Study Finds Ladies’ ‘Cold Feet’ Predict Divorce

I can’t say it enough: “Cold feet” are not a harmless nuisance shake off as you barrel down the aisle toward your tulle-filled fantasy wedding. They are, in fact, a real indicator that something is wrong, as I learned when I cancelled my nuptials in the nick of time. And a new study backs me up: In the first scientific inquiry into whether pre-marital doubts lead to divorce, UCLA researchers found that, basically, they do. Jitters, especially among women, led to both higher divorce rates and less self-reported satisfaction.

“People think everybody has premarital doubts and you don’t have to worry about them,” said lead author Justin Lavner. “We found they are common but not benign.” I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see someone taking this seriously. Our society, despite many advances in thinking about dating and marriage, still pushes heterosexual marriage as the only respectable way to live—nay, as one of the major signs of “winning” in life, especially for women. When I first started whispering my doubts to close friends and family, I heard it over and over: This is normal. Everyone has jitters. Ignore them and order this cake. But in this study of 464 newlyweds, women who had doubts before marriage were 2.5 times more likely to be divorced four years later. Women were less likely to have doubts, but theirs were more accurate in predicting the marriage’s dissolution. As study coauthor Thomas Bradbury said, “Do you think the doubts will go away when you have a mortgage and two kids? Don’t count on that.”

Exactly. As far as I’m concerned, anyone with pre-marital doubts—male or female—should tell his or her partner immediately and do some serious therapy, either together or alone. Spend some time listening to that little voice inside you, which sounds cheesy, but totally works. Meditate, talk with friends, do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of your hesitation. You can get back to hiring a caterer if, and only if, you get to the point where you feel secure.

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Author: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong grew up deep in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, then escaped to New York to live in a succession of very small apartments and write about pop culture. In the process, she became a feminist, a Buddhist, and the singer/guitarist in an amateur rock band. She also spent a decade on staff at Entertainment Weekly, cofounded, and now writes for several publications, including Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Writer’s Digest, Fast Company, and New York‘s Vulture. Her history of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2013; her collaboration with Heather Wood Rudulph, Sexy Feminism, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2013. She is the author of the Why? Because We Still Like You, a history of the original Mickey Mouse Club published by Grand Central in 2010. She has provided pop culture commentary for CNN, VH1, A&E, and ABC, and teaches article writing and creative writing. Follow her on Twitter: @jmkarmstrong


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