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Wedding Jitters Could Be a Predictor for a Future Divorce


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

Brides who hesitate about getting married might want to consider having second thoughts before starting a life-long commitment, suggest psychologists from the University of California, Los Angeles.

According to the new research, uncertainty and wedding cold feet are a real signal of trouble ahead and might be even a predictor for a future divorce. Justin Lavner, a doctoral candidate in psychology, who authored the study, said that premarital doubts are quite common among people, but they should not be ignored. If one feels nervous and uneasy about getting married, then they should pay close attention to that and explore more deeply the reasons that lie behind the uncertainty and nervousness, he suggested.

For the purposes of the study, Lavner and a team of psychologists involved more than 250 married couples and carried out interviews with them a few months after they tied the knot. The average age of husbands at the time of getting married was 27 years, and the wives' average age was 25. Researchers also conducted follow-up surveys will all the couples every six months for up to 4 years into marriage.

During their first interview, nearly 50 percent of the husbands and about 40 percent of the wives admitted to having uncertain feelings about starting a family. The investigators noted, however, that the wives' jitters were a better predictor of trouble to come ahead in the marriage. In particular, it was revealed that nearly 20 percent of the women who admitted of having hesitated about getting married were divorced four years later, when compared with 8 percent of the wives who did not have any second thoughts. As to men, 14 percent of the husbands who said that they had been uncertain about getting married were divorced four years later, compared with 9 percent of those who did not have any concerns about getting married.

The psychologists noted that doubt and hesitation was a big predictor of a future divorce or separation regardless of other factors, including whether the partners cohabited before getting married, if they had tough times during their engagement period or whether they experienced parental divorce. It was found that 36 percent of couples did not experience any doubts about marriage beforehand. Of these couples, six percent got divorced within the following 4 years. In families where only the husband had premarital doubts, 10 percent got divorced, and when only the wife had wedding cold feet, the divorce rate increased up to 18 percent. When both husband and wife had doubts about getting married, the likelihood of a future divorce jumped to 20 percent.

The scientists said that among the couples who remained still married after four years, husbands and wives with jitters were significantly less happy in their marriages when compared to those who did not hesitate to get married. What this tells us, Lavner said, is that when women are not quite sure about getting married, they should not just dismiss or ignore such doubts. People should not assume that loving a person is enough to overpower all the concerns, he added. There is no evidence that problems in a marriage just fade away or get better, if anything, problematic issues are more likely to increase. Therefore, researchers suggested that couples who experience concerns before wedding should share their doubts and try to work through them together before they walk down the aisle.

The findings of the study are published online in the Journal of Family Psychology.

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