Bride's Wedding Jitters May Forecast Stormy Marriage

Women hesitant to marry have much higher rate of divorce, study finds

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Bride's Wedding Jitters May Forecast Stormy Marriage

SATURDAY, Sept. 22, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Women having second thoughts about getting married should trust their instincts, according to new research.

Psychologists from the University of California, Los Angeles found that women's uncertainty before marriage is a predictor for divorce and marital dissatisfaction in years to come.

"People think everybody has premarital doubts and you don't have to worry about them. We found they are common but not benign," study lead author Justin Lavner, a doctoral candidate in psychology, said in a university news release. "You know yourself, your partner and your relationship better than anybody else does. If you're feeling nervous about it, pay attention to that. It's worth exploring what you're nervous about."

For the study, published online in the Journal of Family Psychology, the psychologists surveyed nearly 250 couples a few months after they got married. The husbands were an average age of 27 when they got married; the wives' average age was 25. Follow-up surveys were conducted every six months for four years.

At their first interview, 47 percent of the husbands and 38 percent of the wives admitted to having doubts about getting married. The researchers noted, however, the women's reservations were a better predictor of trouble to come in the marriage.

The study revealed that 19 percent of the women who said they had doubts about getting married were divorced four years later, compared with 8 percent of those who did not have doubts. Meanwhile, 14 percent of the husbands who reported marriage doubts were divorced four years later, compared with 9 percent who said they did not have worries about getting married.

The researchers noted doubt was a big predictor of marital discord regardless of other factors, such as whether the couple lived together before they were married, how difficult their engagement was or whether they came from divorced families.

The study revealed that 36 percent of couples had no doubts about marriage beforehand. Of these couples, 6 percent got divorced within four years. In marriages where only the husband had doubts, 10 percent got divorced. When only the wife had doubts, the divorce rate jumped to 18 percent. Doubts on both their parts was linked to a 20 percent divorce rate.

"Newlywed wives who had doubts about getting married before their wedding were two-and-a-half times more likely to divorce four years later than wives without these doubts," Lavner said. "Among couples still married after four years, husbands and wives with doubts were significantly less satisfied with their marriage than those without doubts. What this tells us is that when women have doubts before their wedding, these should not be lightly dismissed."

Don't assume that love is enough to overpower your concerns, he added. "There's no evidence that problems in a marriage just go away and get better. If anything, problems are more likely to escalate," he said.

The study authors said that couples having doubts before marriage should talk about their concerns and try to work through them before they walk down the aisle.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on divorce.

SOURCE: University of California, Los Angeles, news release, Sept. 13, 2012

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