Cold Feet Might Mean No-Go for the Future of Marriage


The USA Today has highlighted a new study that says newlyweds who have “cold feet” going into marriage are more likely to divorce.  I say make sure those feet are warm because divorce can be hell and children can be enveloped in that hell if you wait long enough.
I found the abstract of this study, but the dry academic summary tells me very little about the actual study.  I can view a copy of the study if I pay for it, but I regard this as a low down dirty trick perpetuated by academics who want us to think their research is always worth something — which it’s not, necessarily.  Notably, I am unable to access any juicy gossip points that may actually tell me something useful, such as who paid for the study. 
This always seems to have something to do with results and can sometimes infer whose tenure was dependent on this thing getting published. I will also refrain from commenting on publishing papers by psychologists, other than to say that they can get away with publishing an awful lot of “questionnaire” based and “pencil and paper” studies.  Medical doctor psychiatrists always seem to have to sample at least one bodily fluid to get something published.

The author of the study — Justin Lavner of UCLA — basically says that people who have “cold feet” or “jitters” at the time of the wedding are more likely to divorce later. 
The study followed 464 newlyweds.  He says nobody can say for sure whether folks had doubts about their partner or about the institution of marriage in general.  This tells me the study could have been designed to answer this question in more detail.  But as it is, we do know that 47% of husbands and 38% of wives had doubts. 
After four years, 19% of women who had doubts were divorced, as opposed to 8% who did not.  For men, 14% who had doubts were divorced four years later, versus 9% of those who did not.  Of the 36% of those couples of which neither partner had doubts, 6% still got divorced. I basically like psychologists.  Like most psychiatrists, I have learned to live in a symbiosis with them, where they do the psychotherapy and the psychiatrists do the pill-pushing.  Notice, I am talking mostly about PhD psychologists and clinicians. 
I’ve worked with patients who have been seen by professionals with lesser degrees.  A few actually get well.  At any level, most are subject to professionals who try to provide the minimal necessary to charge some sort of insurance.  They are the devotees of the ‘easy hour,” people who do things like light candles and tell patients to spend an hour “relaxing” from their stress.

I remember reading an article in an old American Psychologist journal that said that there were only two factors that seemed to be associated with someone actually improving with psychotherapy — does the patient actually want to get well and does the patient believe the therapist can make them well. 
It had nothing to do with the degree or training of the therapist.
Let’s put aside my prejudices about psychologists and look at the reported results, which are doubtlessly statistically sound as they come from a top notch university.  Looking at the numbers cited above, the first question is whether anybody would tell the truth if they were nervous about getting married.  My guess, based on my clinical experiences, is that if they did they would probably not be male.
One notable exception was my Father-of-Blessed-Memory.  When I was young, he told me he was scared when he married my mother but that his mother made him do it.  He’d been a half-step away from a European arranged Jewish marriage.  My mother had volunteered to help serve at a family of extended friends of the faith.  My grandmother, or father’s mother, had screened the family and her view of this virtuous behavior made Mom the “winner.”
Most people I know have hesitated at least a little before making marital decisions.  Usually, this means a significant period of cohabitation.  I have seen studies saying this makes little difference, but I question those, too.  I do know that breaking up after cohabitation is difficult.  Momentum, or the desire to avoid change, seems to be one of the most powerful human forces out there.
Me, I had a checklist.  In the psychotherapy part of my training I managed to see so much pain and suffering that I decided to put science to work. I read psychological literature, not unlike the article I am criticizing here.  It took me nearly a year to go through a checklist and decide I could not live without the fine gentleman that is now my husband.  The checklist became part of a workbook and later a book and a seminar series “How to Locate and Marry your Lifetime Love.”  I’ve recently been updating this work and it really ought to be available soon. I’ll let you know when it is.
When I have seen private patients on the cusp of marriage, I will admit that personal feelings have joined with statistics in making me put forth a suggestion.  I tell them to be very sure when you marry and do not do it if you have any doubts. Most young people are scared.  Some get married for any reason imaginable other than love.  Some common ones I’ve heard include getting out of the clutches of abusive parents.  Or the desire to follow a career or educational direction the parent cannot imagine and wanting some support for this – usually, the man.  Or having a baby and realizing this is one awful lot of work for one person – usually, the woman.
Most of the traditions we associate with marriage — something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue and such — come from British origin, Anglo-Saxon to Elizabethan. 
They are still with us even though practical utility is long gone.  They create some sense of tradition that is supposed to drown out doubts by making reluctant youth feel continuity with the past.  Parents and grandparents can say “we did it and you will do it” and this helps people forget jitters. 
I don’t know the sources, but I am wildly impressed by these
statistics you can use to make an intelligent decision about marriage. 
This is what I would hope academic research would be.  It isn’t — at least not yet.  It is interesting that “applied” people, such as business consultant types, seem to have provided a lot of the statistics here.
There are some fields where I think “pure research” is helpful, like theoretical physics.  Such applications can change our daily lives, from genetic engineering to new energy sources to medical applications for nanotechnology. I want psychological studies to solve problems in human behavior.  But the studies put out by big university names do not impress me.  It would be nice to fund studies that might lead to improvements, such as one that would diminish the percentage of marriages where the promises of the altar are dashed. Whose dollars are funding studies such as the one determining that people who are nervous at their weddings may be more likely to divorce?
Personally, I think that funding sources should be listed with every abstract of research that is published.  This way, someone who is at least trying to be part of the intelligent citizenry that Jefferson wanted for this country could try to squash some useless waste of research that promotes nothing but the tenure of those who do it.  Or maybe this research fills empty space in.
I am seeing more and more people who are divorcing in their 50s and 60s and I do not know what this means. 
As with so many issues, research has not proposed answers.  It seems as if “till death do us part” is just not strong enough for people, especially with an increasing life expectancy.  Me, I am hotter for my husband now than ever.  I cannot believe how much we have lived through together and I cannot imagine anything other than proceeding together. I shall continue to tell patients, and anyone else who asks, “Be very sure when you marry, and do not do it if you have any doubts because divorce is some kind of hell and children may be enveloped in the hell if you wait long enough.”

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