Cold feet before wedding

Red Flags That Lead To Cold Feet Before Your Wedding

As a bridesmaid for hire, I’ve found myself on countless phone calls, in church confessional booths and — of course — chasing runaway brides, who confide in me that they have last minute cold feet.

Whenever I sit down with these brides and ask them why they are no longer feeling their fiancé, or the wedding in general, a lot of them come clean with reasons that are deep-rooted in a rocky relationship — reasons that they refused to come to terms with before agreeing to get married.

If you’re looking to pick apart why cold feet happens and how you can make sure you relationship is as smooth as possible before getting engaged, here are the five red flags to look for.

1. Zero compliments.

Everyone wants to be showered with compliments, especially from a person they love.

If your partner isn’t telling you nice things on a daily basis or boosting your spirits when you’re feeling low, you may start to question whether it’s a good idea to marry someone who brings you down instead of up.

When the person you’re in a relationship with gives you constant reminders of why you are an awesome person, you find yourself feeling more confident and ready to take on the world as an individual, while also having that person as your support system.

When they constant forget to tell you that you are working hard in your career or your health regimen — when you truly are — it may be a sign they are jealous, forgetful and self-centered.

All of that may bring you to fist-fight in your head over whether they care about you or are just too self-consumed, all while causing a ton of tension in the marriage.

When you’re with a person who constantly says, “That’s what you’re wearing?” or “Why don’t you try to look more like Kylie Jenner?” you’ll probably start to get cold feet when you panic over what they will say — or not say — when they see you all dressed up on your wedding day.

2. Not feeling safe.

One of the best traits you can look for in a potential spouse is someone who makes you feel safe.

As human beings, we all want to feel comfortable knowing the person we’re with isn’t trying to lie, cheat or steal from us.

We don’t want to be with someone who makes us tip-toe around our home, or constantly question if they’re going to pack up their bags and leave one day because they aren’t showing signs of long-term commitment.

If you’re with someone who is constantly playing games, acting immature or even flighty with their life plans and their future plans with you, you may get pre-wedding jitters over marrying someone who makes your stomach flip-flop like it’s inside a dryer.

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3. Your eyes are searching.

It’s OK to spot a cute guy at a coffee shop and send him a smile, but if you are finding yourself constantly flirting and itching to hand out your number to a hot guy you meet on the subway, you probably aren’t ready to settle down.

It’s unfair to say that you won’t find yourself occasionally fantasizing about being with someone else every so often, but if you’re finding an excuse to leave the house, head to a bar and flirt with someone else on a weekly basis, then you might not be ready for the ring.

Instead, you might want to trade your upcoming MRS status back to single-and-ready-to-mingle status.

4. The trust is gone.

If you’ve put a tracking device on your partner’s phone and question every single thing they tell you, you may be questioning what your future is going to be like with someone you’re constantly thinking is hooking up with their secretary in the bathroom.

Every relationship has a foundation that keeps it together, and if trust isn’t one of those pillars, your relationship is doomed to fall to the ground.

Trusting a person makes your relationship flow smoothly and lets you kick the unneeded and unhealthy obsession with tracking their every move because you think they are up to something.

If the trust isn’t there, you might decide right before it’s time to walk down the aisle that you don’t want to be there either.

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5. The relationship needs work.

Going to couple’s therapy before getting married is a totally normal thing to do.

If you know you have holes in the relationship but you still love the person and want to make it work, seeing a professional can help the two of you conquer some of the blah moments you have with each other.

If therapy isn’t working out or you have no interest in fixing your relationship problems, then you may want back out of getting married to a person who has a grocery list of flaws that just irk you to the max.

Cold feet, doubts, jitters – we’re told these are a pretty normal part of getting married, right? But how do you know whether the scepticism you’re feeling in the run up to your wedding day is harmless nerves, or indicative of something more serious?

Here, women who had doubts of various kinds before getting married to their partners explain what happened after they said their vows.

1.”We’re divorced. Background: We’re engaged for a year and a half at this point, two months away from the wedding. We get in a fight (one of many) and the ex says, ‘Can we NOT get married? Is it too late to call things off? Let’s just have a party and think about things’. My response (quite venomously), ‘I don’t know about you but I don’t have the balls to call this off. We and our parents have dumped thousands into this party. We have a child together. I can’t just call 200 hundred people and tell them JUST KIDDING’. In hind sight, we should have called it off. He cheated on me four years later.”

2.”Walked down the aisle crying, due to the stress. One year later separated. A year after that divorce. He is now happily married and I wish him well. We just weren’t meant to be.”

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3.”I can only speak from my experience, but when I married my first wife I had doubts and jitters about the actual person. If they were right for me, if I was making the right decision, if I could only have sex with her for the rest of my life. We divorced after a little over two years. When I married by second wife, the jitters were about details of the day – if the flowers would hold up in the heat, if our mums would get into a cat fight, if my heels were too high for my dress. No doubts about her, at all, and we are very happy, still.”

