Okay, marriage is hella weird, if you think about it. It's like, you're supposed to pick a person—a dynamic, complicated, fucked-up, evolving person—when you're both flighty twentysomethings, and then enter into a legal contract with that person saying that you will luv them 4evr till DEATH? Like, I can't even stay interested in a pair of pants for a year, and all those do is cover my butt. They don't talk, or complain, or leave the bathroom window open so 1000 spiders come in and dangle down in my face while I'm trying to shower. So...a person? Until I die? It doesn't make sense. That said, I still totally 100% believe in true love and I want to get married and I want the whole thing (the dress, the place cards, everything except for the smashing-cake-in-the-face because STOP) and even if it doesn't work for other people, it will work for me. Obviously. That's how deep these things go.
Taking into account the sheer improbability of anything working out ever (even though it will! For me!!!), I find it hard to believe that anyone doesn't experience doubts before getting married. Having "cold feet" doesn't just seem inevitable—it seems sensible. This is a big decision you're making. This is a big promise. You should be nervous and you should turn it over in your brain a million billion times.
But a new study suggests that women who experience doubts before marriage—ones who are willing to self-report their doubts, anyway—are twice as likely to get divorced within the first four years of marriage.
The researchers found that at least one partner in two-thirds of the couples reported having premarital doubts; 47 percent of the husbands and 38 percent of the wives reported being uncertain about getting married. This finding alone suggests that premarital doubts are common among couples and that men are more likely than women to have doubts.
So what do these doubts predict about the likelihood of divorce in the early stages of marriage? About 12 percent of couples in this sample divorced in the first four years. For husbands, premarital doubts did not seem to predict divorce, but for wives, doubts did predict divorce. Among wives who did not report doubts, only 8 percent divorce, while for those wives who did report doubts, almost one out of five ended up divorced. Of course, perhaps doubts about marriage simply reflect a fragile relationship or other factors that predispose divorce. The scientists also examined whether growing up with divorced parents, living together, or having a difficult personality explained the findings rather than "doubts about the marriage." They found that premarital doubts still predicted divorce above and beyond these factors.
I mean, maybe it's common sense. A lot of neuroses are self-fulfilling. Maybe if things were bad enough for you to say, "Yes, I definitely had doubts about my relationship," then those are significant doubts that go beyond dumb nitpickery about farts and bathroom spiders. Maybe people who expect fairy-tale perfection are more quickly disillusioned, less likely to diligently grapple with problems, and more likely to cut and run. And maybe if things are going south in your marriage you're more prone to fixating on and acknowledging pre-marital issues. But anyway, here you go, neurotic people with doubts about your relationships—now you can be doubtful about your doubts about your relationship until the whole thing goes up in a bonfire of insecurity and terror! Bon appetit!
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