Skip to main content

Getting married is an undeniably big event in a person’s life. It’s not surprising or uncommon that one would experience pre-wedding nerves before committing to a lifetime with one person. But sometimes it can be challenging to determine whether wedding jitters are normal or if they are indicative of a major relationship flaw that you are deeply uncomfortable with. How do we tell the difference? Are premarital doubts indicative of problems down the road? Here’s what you need to know.

Women’s doubts are more likely to be a predictor of trouble after the wedding day.

A recent UCLA study found that, while women were less likely than men to have doubts before the wedding day, their doubts were more meaningful in predicting trouble after the wedding. Research found that among women, 19 percent of those who reported pre-wedding doubts were divorced four years later, compared with 8 percent of those who did not report having doubts. For husbands, 14 percent who reported premarital doubts were divorced four years later, compared with 9 percent who did not report having doubts.

Regardless of your sex, doubts should not be ignored.

While doubts among women proved to be a more telling indicator of marital problems later on, researchers in the UCLA study say that doubt proved to be a decisive factor among all the couples that participated in the study.

“People think everybody has premarital doubts and you don’t have to worry about them,” said Justin Lavner, a UCLA doctoral candidate in psychology and lead author of the study. “We found they are common but not benign. Newlywed wives who had doubts about getting married before their wedding were two and a half times more likely to divorce four years later than wives without these doubts. Among couples still married after four years, husbands and wives with doubts were significantly less satisfied with their marriage than those without doubts.”

So, what does this mean?

If you’re feeling nervous about getting married, pay attention to it. Being honest with yourself is priority number one. It’s quite typical to experience some nervousness or fear about marriage, and it’s also important to understand where these feelings come from.

If you have cold feet, consider taking the following steps to determine whether your feelings are normal pre-wedding jitters or something more.

01. Talk to Your Partner

Ideally you and your partner have engaged in important discussions about marriage prior to getting engaged and have a sense of where each of you stand on the big issues. It still might feel hard to share with your partner that you’re having cold feet, but remember, this is the person you are agreeing to spend your life with—it is vital to be able to have hard conversations.

What’s the alternative? Carry around your doubts in secret and hope they go away? This is a recipe for unhappiness and resentment. We know that communication is key to a relationship’s health, and there’s no better time to put that to the test than before the wedding. Sometimes talking about your insecurities and doubts with your partner can help reduce your anxiety and calm any fears you may have. If it doesn’t help, that’s more information for you to make your decision.

02. Seek Professional Help

Whether it’s individual or couples, therapy can help you manage and navigate the complexity of your feelings. Don’t let feelings such as shame, embarrassment, and fear keep you from reaching out for the support you need. Engagement and wedding planning can be fun, but it can also be a time of high stress and conflict. A qualified therapist can help you recognize the difference between stress-related jitters and actual red flags.

While parents and friends often have their own biases, a therapist can take an objective stance in supporting each of you. A therapist is a third party who has no stake in whether you actually follow through with your marriage but instead will equip you with the support you need to move forward in whatever way is best for you. Ideally you will gain tools and insight that will help you feel less anxious and more empowered.

03. Get Space

If you are feeling jittery and stressed, go out into nature, take a weekend away by yourself, or do other things that will help clear your mind. Sit down with a notebook and write out everything you are feeling. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of questions . . .

  • How long have I felt doubt about this wedding?
  • What would it feel like to be honest with my fiancé about how I feel?
  • Who can I talk to about my fears and anxieties about getting married?
  • What is not working for me in my relationship?
  • What do I need to feel secure to move forward?

04. Be Honest with Yourself

If you are concerned about the fundamental compatibility of your relationship, you should take this seriously. It’s easy to believe that our partners will change for the better over time and that any concerns and doubts we have will naturally fade. Spoiler alert: Spontaneous major changes rarely happen.

Most of the time, past behavior predicts future behavior, so ask yourself: If your partner stayed exactly the same throughout your marriage and didn’t change any habits or shift any beliefs, would you be OK with this? As writer Tim Urban profoundly stated, “When you choose a life partner, you’re choosing a lot of things, including your parenting partner and someone who will deeply influence your children, your eating companion for about 20,000 meals, your travel companion for about a hundred vacations, your primary leisure time and retirement friend, your career therapist, and someone whose day you’ll hear about 18,000 times.” Enough said.

On a more serious note, there are relationship problems that go beyond the world of pre-wedding nerves, peeves, and irritations. If you find yourself facing any of these issues, please take care of yourself, and take steps immediately—confront the problem head-on, consult with trusted family or friends, and/or seek professional help.

Red flags that should NOT be ignored include the following:

  • Abuse of any kind
  • Addiction: drugs, alcohol, sex, or gambling
  • Betrayal: cheating, stealing, or dishonesty
  • Religion: conflicting beliefs that cannot be resolved
  • Offspring: different plans for having children

In the end, you are the only person who really knows how you feel. If cold feet are weighing you down, give yourself the time and space you need to reflect, and then take action to support yourself.

Photo Credit: Erynn Christine