You’re engaged to be married, but you’re privately having
some doubts about the relationship. Don’t just write off those feelings to cold
feet, suggests a new study published online by the Journal of Family Psychology.
study was the first to look at whether misgivings before a marriage are a
harbinger of trouble to come—and it turns out they are, especially for women.
When asked, “Were you ever uncertain or hesitant about getting married,” 38% of
newlywed women said yes. Four years later, 19% of these women were divorced,
compared to only 8% of those who didn’t report having doubts.
Among couples who were still together after four years, pre-wedding
doubts predicted less satisfaction with the marriage. It seems that second
thoughts before a wedding sometimes foreshadow regrets afterward.
Don’t Dismiss Doubts
Doubts before a wedding are very common, of course. In this
study, almost 40% of women and nearly 50% of men fessed up to having them. But
for some couples, uncertainty about getting married may also be uncommonly important as an early warning
Such doubts shouldn’t be dismissed lightly, according to Justin
Lavner, study lead author and a doctoral candidate in psychology at UCLA.
Lavner cautions that it could be a big mistake to assume that your misgivings
will go away once you’re married or that true love will conquer all your premarital
Instead, Lavner says, it’s important to explore what you’re
nervous about. Doubts don’t always mean you should call off the wedding. But
they may mean you and your partner have some significant issues to work out
before the big day. In some cases, it may be well worth your while to consider premarital
Do Start Off on Firm Footing
recent study by Laver and his colleagues, published in the same journal, showed
just how crucial it is to get marriage off to a positive start. That study
included 251 couples, who were followed over the first four years of marriage.
The good news: Most of these spouses—almost 60% of husbands
and nearly 70% of wives—were happy in their relationships. And contrary to
popular opinion, their satisfaction with marriage didn’t wear off once the
honeymoon phase was over.
This study, like others before it, found that growing unhappiness
was limited mostly to spouses who were less satisfied with their relationships
from day one. Spouses in this low-satisfaction group were three to four times
more likely to get divorced within four years than those who felt moderately to
very satisfied with their marriages.
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