French thinker Voltaire once said, "Doubt is not a pleasant state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."
A research team from UCLA says that too many people are taking that quote to heart when they are getting married. On what has been called on many reality TV shows "the most important day of your life," many people have doubts. But, instead of that doubt being taken seriously, friends, relatives and the couple say that they are normal. Justin Lavner, a doctoral candidate in psychology, says that doubts before a marriage should be taken very seriously - because his research indicates that those pangs of doubts could be warning signs for a divorce.
The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, examined 464 newlywed couples in Los Angeles. They were surveyed within a few months of their marriage and then administered follow-up surveys every six months for four years afterward. On average, husbands' age at the time of marriage was 27; wives were 25.
At the first meeting, researchers asked the couples, "Were you ever uncertain or hesitant about getting married?" 47 percent of husbands reported feeling uncertain, while 38 percent of wives reported the same feeling. But, while women were less likely to report having "cold feet," their concern seemed to be more of a warning sign.
Among women, 19 percent of those who reported doubts were divorced four years later; in comparison, 8 percent of women who reported no doubts were divorced. On the men's side, 14 percent were divorced four years later, while 9 percent without doubts were divorced.
In 36 percent of couples, neither the husband nor wife reported doubts; 6 percent of those couples were divorced four years later. The percentage rose to 10 percent if the husband had doubts, 18 percent if the wife had doubts, and 20 percent if both had doubts.
In fact, Lavner says that doubts, more than anything, were indicative of marital longevity. No other factor that the team identified, living together before marriage, how difficult their engagement was, level of satisfaction in their relationship now or whether their parents had been divorced, mattered as much as pre-wedding jitters.
The psychologists do not suggest that women or men end engagements over doubts, but rather to discuss their feelings.
"Have a conversation and see how it goes," Thomas Bradbury, a co-author on the study and the co-director of UCLA's Relationship Institute, said. "Do you think the doubts will go away when you have a mortgage and two kids? Don't count on that," added Bradbury.