We’ve all heard of the nervousness and doubts people have before they get married, which can be called the ‘pre-wedding jitters’ or getting ‘cold feet.’ You may have also seen the movie Runaway Bride, where Julia Roberts is a purveyor of these ‘pre-wedding jitters’ and leaves multiple guys at the altar, inspiring Richard Gere to write an article about her. As common as these doubts may be, do they in fact have any effect on your relationship after saying ‘I do’?
Recent research by Lavner, Karney, & Bradbury at UCLA investigated the effects of cold feet on the likelihood of divorce as well as effects on relationship satisfaction. Out of the 232 couples they followed for 4 years, 47% of husbands and 38% of wives said they had some pre-wedding doubts, and overall, 12% of the couples divorced within 4 years. Among the wives, only 8% of those who said they did not have pre-wedding doubts had their relationships end in divorce. But for those wives who did have cold feet, 19% of them ended in divorce. It was very similar for men, where only 9% of those without pre-wedding doubts ended in divorce, and 14% with doubts ended in divorce. Overall, even if one person in a couple has the pre-wedding jitters, then their chances of getting divorced are generally increased.
But what about those who stayed together? The researchers showed that couples who had cold feet were significantly less satisfied with their relationship than those without any doubts, and remained less satisfied throughout the first four years of marriage. So even though these couples may have not divorced, they were still ultimately less happy in their marriage.
But what does that mean for us? If you have any doubts, should you follow Julia Robert’s lead from Runaway Bride and high-tail it out of the relationship? Definitely not. One of the best things you can do is talk to your partner about it. If you two talk about each other’s doubts and fears in taking the next step, you’ll start to understand one another better and can work to help calm each other’s nerves about the upcoming nuptials, and eventually alleviate all (or at least some) of the doubts altogether.