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Having 'Cold Feet' Makes Divorce More Likely

Pre-wedding jitters might be a sign of trouble ahead, one study finds.

By Kristin Wong Sep 6, 2012 3:12PM

Photo: OMG/Getty ImagesA whopping two-thirds of grooms and brides-to-be have doubts before they walk down the aisle. Experiencing cold feet is nothing new, but if you're having second thoughts about your wedding, it may be more than just jitters, according to new research.

Researcher Thomas Bradbury led a study from the University of California, Los Angeles, which found that people who have doubts about their upcoming nuptials are more likely to end up divorced. Warning: This news is likely to make cold feet even chillier.

Bradbury and his researchers surveyed 464 recently married spouses (232 couples). The couples were asked if they experienced "cold feet" before their marriage.  Forty-seven percent of husbands did, compared with 38 percent of wives.

Researchers then followed up with the couples every six months for four years. They surveyed them periodically to find out how satisfied they were in their marriages, if they were still married at all.

After four years, 12 percent of the couples were divorced. Of the women who had reported having cold feet, 19 percent of their marriages ended in divorce by their fourth anniversary. Only 8 percent of wives who didn't report cold feet ended up getting divorced.

For men, 14 percent of cold-feeters were divorced, compared to 9 percent of those who didn't have pre-wedding jitters.

Related video: 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship

In their paper, Do Cold Feet Warn of Trouble Ahead? Premarital Uncertainty and Four-Year Marital Outcomes, the researchers write:

"Taken together, the results indicate that premarital doubts are not simply an instance of feeling anxious before a major event or something to be worked through, but a sign of possible trouble ahead."

And, apparently, it's more of a trend for women than men:

"This appeared to be less true for men, consistent with our prediction that women’s greater attunement toward relationship problems would render their doubts more diagnostic."

Advice columnist Amy Dickinson, who writes for the Chicago Tribune, talked to NPR about the nervousness some couples experience before they tie the knot. Her advice:

"Listen to your doubts—postpone if you need to."

And while Bradbury's study doesn't appear to bode well for the hesitantly betrothed, Dickinson says it's possible to work through those jitters, process them and still walk down the aisle if you do end up feeling ready to do so.

"Discuss your doubts [with your partner], and really spend a lot of time before your marriage talking about marriage, reading about marriage."

And her final bit of advice for couples with cold feet:

"All I can say as a twice married woman is, you know when you know."

Photo: OMG/Getty Images

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