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Challenging the assumptions against prenuptial agreements

Research in the field of psychology has revealed a common trait among humans that significantly influences the decisions we make. This trait is called the “optimism bias.” In short, the optimism bias may cause us to believe that we are more likely than others to experience success or a positive outcome and less likely than others to suffer failure or a negative outcome.

This phenomenon causes some smokers to believe that they won’t get lung cancer. It also convinces some individuals that they’re almost certain to win the lottery. And even with the U.S. divorce rate as high as it is, the optimism bias might make newlyweds absolutely certain that their marriage will last for life.

To be sure, there are definite advantages to being more optimistic than may be warranted. But it can also cause problems as well. As just one example, consider the optimism bias toward marriage.

Actor Charlie Sheen announced earlier this month that he will be getting married for a fourth time. Despite his history of failed relationships and despite the fact that he is planning to marry a former adult film actress who is half his age, Sheen has said publicly that he will not be asking his soon-to-be fourth wife to sign a prenuptial agreement. The 48-year-old actor believes that “prenups poison marriages.”

Of course, Charlie Sheen is not known for having sound judgment to begin with. Therefore, he’s not an ideal example of an otherwise-rational person making irrational decisions due to an optimism bias.

That being said, many couples choose not to pursue a prenuptial agreement either because they believe it will “poison” their marriage or because they believe that their marriage is much less likely to end in divorce than statistics would suggest.

But rather than causing divorce, there are many who believe that a prenuptial agreement can actually strengthen marriages by getting couples to talk about serious issues like money and relationship expectations before walking down the aisle.

And even if you are sure that your marriage will defy the odds, why not seek a prenuptial agreement anyway? As a point of comparison, people don’t buy auto insurance because they plan to be in a car accident.

Optimism is a good thing. But being optimistic doesn’t mean we can’t also be reasonably cautious. Prenuptial agreements are a good way to protect both you and your spouse in the event of divorce – no matter how unlikely that may be.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Charlie Sheen And Fiancee Brett Rossi Will Not Sign A Prenup," April Sperry, Feb. 18, 2014

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