Just cold feet, or is there something more to anxiety about walking down the aisle? A recent study at UCLA found that those pre-wedding jitters are actually a good predictor of less marital satisfaction and higher divorce rates years down the line—especially when it’s the bride who’s uncertain.
The researchers interviewed 232 newlywed couples in Los Angeles within their first few months of marriage, asking questions that included “Were you ever uncertain or hesitant about getting married?” Forty-seven percent of husbands and 38 percent of wives answered yes. The couples then took follow-up surveys every six months for four years.
An interesting pattern emerged at the end of those four years: when the husband had doubts about getting married, 10 percent of the couples got divorced within those four years. When it was the wife who had doubts, 18 percent of the couples got divorced. When both the husband and wife had uncertainty, 20 percent got divorced, and when neither were unsure, only 6 percent split up.
Kind of depressing any way you look at it, but the psychologists think there’s more to it: they believe that the results point to the conclusion that although men and women both have doubts, women’s doubts are more meaningful when it comes to predicting marital trouble down the line.
Justin Lavner, the lead author of the study, doles out some advice: “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.”
And keep in mind that nerves about the wedding itself (tripping on your walk down the aisle! wearing white after Labor Day!) are different from anxiety about spending the rest of your life with someone. But even if the worries go beyond the big day, the co-author of the study, Benjamin Karney, advises couples to talk through it and work through the reasons for nerves. “You hope that the big issues have been addressed before the wedding,” he says.