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Wedding jitters

Are you getting married in the morning? (Ding dong! the bells are gonna chime!) How do you feel about that? Are you filled with the joys and ready for a bright and shiny new life with your best beloved?

Or is there a nagging doubt or two, lurking somewhere at the back of your mind?

Often dismissed as ‘jitters’, inevitable but insignificant, it seems pre-wedding doubts may have a deeper significance. A new study from psychologists at the University of California in Los Angeles suggests that wives who experienced pre-wedding doubts are almost two and half times more likely than the more certain to get divorced within four years.

Justin Lavner, a UCLA doctoral candidate in psychology, was lead author of the study. He said: “People think everybody has premarital doubts and you don’t have to worry about them. We found they are common but not benign.”

The research, published online by Journal of Family Psychology, was conducted amongst 232 newly wed couples living inLos Angeles. Researchers conducted follow-up surveys every six months for four years.
At their initial interview, 47 per cent of husbands but only 38 per cent of wives said yes to the question ‘were you ever uncertain or hesitant about getting married?’, a result in keeping with the traditional image of men as more reluctant to tie the knot.

However, quite intriguingly female doubts seem to be more likely than male ones to indicate future marital difficulties. The researchers found that 19 per cent of wives who remembered doubts before the wedding were divorced at the end of the four years, while only eight per cent of those who had had no doubts had split from their spouses.

Amongst husbands, the four-year divorce rate for doubters was 14 per cent, compared to nine per cent for those who had no pre-wedding jitters.

Many family lawyers report that women are more likely than men to initiate divorce proceeding and we can see a telling confirmation of this in the study’s figures for couples. When only the husband in a particular couple had doubts about the viability of a marriage, ten per cent of such couples were divorced by the four year mark. However, when only the wife experienced doubts, the divorce rate jumped to 18 per cent, just two per cent less than the divorce rate for couples in which both partners had been dubious about the marriage. How telling!

After analysing the data, the researchers concluded that pre-wedding doubts was the single most important factor in predicting divorce, regardless of the history of the relationship or the family backgrounds of the husband and wife.

People take that walk up the aisle in search of different things – emotional security perhaps, or companionship – and for different reasons: family pressure, social convention, legal clarity, to create a safe family group for children, because they are convinced that he or she is THE ONE.

But the occasional drunken escapade at walk-in wedding chapels in Las Vegas aside, very few people tie the knot without getting to know their intended first – and usually pretty well.

Yes, those wedding jitters could be fuelled by memories of unhappy events in the past, or just be the natural anxiety we all feel before a major life change. But as the Los Angeles research suggests, they could also be a significant sign of things to come, a signal from your subconscious that you are not as compatible with your spouse to be as you might wish you were.

People get caught up in the social side of wedding preparation. To get married is, on some level, to be a success, to be approved of. People may like the idea of marriage even if, deep down, they are not really sure the relationship has a future. And of course, once friends and family get involved, the train really starts to roll out of the station. It’s easier to try and pretend you’re completely happy and push any question marks to be back of your mind. And then, with the big day looming, all you’ll be left with is that hard-to-pin-down sense of doubt.

To quote Justin Lavner: “You know yourself, your partner and your relationship better than anybody else does; if you’re feeling nervous about [marriage] pay attention to that. It’s worth exploring what you’re nervous about.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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