‘I’ll marry you but only on a few conditions…’
When Clifford met Annie, they found one thing in common. They both love lists. So together they have written the ultimate list, a list of rules for their marriage.
This prenuptial agreement itemizes every detail of their lives together, from shopping to sex. Timothy Laurence met them in Florida in the apartment that they share.
The living room is neat and tidy, with a dining table already laid for a meal that has yet to be cooked. All the ingredients for the meal are in the kitchen, prepared, weighed, waiting in a line. It is his turn to cook. Annie is chatting over a cup of coffee by the pristine kitchen bar when her fiancй pours himself a cup and joins her. He touches her arm. She tenses, looks at him anxiously, and asks, ‘Oh, sorry. Did I say something wrong?’
‘No, no. I was just showing affection,’ Clifford explains ponderously.
‘Oh, I see,’
His hand returns to her arm, and this time she relaxes. It is a significant moment, because spontaneity is not at the heart of this relationship. Love, for Clifford and Annie, means following a book of rules.
A signed, legal document
They have become curiously famous since details of their prenuptial contract were publicized. They wanted a legal contract, signed and witnessed by lawyers. Their agreement is intended to regulate the chaotic heart, and smooth the path of true love before the journey of marriage has begun We will have healthy sex 3 to 5 times per week’ ,it declares, and continues through every aspect of married life, from the wedding itself, to a trip to the supermarket: ‘We will spend $400 a month’, to who is boss when it comes to the big decisions. They are getting married in six months’ time. The ceremony will last twenty minutes. The reception will be held in a restaurant on Miami beach. We will invite a twenty guests each, who will be served two drinks, one of which may be alcoholic’.
List of rules
So what are some of the other rules that will lead to married bliss?
– Once we are married, we will each receive an allowance of $70 per week to cover haircuts, eating out, gifts for friends and spending money.
– We won’t raise our voices at each other. If we get angry, we will count to 10 and take a deep breath.
– We will not use tobacco products.
– We will go to bed and turn out the lights by 11.30 pm.
– Family leadership and decision-making will be Clifford’s responsibility. Annie will make decisions in emergencies and when Clifford is not available.
– We will buy unleaded fuel, and we won’t let the fuel gauge get lower than half a tank.
If any of these rules are broken, a fine will have to be paid out of personal savings.
Everyone wants to know whether they are the saviours of modern marriage, or the butchers of romance. ‘Did we put anything in the contract about love?’ asks Annie, a little uncertainly. 1 think so,’ says Clifford. Ah, yes, they did: ‘We will provide unconditional love and fulfill each other’s basic needs.’ Oh, good. So that’s all right then.
Their prenuptial contract is a response to uncertainty, and a plan for emotional and financial security for the future. At 39, Clifford has been through two divorces and has, two sons. Annie, 31, was married briefly and disastrously in her early twenties. As Clifford likes to point out, the divorce rate, for first-time marriages is now 54 per cent. ‘Nobody plans to fail,’ ‘ he says, ‘but a lot of people fail to plan.