Pre-Nuptial Jitters

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A new study says doubts before a wedding, especially among women, are a warning sign of impending marital strife

According to a new study, you should not cast aside doubts over whether to get married as harmless pre-wedding jitters. For these are a sign of impending marital strife.

The new research—conducted by psychologists at UCLA and published in Journal of Family Psychology—is the first scientific study to test whether doubts about getting married are more likely to lead to an unhappy marriage. The study demonstrates that pre-wedding uncertainty, especially among women, predicts higher divorce rates and less marital satisfaction years later.

A total of 232 newlywed couples in Los Angeles participated in the study, the average age of husbands being 27 and their wives being 25 at the time of marriage. Surveys were conducted within the first few months of marriage and follow-up surveys every six months for four years.

While the researchers found that women were less likely than men to have doubts—47 per cent of husbands and 38 per cent of wives claimed they were hesitant and had doubts at the time of marriage—their doubts were more meaningful in predicting trouble after the wedding. Nineteen per cent of those women who reported pre-wedding doubts were divorced four years later, compared with 8 per cent of those who did not report having doubts. For husbands, 14 per cent who reported premarital doubts were divorced four years later, compared with 9 per cent who did not report having doubts.

Of the 36 per cent of couples who had no doubts about getting married, six per cent got divorced within four years. Where only the wife had doubts, 18 per cent of couples got divorced, and where it was the husband alone who had doubts, 10 per cent of the couples got divorced. Where both partners had uncertainties over getting married, 20 per cent of the couples got divorced.

Doubt proved to be a decisive factor, regardless of how satisfied the spouses were with their relationships when interviewed, whether their parents were divorced, whether the couple lived together before the wedding, and how difficult their engagement was.