“I regret not walking away so much earlier”

4.”I think it depends on the type of doubts. Some doubt is normal. I had doubts with my husband, I magnified his flaws, I got scared of being tied down, etc. Stereotypical cold feet. But then it passed. We’ve only been married six years, but we have a great relationship. While we do have issues, we always work through them well. My sister had doubts. Her husband was an ex alcoholic and ex drug addict. The whole family told her not to marry him. She doubted, and went through with it anyway. Turned out, he wasn’t an ex addict. They’re divorced.”

5.”I realised that it’s normal to have doubts, even if the person is super great. It’s a huge commitment and it turned out very nicely for me. He’s an imperfect husband but he’s considerate and kind, and we’re devoted to making things work.”

6.”I had doubts prior to marriage, but was absolutely certain I’d made the wrong choice by the end of the honeymoon. I tried to stick it out, but it was never going to work. After just over two years of marriage, I had the horrible duty of breaking my best friend’s heart when I realised I couldn’t possibly do this for another 60 odd years. Listen to your gut, your heart, whatever it is that is speaking to you. Even though I initiated the divorce, it was the most painful experience of my life and I regret not walking away so much earlier in the relationship to minimise the pain I caused her.”

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7.”His parents hated me and I should have listened to my instincts. I was nervous that it would eventually cause a rift between us. I hoped for the best, married him, and got my ass handed to me in the divorce.”

8.”We are doing great. I had issues giving up my own way of life. I had lived alone for six years and suddenly there was this guy I absolutely loved and he wanted to take up half my space. I was afraid of commitment, but more so I was afraid of making a mistake. Marriage is hard but when you really work at it it gets easier. Also counselling really really helps. Pre and post wedding.”

“Counselling really really helps. Pre and post wedding”

9.”We got divorced four and a half years later. Turns out my doubts were absolutely valid. His personality did a complete 180. There were a few crumbs of clues sprinkled throughout the wedding planning process that made my parents and grandparents wonder, but he didn’t really unveil his true nastiness until after we were legally bound. We did not jump into marriage hastily either. We started dating when I was 17 (he was 16) and got married six years later. Throughout, there was all together one or two red flags and spaced far enough apart that I figured it was just circumstantial and not indicative of anything.”

10.”I wish I’d listened to my doubts and gotten out before we got married. We divorced after two years of emotional abuse, control, and manipulation. I thought it was cold feet, and so I figured things would get better after the wedding. But as soon as we were married he got so much worse. I left as soon as I could and now I’m happier than I’ve even been.”

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11.”Divorced within two years. I knew who/what he was before the wedding. Mistake was mine for thinking it would change after the wedding. I didn’t have the courage to call it off before the wedding.”

12.”A mistake, I should have trusted my gut. Day of wedding I almost called it off but felt too much pressure because everyone was there. I should have listened to my doubts way earlier. Divorced three years now and couldn’t be happier.”

13.”I had doubts before my first marriage because of the lack of sexual chemistry between us. We were more like best friends than super hot lovers. I was young (25) and thought things would improve with time. Fast forward five years after the wedding and we had both cheated on each other.”

14.”Divorced. Didn’t want to deal with the embarrassment and shame of calling it off. Should’ve followed my instinct. But I truly believe if I didn’t go through that, I wouldn’t have made the decisions that lead me to where I am now. I feel stronger and more confident now.”

15.”Things I had doubts about were talked about openly with him which helped. We still talk about certain things and are finding ways to solve them. First year of marriage has been amazing.”

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Is It Cold Feet? Or Something More Serious?

Is it wise for engaged women and men to ignore the doubts many experience before marrying? Aren’t their doubts just symptoms of a case of the jitters brought on by the realization that marriage is approaching?

A new study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, cautions engaged couples against assuming that premarital doubts are meaningless. The researchers ask, “What if premarital uncertainty is not simply another normative challenge to overcome, but is instead a true warning sign?”

Their study, titled “Do Cold Feet Warn of Trouble Ahead? Premarital Uncertainty and Four-Year Marital Outcomes,” was published in September by the Journal of Family Psychology. UCLA called it “the first scientific study to test whether doubts about getting married are more likely to lead to an unhappy marriage and divorce.”

Justin Lavner, the study’s lead author and a UCLA doctoral candidate, commented that “people think everybody has premarital doubts and you don’t have to worry about them.” However, Lavner said, “we found they are common but not benign.”

Lavner explained to me that the question asked of couples was, “Were you ever hesitant or uncertain about getting married?” In this light, he said, the type of hesitancy addressed in the study reflects “some sort of doubt about the relationship” itself – something specific related to “uncertainty about getting married,” not mere nervousness over the wedding “in the stress leading up to it.”

A Matter to Resolve

The study acknowledges that uncertainty does not predict future distress for every couple. After all, in two-thirds of the newlywed couples studied by the UCLA researchers, at least one partner reported having had doubts about the decision to wed.

Still, attention to doubt is warranted, it says. For, “comparisons among spouses with and without doubts showed that doubts did predict poorer marital outcomes after four years, especially among women.” (The researchers conducted follow-up surveys with the couples in their study every six months for four years.)

