.