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1. Baby, You're So Money
Without a doubt, money conversations are one of the shakiest topics that come up in any marriage (again and again). We love shiny new things as much as the next couple, but problems creep up when we don't see eye-to-eye on our spending habits. In fact, the most common reasons we argue over money are less about the actual cash, and more about what the green stuff means. What a change from when we were single and only accountable to ourselves....
We can totally relate when we hear that research out of the University of Virginia finds that money evokes feelings of freedom, control, trust, security, and self-worth-and that these things can really impact how we think and feel about ourselves and our spouses. Money issues can cause us to question how compatible we feel with our partners, make us judge the way he/she handles money, and make us look for someone to blame when our bank account's low or we've missed a cable bill payment. Though newer studies find that money is no longer the top reason for divorce, it still causes blow-outs and squabbles over incompatible spending habits, materialism, and consumer debt. When either one of us bitches about finances, just talking about the subject raises the stress level in our home. And the more time we spend arguing, the less time we spend together. On the flip side, when we have a solid and open understanding of the role money plays in our relationship, our financial confidence trickles into other areas of our life in a positive way. Suddenly, our sex life is better and our jobs feel more manageable! Which would you prefer to experience?
Now, by no means do we think money buys happiness, because we've met our share of miserable rich folks; and if anything, they remind us that it's important to be grateful for your spouse and the life we share, even if there's room for improvement. But we do suggest that the next time you sneak away to Barneys or Best Buy for a shopping spree, consider how your spending will affect your partner, plus the consequences it might have on the short- and long-term health of your marriage. Even before we said "I do," both of us had money matters on the mind-though we had very different opinions on this touchy topic. Here's how we found our way.
Bill: My friends and family all agree: money changes everything. And in most marriages, the subject of money can be the cause of some ugly conversations. It doesn't matter if you're liquid, live on credit, or thrive somewhere in between: When you decide to join your life and wallet with another person's, there's always the question of what's fiscally mine, yours, and ours-and a lot of it's based on what you earned before meeting each other and the assets acquired during and after. Nobody likes to talk about money, even if you're rich, because in the big picture, it affects trust levels, not to mention how safe or free we feel in our relationship. So to me, it was really important to map out my money situation with Giuliana before we walked down the aisle together. It felt like a really wise and husbandy thing to do.
When couples get married in their early twenties, both the husband and wife are usually broke, so it doesn't matter where they are financially. You grow together, and build your nest egg from the ground up. But when I married Giuliana, I was thirty-six and Giuliana was thirty-one, so our situation was a little different. I'd spent eight years slaving away, eighteen hours a day, building my company before I even knew Giuliana's name. I had heard that one of the top things couples argue about is money, specifically debt, and it's stressful
on marriages. I wanted to make sure we had as little stress as possible in ours.
I spent three years working for Donald Trump after I won season one of The Apprentice. All day, and all night, our conversations were about how to protect and make money. So when Trump heard I was engaged, I shouldn't have
been too surprised when he called to offer his advice. The golden words? "Make sure you get a pre-nup." Donald's always been a good friend and mentor to me, so I was open to hearing him out.
Giuliana: Gee, lucky us...
Bill: I'd already thought about a pre-nup, and I even made jokes about it to Giuliana before we got engaged. "Hey, when we get married, we've got to sign a pre-nup-it's part of the program," I'd half-tease her. I thought it was a good idea to just keep things as clean, documented, and clearly defined as possible, and it helped to hear a happily married multibillionaire second that. When I spoke to Giuliana the night after I talked to Donald, I told her, "Trump says we should get a pre-nup"-and she said fine. Fine! So I researched a bunch of good lawyers and had an agreement drawn up by one of the best: a really good, trustworthy guy named David. The document basically stated that what I owned prior to September 1, 2007-the date we got married-was mine and what Giuliana owned prior to September 1, 2007 was hers. Everything from September 1 on would be part of the marriage and ours to share. It was pretty basic.
Giuliana: Wait, the pre-nup said all of that? I have to confess: I never read it. I gave it to, um, "my lawyer" to review. And by lawyer, I mean my older brother Pasquale, who sells plane parts to the military by day and is a classically trained opera singer by night. He's always had strong opinions about my relationships, which is a nice way of saying he's hated all my past boyfriends and threatened their lives if they ever hurt me, until Bill came along.
Bill: This is when I learned about the Neapolitan way. Especially in business, many Italians like to put things off as if they don't exist, until they're ready to deal with them on their watch. For five months, I asked Giuliana for feedback on the latest draft of the pre-nup, and for five months, she fed me excuses: My lawyer is out of town. I had to work the red carpet at the Oscars....
Giuliana: When I mentioned the pre-nup to Pasquale, he was disgusted. The word pre-nup isn't even in my family's vocabulary: he never signed one, my sister never signed one, and my parents certainly didn't sign one. To me, marriage is about becoming one-money, feelings, families. What's mine is yours, what's yours is mine. My brother feels the same way. So he was blunt about the document: "If Bill really loves you, he wouldn't ask you to sign this. I didn't ask my wife to sign a pre- nup...."
Bill: Because he didn't have anything when he got married at twenty- four!
Giuliana: Well, that's true-he didn't have much when he married my sister-in-law Nikki. But he sure had an opinion on the topic. "Italian men don't give their women pre-nups, and Italian women sure as hell don't sign them," he said. "Tell your American husband to shove that pre-nup up his ass." And that was basically the advice from my lawyer- slash-consigliere. I don't think Bill asked his friends and family what they thought about asking me to sign that pre-nup, but maybe he should have.
