Marital Doubt and Uncertainty

Struggling with mixed feelings about your marital choices

Young couple at beach
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Deciding who to marry, when to marry, and even if to marry are all major decisions that are often accompanied by uncertainty and stress. Other big decisions that can create anxiety and doubt about marriage include deciding to have children or to whether to end your marriage.

When it comes to life changing decisions, second thoughts and having cold feet "are common but not benign," according to Justin Lavner, "You know yourself, your partner and your relationship better than anybody else does; if you're feeling nervous about it, pay attention to that. It's worth exploring what you're nervous about." " Should I marry him?" by Stuart Wolpert on UCLA.edu (2012).

It takes common sense to listen to your heart and to listen to your gut at these times in your life as well as to talk about your concerns and feelings with your mate. Your inner voice may be in the form of a hunch, goosebumps, a pit or knot in your stomach, sleepless nights, whispers in your head, feeling tense a great deal of the time, and a sense of not being on the right road. When you listen to yourself and the little voice inside you, you will likely have peace in believing you made the right decision.

Things to Consider:

  • Having unrealistic expectations and believing in a fairy-tale marriage can lead you to disillusionment.
  • Don't ignore warning signs in your relationship. Ignoring these red flags can cause you a lot of heartache in the future.
  • If you have problems and issues before you get married, those same problems and issues will likely continue throughout your marriage.
  • Make sure you are getting married or having children for the right reasons.

    What Others Have to Say About Doubts and Second Thoughts:

    "Doubt, uncertainty and the feeling of not knowing for sure is not a problem! In fact, contrary to what we might at first think, experiencing such feelings can be the greatest path toward intuitive certainty." Michael Batshaw in "Do You Have 'Healthy Foubt' or 'Unhealthy Doubt' About Whether Your Partner is 'The One?'" PsychologyToday.com (2010).

    "When you learn to read your body signals, a whole new type of information will be available to you. What's more, you may be able to avoid getting involved with destructive, unhealthy lovers, or be curious to pursue a really good guy who, at first blush, doesn't seem to be your 'type.'" Judith Orloff in "Five Intuitions About Love and Sex You Shouldn't Ignore" PsychologyToday.com (2010).

     "... respondents who believed in lifelong marriage and shared decisions equally with their spouse were more likely to report low and less likely to report high conflict ... A stronger belief in lifelong marriage, shared decision making, and husbands sharing a greater proportion of housework were associated with an increased likelihood of membership in a high happiness, low conflict marriage, and a decreased likelihood of a low marital happiness group." Claire M. Kamp Dush and Miles G. Taylor in "Trajectories of Marital Conflict Across the Life Course" JFI.sagepub.com (2012).

     "If you see something unusual on your skin, should you ignore it and go to the beach, or see a doctor? Be smart and don't ignore it — and don't ignore your doubts either. Have a conversation and see how it goes. Do you think the doubts will go away when you have a mortgage and two kids?

    Don't count on that ... Talk about it and try to work through it. You hope that the big issues have been addressed before the wedding."
    Thomas Bradbusy in "If You're Having Doubts, Don't Ignore Them"  by Stuart Wolpert for ScienceDaily.com (2012).

    "... 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 ... Two major limitations are that 'doubts about the marriage' were measured after the couple had been married for six months, so this may not be the best indicator of their premarital views." Robert Hughes, Jr in "Do Doubts About Getting Married Predict Divorce?" on HuffingtonPost.com (2012).

    "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" from "Do Cold Feet Warn of Trouble Ahead? Premarital Uncertainty and Four-Year Marital Outcomes " by Justin A. Lavner, Benjamin R. Karney, Thomas N. Bradbury in Journal of Family Psychology (2012).

    The bottom line is that some degree of doubt and uncertainty is normal around such big decisions such as marriage. Remember, you can always sort through your thoughts and ambivalence with a professional counselor!

    *Article updated by Marni Feuerman

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