The Priscilla effect The couples signing 'pre-prenups' to address relationship issues – well before they even think about marriage
19:26 GMT, 28 May 2012
According to the 2008 book Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good, Priscilla Chan made Mark Zuckerberg sign a a document that stated they enjoy at least one date night and 100 minutes away from his apartment or office every week.
Now it seems they are not alone, as lawyers in the U.S. are reporting rising demand for 'pre-prenups'; agreements that see unmarried couples addressing their relationship expectations in print.
A survey from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers revealed that there had been a 39per cent increase in request for cohabitation agreements from live-in couples over the past five years.
Relationship agreement Priscilla Chan is said to have made Mark Zuckerberg agree to at least one date night and 100 minutes' quality time together every week
The other difference, the AAML noticed, was that many more of the couples requesting these contracts were heterosexual, while in the past cohabitation agreements had mostly functioned as a prenup alternative for same-sex couples.
Ken Altshuler, president of the AAML, told CNN: 'We've seen a real dramatic increase. A lot more people are delaying, or forgoing, marriage and people are realizing as you get older, you have more things to protect.'
The idea has become such a trend that it has had a presence on the small screen, on CBS hit the Big Bang Theory.
In an episode last November, Sheldon presents Amy with a 31-page relationship agreement.
Living up to their geeky characters, she deems it 'so romantic'. He replies: 'Mutual indemnification always is.'
Humour aside, though, marriage counsellors believe that a pre-prenup – however formal or informal – can benefit a relationship.
Romantic The relationship agreement has become such a trend that it has had a presence on the small screen, on CBS hit the Big Bang Theory
Different from a traditional prenup, which typically addresses financial issues in the event of a divorce, a relationship agreement allows couples to establish expectations from a lifestyle perspective.
These might include division of labour when it comes to housework, and how much quality time a couple feels they should spend together.
Kelly M Roberts, a marriage and family therapist in Oklahoma City, explained to the New York Times: 'Each party has a chance to draw a line in the sand or negotiate.
'It’s not based on economic earnings but on relationship capital.'
In fact, New York therapist Paul Hokemeyer tells the paper, relationship agreements are simply formalising the verbal agreements that have existed for centuries.
'The issues haven’t changed, but how we’re framing them has,' he said.