Most people experience some anxiety before their wedding, which is normal. After all, you are planning a big event where numerous things could go wrong. But that’s not the same as getting “wedding jitters,” or starting to worry that maybe you shouldn’t be marrying your fiancé. It’s an old wives’ tale that everyone has doubts, and now there is research that has found it’s important to consider any hesitation of this kind seriously. It seems that women, especially, who experience wedding jitters before marriage have a higher rate of divorce down the road.1
The study, which took place at the University of California, Los Angeles, discovered that women who are having doubts about their impending marriage are much more likely to get divorced in the next few years. The scientists worked with a pool of 232 newly married couples living in the Los Angeles area. Over a four-year period, the researchers would meet with each couple every six months to conduct interviews. During the initial meeting, each partner was asked whether they ever had uncertainty or hesitancy about getting married.
While more men overall admitted to doubts before getting married, the women’s answers were a much better predictor of marital dissatisfaction. Forty-seven percent of the men and 38 percent of the women said they had uncertainty before their wedding day. The key number, however, was that 19 percent of the women with uncertainty were divorced after four years, as compared to eight percent of the women who had felt no uncertainty. There was definitely less accuracy among the men, of whom 14 percent of the doubters were divorced four years later, compared to nine percent who had felt no uncertainty.
When both partners experienced hesitancy prior to getting married, the rate of divorce shot up to 20 percent by four years of marriage. However, when neither partner had hesitancy before getting married, only six percent were divorced during this time period.
So it would seem that any doubts should be seriously heeded because they may very well reflect major relationship problems. If left ignored, the marriage may be doomed from the start. Opening up the lines of communication is essential, ideally before the wedding ever takes place. Any issues that are worrisome have the potential to grow exponentially once you are living together. If both partners are comfortable with the concept of working with a trained counselor, that route may be helpful, but even just sitting down to talk about everything that is bothering you on a regular basis can do the trick. The key is that both people must be willing to talk, listen, and be open with each other.2 Married or not, if your partner won’t make the effort to communicate honestly with you and doesn’t want to hear your concerns, there is little you can do to make the relationship work.
On a related note, earlier this year, the same researchers explored the reasons why some marriages that are happy and successful in the newlywed stage disintegrate over time.3 They studied 136 couples who reported a high level of marital satisfaction during their first four years, then assessed the differences between those couples who were still together after 10 years of marriage versus those who had gotten divorced. The analysis focused on levels of commitment, observed communication, stress, and personality. Their findings concluded that those who divorced expressed more negative communication and outbursts of emotion during the early years of marriage than those who stayed together. It mainly came down to displays of anger, blame, and a lack of support for one another that wore down the marriages eventually.
It would seem that not only is happiness contagious but, so it would seem, is negativity. That goes to show that communication should never be about berating your partner and spewing contempt. All efforts must be focused on making an attempt to discuss a problem and work things out equally and fairly. Paramahansa Yogananda once said that the secret to a good marriage is to wear magnifying glasses while dating and then put on rose colored glasses once you get married. In other words, explore any problems or doubts carefully before you get married. Then once you’ve made the commitment, be communicative and forgiving in all things. Unfortunately, he added, most people do it in reverse. They wear rose colored glasses while dating — sweeping all potential problems under the table — and only pull out the magnifying glasses once they are married, choosing then to focus on every little thing that bothers them about their partner. Very sad!
2 Grohol, John M. “9 Steps to Better Communication Today.” Psych Central. 6 October 2009. Accessed 17 September 2012. <http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/04/14/9-steps-to-better-communication-today/all/1/>.
3 Lavner, Justin A. and Bradbury, Thomas N. “Why do even satisfied newlyweds eventually go on to divorce?” American Psychological Association. February 2012. Accessed 17 September 2012. <http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/fam/26/1/1/>.