OMG: Cold Feet is Real…And It’s Probably Not Good
Posted by Katie Ostoich on September 11, 2012 at 10:17 AM
Even though I said “I do” over two years ago, the idea of marriage is still funny to me. You mean I have to wake up next to that guy everyday, you know forever? And all that time, understanding that both of us will change and grow and never put dirty clothes in the hamper. It’s daunting for a flighty twentysomething, yes? So I find it hard to believe that people don’t have a tiny touch of cold feet…at least a cold toe or two. It seems sensible. Shouldn’t you feel nervous making such a big decision?
But a new study suggests that women who experience doubts before marriage—ones who are willing to self-report their doubts, anyway—are twice as likely to get divorced within the first four years of marriage.
“The researchers found that at least one partner in two-thirds of the couples reported having premarital doubts; 47 percent of the husbands and 38 percent of the wives reported being uncertain about getting married. This finding alone suggests that premarital doubts are common among couples and that men are more likely than women to have doubts.
So what do these doubts predict about the likelihood of divorce in the early stages of marriage? About 12 percent of couples in this sample divorced in the first four years. For husbands, premarital doubts did not seem to predict divorce, but for wives, doubts did predict divorce. Among wives who did not report doubts, only 8 percent divorce, while for those wives who did report doubts, almost one out of five ended up divorced. Of course, perhaps doubts about marriage simply reflect a fragile relationship or other factors that predispose divorce. The scientists also examined whether growing up with divorced parents, living together, or having a difficult personality explained the findings rather than "doubts about the marriage." They found that premarital doubts still predicted divorce above and beyond these factors.”
Maybe it’s common sense? A lot of prophecies are self-fulfilling. Maybe if you are worried enough to say, "Yes, I definitely have doubts about my relationship," then those are significant doubts that go beyond dumb things like putting dirty clothes in the hamper. Maybe ladies who expect fairy-tale perfection are more quickly disillusioned, less likely to diligently work through problems, and more likely to cut and run. And maybe if things are going badly in your marriage you're more likely to fixate on any and all problems you can dream up.
Our verdict: OMG. I’m still going to say it’s normal to have some doubts. Because forever is a long time. If someone is having generalized anxiety about The Big Day, it might not be a warning sign quite as bright and flashing as having doubts about The One. Does this make sense? I freely admit to having anxiety before my wedding, but most of that was related to being a 24-year-old. I had a kind of generalized anxiety, like, "Is it normal that I want to do this? Shouldn't I be out there being young and frivolous? Are my friends going to think my reception is cool? I don't have any money, ack." When I thought about the prep and the planning and 'will things change' and all the baggage, I felt worried. But when I thought about the husband, I wasn’t so worried.
I would even go so far to say that if you have deep doubts regarding having made the right decision, there must be gradients, too. I'd think it's even healthy to be able to see your partner and realize you're looking at a human being, not a fairytale character, and be less than utterly, utterly certain. But some couples go a long, long way from there.
What do you think? If you’re married, did you have cold feet? What did it teach you?