Pre-Wedding Jitters are Common, But Not Benign

October 4, 2012

A new study has demonstrated a significant link between pre-wedding jitters and the four-year divorce rate, especially for women. This is in keeping with women filing for divorce more frequently than men, even though fewer women than men had doubts about the marriage going in. 

232 recently married couples were interviewed every six months for four years, tracking levels of marital satisfaction and dissolution.  The average age of marriage was 27 for males, 25 for females.

Four-Year Divorce Rate


Neither party had doubts (only 1/3 of couples): 6%

Husband only had doubts: 10%

Wife only had doubts: 18%

Both parties had doubts: 20%

Doubts as Predictor of Divorce

 % of Total% Divorced in 4 Years
Men with doubts4714
Men without doubts539
Women with doubts3819*
Women without doubts628

*Only the female correlation was found to be statistically significant.

The researchers found that the link held even after controlling for the following factors:

  • Divorced parents
  • Stormy engagement
  • Cohabitation before marriage
  • One or more partners neurotic

One limitation of the study was that the nature of doubt was not explored. It is not known whether doubters were uneasy about their choice of partner, or of marriage in general.

In another recent study of 464 newlyweds, researchers tracked marital satisfaction over a four year period.  (The same 232 couples as above, I wonder? I hope not.) They found that after that period, 60% of husbands and 70% of wives considered themselves happy in their marriage. Satisfactions levels did not lessen after the “honeymoon phase.” Rather, the unhappy couples were the ones who reported themselves “not satisfied” from the start. Those couples were 3-4 times more likely to divorce than couples with moderate to high levels of satisfaction.

In a time when popular culture profiles Bridezillas talking about their “first weddings” and couples altering their vows to say “as long as we both shall love,” the implications are clear.

1) Do not marry anyone you have doubts about. In fact, do not get engaged to anyone you have doubts about. 

2) Do not marry anyone you are not head over heels in love with.

3) Do not marry anyone who is not demonstrably head over heels in love with you.

Aside from the tragedy of marrying a person you will not be happy with, the risk to any children, and the risk to men of a misandrist family law tradition, there is also enormous opportunity cost. The minute you marry someone you suspect is not right for you, you take yourself off the market, increase the temptation of infidelity and the likelihood of divorce. 

Don’t do it. Much better to work it out before setting the date. So say the study’s authors:

“Doubt should not simply be dismissed as a normative experience or viewed as something that will go away once partners make a commitment to each other. Rather, feelings of premarital uncertainty should be validated, taken seriously and used as an opportunity for exploration.”