Next I spent some time exploring each one's thoughts and feelings about the prenuptial agreement. I emphasized to Ellen that I understood why her first reaction was to feel hurt, sad, disappointed, and angry at Mark's insistence on this legal document to protect himself. I told her that many if not most women (or men) in this position had similar feelings. I then worked to diffuse the hurt by saying that it was possible to understand her fiance's need for a prenuptial agreement as having everything to do with his past and little or nothing to do with his love for her and trust in her.
From Mark, I learned just how ugly and devastating his divorce from his wife of 30-plus years had been. He said that the most painful feature of the whole ordeal was that, after he'd spent three decades working hard as the primary provider for his family, his children now would receive only half as much money as he'd planned because of his ex-wife's divorce settlement. This was so hard for Mark to take that he'd vowed to himself that he'd never again let anything cut into his children's inheritance from him, even if that meant never marrying again.
He added that he'd be perfectly happy living with Ellen for the rest of his life without a marriage license, and the only reasons he was marrying her were that he loved her and it would make her happy. He was willing to take the step, but only with a prenuptial agreement, which would safeguard the remaining assets that were meant for his children.
Mark's revelations about his history and feelings created a new source of sadness in Ellen: she was so excited about getting married, but Mark wasn't! I said to her that a truth I'd learned as a couples therapist was that, in most cases, one person's bliss was their mate's ho-hum choice—they'd do it for their partner, but it wasn't their dream. This seemed to ease her distress somewhat, since she realized that she wasn't the only one confronting a situation like this.