Cold feet? Pre-wedding jitters of bride is divorce indicator

Brides with cold feet – pre-wedding jitters – are 2.5 times more likely to divorce than those who stride the aisle with confidence, a new UCLA study shows.

PRNewsFoto/Empire State Building/Bryan Smith/Empire
Brides from across America, winners of the 17th Annual Empire State Building & TheKnot.com Valentine's Day Weddings Event, posed in their gowns at the 86th floor Observatory, Feb. 13, 2011

Feeling cold feet with the wedding around the corner?  Don’t just shrug off those premarital jitters, psychologists from University of California, Los Angeles say. Especially if you are the bride-to-be.

In a new study, published this month in the American Psychological Association’s  “Journal of Family Psychology,” UCLA researchers found that women who reported pre-wedding doubts were 2.5 times more likely to divorce than those who went confidently down the aisle.

RELATED: 5 top childcare options – value and cost from nanny to day care

And although men were more likely to report doubts about tying the knot (47 percent of husbands said they had been uncertain or hesitant about getting married), it was the women whose jitters were more indicative of later marital trouble. Nineteen percent of women who reported pre-wedding doubts were divorced four years later (It was 14 percent for the nervous husbands-to-be).

"People think everybody has premarital doubts and you don't have to worry about them," Justin Lavner, a UCLA doctoral candidate in psychology and lead author of the study, told the UCLA news service. "We found they are common but not benign.”

The findings come from a four-year study of 464 newlywed spouses.  Researchers interviewed the couples within the first few months of marriage, and then surveyed them every six months for four years.  One of the questions they asked at the initial interview was “Were you ever uncertain or hesitant about getting married?”

The answer to that question (again, 47 percent “yes” for men, 38 percent “yes” for women) appears to be a decisive factor in the potential for splitting: more so, the researchers said, than reported satisfaction with the relationship, whether a person’s parents were divorced, whether a couple lived together before their wedding or how difficult they found their engagement period.

(This throws back to a story we reported earlier this year: While nearly half of first marriages break up within 20 years, the US Centers for Disease control and Prevention found that, despite popular opinion, cohabitation before marriage signaled no higher chances for divorce.)

 "What this tells us," Lavner said, "is that when women have doubts before their wedding, these should not be lightly dismissed. Do not assume your doubts will just go away or that love is enough to overpower your concerns. There's no evidence that problems in a marriage just go away and get better. If anything, problems are more likely to escalate."

RELATED: Are you a Helicopter Parent? Take our quiz!

Just because you’re feeling totally confident, though, doesn’t mean you’re home free. The UCLA researchers found that in 36 percent of couples there were no pre-marital doubts; among those, 6 percent were divorced within four years.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.