Bill: My friends assumed I'd have one, but I don't think my mom would have cared either way.
There's Nothing Funny About Money
Giuliana: I have to admit that when Bill first brought up the idea of a pre-nup, I thought he might be joking around. I even joked that I'd sign the pre-nup if he put a fidelity clause in there about how much I'd get if he cheated, and a weight clause about how much he'd pay me if he put on fifty pounds of man boobs and a beer gut. Because we laughed about it so much, I guess part of me thought it would go away. It made me too upset to think that Bill would attach a dollar-and- cents value to our marriage. So we danced around the topic for a long time, or at least I did.
Bill: I wish Giuliana had been honest with me about how unhappy the papers made her before I dropped five grand on them in legal fees-I felt like a schmuck, and I lost money. And I didn't think she was kidding about the fidelity clause, because it cost me another $1,200 to add it in!
Giuliana: Look, I'm not this Beverly Hills chick who spends her afternoons on Rodeo Drive. I work really hard, and I don't spend money I don't have...at least, I haven't since my twenties. When a woman looks like a financial assassin who is gonna rob you blind, then a man should absolutely consider a pre-nup, but that was never me. If God forbid we broke up tomorrow, and Bill were to remarry some hoochie, I would definitely tell him to get a pre-nup because most women can't be trusted with a fat wallet. But I knew I'd never screw him, and I knew he would never screw me. I just had that feeling, and it was enough for me. I didn't need it on paper. I knew I could be trusted.
Bill: Let me tell you something: I've known Giuliana for four years, and if things broke badly in this relationship, she'd go for my throat. She would try to take me for every red cent I have and make sure I ended up homeless.
Giuliana: If Bill cheated on me or did something really awful like leave me for another woman, I would one hundred percent ruin his life and take him for all he's worth, but this isn't news to anyone who knows me. I'm a crazy Italian chick, so if my man wrongs me, I will absolutely take him to the cleaners and destroy him. That may sound harsh, but it's better than what I would really want to do to Bill, which is chop his balls off and feed them to the lions at the zoo. (Actually, I'd never do that. I'd get thrown in jail and where would that leave me, except with a kick-ass True Hollywood Story?) Bottom line, I knew Bill was a good person because I dated a lot of dogs before him. I had faith in him and in us. He can't fault me for that.
Bill: Aww, that's sweet, honey. I think.
Giuliana: What really put the period on this issue for me is when I bumped into the world-famous financial guru Suze Orman at the Gracie Awards, in New York City. Suze was so sweet, even when she practically cornered me in the elevator. "I hear you're getting married!" she said, and then: "You're signing a pre-nup, right?" I told her about how Bill really wanted one and how I was hesitant to sign it. She started shaking her head furiously. "No, no, no. I'm talking about you giving him a pre-nup. What if you land The Today Show, or just start making more money? Your fame could explode! How will you protect yourself?" Bill had Trump on his team; Suze Orman was on mine: Team Blue vs. Team Pink. This was starting to feel like an episode of Celebrity Apprentice.
That night, I couldn't sleep because, despite the well-intentioned advice that Suze gave me, the pre-nup still didn't feel right to me for two big reasons. For one, I worried about how Bill's mine-versus- yours point of view would play out in other financial aspects of our marriage. If we were going to divvy up what we had before we got hitched, how would we want to structure our money as husband and wife? I'm not a fan of having separate accounts-you pay for the kids' tuition, I'll cover family vacations. Does that ever work? I also didn't want our marriage to get off to such a litigious, unromantic start. We may have been engaged, but we still didn't know each other well enough at that point to be painfully honest about such explosive topics like how much we were or weren't worth and how that might impact our hypothetical divorce!
In the end, I decided not to sign the papers, but I didn't tell Bill right away. I continued to feel really awkward about the pre-nup topic and dodged it whenever I could. It was clear Bill felt weird badgering me about it, though he really wanted an answer. Looking back, I should have been more honest with him, but we don't really talk about money in my family, so why would I start with Bill? To me, money is a by- product of working hard. It's what you use to pay bills, fund dreams, and help out the people you care for. I didn't see the point of hashing all this out with Bill, and I was a little afraid that if we did, we'd second guess whether we were really meant to be together if this was a big issue for him and not for me. I also wasn't comfortable planning how our marriage would end before it began. The whole topic freaked me out.
Bill: So she waited until a week before our wedding to tell me she wouldn't sign. At that point, it probably wouldn't have even been valid because a lawyer could say she signed it under duress!
Giuliana: Hmmm, I never thought about that. When Bill called me for a final answer, I was just off a shoot and really stressed out. I didn't tell him how sad it made me to think about life without him, that I found his need for financial structure to be totally unromantic, and that I was sorry for avoiding a topic that was really important to him.
Bill: No, she definitely didn't say any of that. She just said, "Italians don't sign pre-nups."
Giuliana: Yeah, that was it.
Bill: It wasn't quite the response I had hoped for, but I was relieved to finally get any response from Giuliana, and while I didn't entirely buy her Italian excuse, I realized it was the closest thing I'd get to a straight answer from her. I didn't want to be right or wrong, I just wanted us to be happy. It felt too frustrating to not connect the way we usually do, and I just wanted it to be over. You make sacrifices in marriage, and while this was something that I thought would be wise, it made Giuliana upset, so maybe it wasn't the best idea after all. You don't need a PhD in psychology to know that feeling this awkward before a wedding is no way to kick off a life together.