Do cold feet warn of trouble ahead? Premarital uncertainty and four-year marital outcomes

J Fam Psychol. 2012 Dec;26(6):1012-7. doi: 10.1037/a0029912. Epub 2012 Sep 3.


Are the doubts that people feel before marriage signs of impending difficulties or normative experiences that can be safely ignored? To test these opposing views, we asked 464 recently married spouses whether they had ever been uncertain about getting married and then compared 4-year divorce rates and marital satisfaction trajectories among those partners with and without premarital doubts. Doubts were reported by at least one partner in two thirds of couples. Women with premarital doubts had significantly higher 4-year divorce rates, even when controlling for concurrent marital satisfaction, the difficulty of their engagement, history of parental divorce, premarital cohabitation, and neuroticism. Among intact couples, men's and women's doubts predicted less satisfied marital trajectories. Premarital doubts appear to be common but not benign, suggesting that valid precursors of marital distress are evident during couples' engagements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Divorce / psychology
  • Divorce / statistics & numerical data
  • Family Conflict
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Marriage / statistics & numerical data
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Risk Factors
  • Uncertainty*
  • Young Adult