What We Can Learn From Amelia Earhart’s Boss Lady Prenup
Key takeaway: Have an exit strategy.
If I’ve learned anything from reading “US Weekly,” it’s that prenups are this season’s MUST HAVE for celebrity relationships. These legal documents help the rich protect their assets from the very people they pledge to spend the rest of their lives with. (Fact: Most celebrity marriages last approximately the length of one very long, drawn-out fart.)
But back in the 1930s, when Amelia Earhart was off being a pioneer of modern aviation and a general badass, her prenup served as less of a financial safeguard and more as a boss reminder that marriage means different things to different people.
To Amelia, marriage meant honest communication and keeping one’s options open:
Here are a few marriage pro-tips from Amelia’s prenup:
Ask for what you want
Amelia typed out her prenup for her then-fiancé, George Putnam, who she refers to in the letter simply as “GP.” George was a an author and publisher who proposed to Amelia six times before she finally acquiesced. The two were married on February 7, 1931, six years before Amelia’s fateful flight around the world.
In the letter, Amelia speaks candidly of her “reluctance to marry,” and worries that the union could threaten her career (a valid concern that will resonate with women today). Further proving that she was light years ahead of her time, Amelia asks for an open marriage:
“On our life together I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any midaevil code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly.”
Amelia spent her life circumnavigating the globe?—?it’s understandable that she wouldn’t want to be tied down. But her willingness to have an open marriage demonstrates a profound understanding of her own desires and limitations, and?—?on the flip side of that?—?a longing to make marriage work for her and her partner.
Have an exit strategy
Monogamy is not easy and we have the statistics to prove it: According to the American Psychological Association, 40-50% of American marriages end in divorce.
Amelia foresaw the potential for marital disappointment and asked George for a kind of trial period. “I must exact a cruel promise,” she says, “and that is [that] you will let me go in a year if we find no happiness together.”
Once again, Amelia demonstrates impressive pragmatism. It’s easy to go into a relationship hoping for the best and it’s difficult to extract yourself from one that isn’t working. Amelia never had to use that provision?—?her marriage ended in 1937 when she disappeared?—?but the fact that she put it into writing provides an incredible insight into the value she had for herself and her happiness.
Don’t blindside your partner
Amelia had a copy of her letter hand-delivered to George Putnam on the day of their wedding. Under different circumstances, George might not have reacted well: As a groom, it might be unsettling to learn that your future wife doesn’t fully wish to be married, would prefer continuing to see other people and would like to put a time limit on the whole thing.
Thankfully, it wasn’t the first time George heard about it. As Amelia writes in the letter, these are topics the couple has previously discussed (well, most of them, anyway.) As apprehensive as Amelia is about the prospect of marriage, she continues to revisit these issues with her partner. And it’s this kind of active communication that keeps a marriage intact. Or, in Amelia’s case, helps it surpass that one-year benchmark.