(Mike Kemp, Getty Images/Rubberball)
By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY
Those wedding cold feet are a real signal of trouble ahead, according to a study that shows premarital jitters can predict splitsville later.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, say their four-year study of 464 newlyweds finds those with uncertainty were less satisfied with their marriages, and women with doubts who took the plunge anyway were 2.5 times more likely to divorce.
"The question was 'Were you ever uncertain or hesitant about getting married?' Just a yes or no. The simplicity is great because it's such a basic question," says lead author Justin Lavner, a UCLA researcher. "But unfortunately, it doesn't allow us to say if it's doubts about the partner or doubts about marriage in general. Doubts specific to the relationship or partner are generally worse than doubts about marriage in general."
Among the newlyweds, 47% of husbands and 38% of wives said they had doubts. The study, published online in the Journal of Family Psychology, found that about 10% more husbands than wives had doubts, but the women's inklings of trouble better predicted divorce.
Among women, 19% who reported pre-wedding doubts were divorced four years later, compared with 8% who didn't report having doubts. For husbands, 14% who reported doubts were divorced four years later, compared with 9% who didn't report doubts.
"Very often in describing problems that exist in the marriage, they say something to the effect of 'I saw all the signs before we got married and I ignored them,'" says Susan Winters, a family law attorney in Short Hills, N.J.
New York attorney Lubov Stark, who has practiced family law for 17 years, says not everyone has conscious doubts.
"A lot of people have jitters -- a subconscious feeling that something may be off here," she says. "But they are swept away with the whole experience of getting engaged and getting married. Everybody wants to believe it will work out."
The study also found that in 36% of couples, neither partner had doubts.
And Lavner warns, not having doubts doesn't mean the marriages survived. Among those in which neither expressed doubts, 6% still got divorced.