Do Premarital Jitters Predict Divorce?

Headshot of smiling brideNearly every person experiences a little anxiety and apprehension prior to walking down the aisle. No matter what age people are, or what their past has brought them, the idea of entering into a lifelong commitment with another individual can be a scary prospect. Individuals who have been divorced in the past may be worried that they will divorce again. And people who grew up in less-than-loving households may fear that their union will eventually become disruptive and unsatisfying. Regardless of the reasons, premarital jitters are anything but uncommon. But do these anxieties predict which couples are at risk for divorce?

Justin A Lavner of the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, wanted to test this theory. In a recent study, Lavner interviewed 232 couples shortly after they married and evaluated each spouse’s respective doubts. Four years later, Lavner examined how those doubts related to divorce rates among the couples. He found that the majority of the couples did express having cold feet prior to their marriage. But this sense of wariness was significantly more predictive of divorce when it was felt by the women. In fact, women who had premarital doubt were more than twice as likely to be divorced than women without premarital doubt. Uncertainty prior to marriage was predictive of less satisfying marriages for men but not divorce.

The results of this study clearly demonstrate that couples who are hesitant to marry should examine the reasons why before they say “I do.” Lavner notes that these findings, which were gathered more than 2 decades ago, may not reflect present-day attitudes. Despite this limitation, Lavner believes that the results of his study show a need for additional work on premarital doubt and other factors that could predict divorce or dissatisfaction among couples. He added, “These findings call for more in-depth and prospective research on the uncertainties people harbor about getting married.”

Lavner, J. A., Karney, B. R., Bradbury, T. N. (2012). Do cold feet warn of trouble ahead? Premarital uncertainty and four-year marital outcomes. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029912

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Caroline


    September 17th, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    The one thing that I would like to say is that I think that being a little nervous about getting married is way different from being heaitant to marry this person.

    I mean, it’s normal to feel apprehensive and even a little scared at the prospect of starting a totally new phase of life. But it should be with someone that you love and who can share all of this with you.

    If you are having second thoughts though about the person, then I think that this is when you know that there is a real problem and that maybe you should put things on hold for a while until you are sure that this is the step that you want to take.

  • courtney m

    courtney m

    September 17th, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    In my case I should have listened to what my mind was trying so hard to tell me before I walked down the aisle but I went and did it anyway! I would have saved myself a whole lot of heartache had I been smart about the whole thing and listened to what my inner self was trying to tell me.

  • Jules


    September 17th, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    I fully agree with Caroline. Having the jitters with all the excitement and looking ahead is fine and is very normal but if you have doubts about the very union, about the person then that could indicate a problem.

    It would be so much better if everybody put their heads down and thought many a times before entering the wedlock – maybe we would have far fewer divorces then.



    September 17th, 2012 at 9:13 PM

    Really? I find it hard to believe that something in the final hour can have that much of an influence or even effect you know. I mean marrying someone would obviously involve weeks if not months of speculating and thinking it over, not to speak of the relationship and everything that comes with it before the wedding. How some people feel this nervousness and jitters of the final few days could be signs and they walk out of it is just beyond me!

  • Wallace


    September 18th, 2012 at 4:06 AM

    I admit to feeling a little jittery leading up to my marriage but not in way that told me I was making a mistake. It was all about merging homes and taking that next step that I was a little nervous about, but in no way did that change the fact that I knew that this was the woman that I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with. I think that we should look more about those people who say that they aren’t worried at all about getting married. Those are the people who are either oblivious to the responsibilities of gettitng married or who have really not thought this through very well at all.



    September 18th, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    Its never easy to be a 100% sure when you decide to take the plunge. And there will be times when you would be very happy with the decision and others when you will have questions on your mind.And if there is anything like the latter,it definitely takes some time and thinking to see if the decision is right after all.So jitters and doubts even close to the wedding date should not be taken lightly and some thought needs to be put into the decision.There is no harm in being extra cautious,after all its a lifelong commitment, not like you are purchasing something that can just be returned to the store.

  • Shawn.T


    September 18th, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    If the usual premarital jitters make you doubt your decision and choice of partner,then you really need to reassess things and your stand on the marriage.If nothing else,your low confidence of the relationship and marriage could cause issues!

  • Tommie Anne

    Tommie Anne

    September 18th, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    If this was necessarily true then my husband would have left me years ago because I got so sick the night before I got married just worrying about it that I threw up all over him at the rehearsal dinner!


    But the next day we shrugged it off and have been married now for 26 years. I wa sscared and I was young but we made it work despite all of that. More than anything I think that people stop trying so hard to make things work after a while and that could be a big cause for divorce.

  • gibson


    September 19th, 2012 at 4:20 AM

    Maybe more churches should require premarital counseling and that would help solve many of these problems.
    If there is cause for concern then a minister might see that right off and help the couple with those issues before they walk down the aisle.

  • G.G


    September 19th, 2012 at 5:53 AM

    Pre-martial jitters are very common and affect the best of us. But if it something more than that, and especially very close to the wedding, not only should you ask yourself if you made the right decision about the partner but also about whether you are really ready to enter wedlock. Some people are just not prepared mentally but take the plunge anyway. that can end up being very unpleasant.

  • bethany h

    bethany h

    September 20th, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    Anyone can get a little nervy now and then
    That doesn’t automatically mean that the marriage will be a failure
    To believe this is to set someone up for believing that they will never have a strong marriage just because they may be concerned about a few things
    Give me someone who cares a little and is kind of jittery over someone who is just so laid back that they are barely breathing!
    At least I know that the one with the nerves is thinking about the nuptials and is considering thr magnitude of the event and is looking for more than just the bachelor party!

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