When the study participants were asked if they ever had been uncertain or hesitant about getting married, 47 percent of husbands and 38 percent of wives said yes. While women were less likely than men to have had doubts, the women’s doubts were more meaningful in predicting trouble after the wedding, the researchers concluded.

When only the husband had doubts, 10 percent of couples divorced; when only the wife had doubts, 18 percent of couples divorced; when each of the partners had doubts, 20 percent of the couples would one day divorce, it was explained.

A concern expressed by Lavner is that “some people might have difficulty coming to terms with doubt or might hear messages from other people that doubts are common and aren’t anything to worry about. However, he told me:

“I think the biggest implication of these findings is that doubts do matter on average, and they are something that couples — and professionals working with couples — should pay attention to.

“This obviously doesn’t mean that couples should cancel their weddings, but it does mean that they should explore what’s underlying those doubts and try to resolve it.”

Implications for Couples, Professionals

Some of the UCLA study’s implications for professionals who counsel engaged couples and others working with them were spelled out in the researchers’ report.

“Doubts should not simply be dismissed as a normative experience or viewed as something that will go away once partners make a commitment to each other,” the report states. Instead, “feelings of premarital uncertainty should be validated, taken seriously and used as an opportunity for exploration.”

However, given the reluctance on the part of many to “share their doubts,” those working with engaged couples may need explicitly to encourage “the disclosure of feelings of uncertainty,” it proposes.

The study suggests that premarital counseling can provide a context in which couples might “safely disclose unresolved issues or lingering questions.” These conversations, in turn, “could be used to reach consensus around difficult topics” like having children or coping better with stress.

The UCLA researchers said further study is needed of the specific forms assumed by the doubts that engaged men and women experience.

These doubts “could include specific concerns about the relationship (e.g., ‘I’m not sure if we’re aligned on having children’), or the partner (e.g., ‘Does he work too much?’), or may represent anxiety about marriage more generally (e.g., ‘Am I ready for this commitment?’),” the study said.

Thomas Bradbury, a well-known UCLA marriage researcher who co-directs the university’s Relationship Institute, was a study co-author. Commenting on it, his obvious hope was that couples will talk about their doubt “and try to work through it.”

Bradbury compared the situation in which engaged people realize they are experiencing doubt to the situation that exists when people notice something disturbing on their own skin. “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,” he advised couples.

Bradbury’s advice was to “have a conversation, and see how it goes.” He might ask the engaged: “Do you think the doubts will go away when you have a mortgage and two kids? Don’t count on that.”

About the author
David Gibson served for 37 years on the editorial staff at Catholic News Service, where he was the founding and long-time editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service. David received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Minnesota and an M.A. in religious education from The Catholic University of America. Married for 38 years, he and his wife have three adult daughters and six grandchildren.

How to Deal With Cold Feet Before Your Wedding Day

Are you experiencing a chilling fear as you realize you’re legally about to spend the rest of your life with your partner? Don’t worry—it’s called cold feet, and it happens. Most of the time, this freak-out period just means you have a case of prewedding jitters—and trust us, you’re definitely not alone! There are lots of to-be-weds that get nervous before the wedding day, and cold feet can come up in a number of ways.

It could be your partner’s annoyances getting to you, like a sink full of dishes you asked them to put away multiple times to no avail, or feeling panicky over 200 out-of-town guests flying in, or an argument you had with your parents over the venue and now you’re having trouble sleeping or eating regular meals. While this isn’t healthy, it can be normal. You’re about to make a commitment for the rest of your life and you’re staring that notion right in the eye.

“Cold feet is normal for most people,” says Jane Greer, PhD, marriage and sex therapist and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. “A marriage is so permanent, and it’s not uncommon for people to second-guess themselves. Are they settling? Should they have waited? Is this really the right person?”

Simply put, cold feet is usually a reaction to stress. The engagement period isn’t always smooth sailing when you’re deep in the wedding planning trenches. Prewedding stress can make you more irritable, impatient and easily annoyed. If, out of the blue, your partner or family members start bugging you and those habits are driving you crazy, take a deep breath. Recognize you may be more sensitive than normal, and do your best to keep things in perspective, relax and be healthy. Your nerves will eventually return to a normal state. Meditating helps a lot. So does taking time for yourself with your favorite hobbies, pampering yourself and keeping open lines of communication with your partner.

But if you feel you or your partner has Mr. Big–style cold feet, the jitters may signify a more pressing problem and deserve immediate attention. Share your feelings with your spouse-to-be in a nonconfrontational way. No matter the issue, merging your lives is not always easy. Many couples turn to premarital counselors to talk out any differences or issues, or to just get a better understanding of their partner and relationship as a whole.

On a more serious note, there are relationship problems that are beyond the world of prewedding nerves and irritations. If you find yourself facing any of these issues, take steps immediately to confront the problem head-on, whether it’s consulting with family or friends, and/or seeking professional help (either individually or together).

“If you’re experiencing panic attacks, crying a lot, dreading the wedding, feeling nauseous, feeling trapped or like it’s ‘too late’ to call off the wedding, or if you don’t want to see your partner at all, these are signs you should postpone or cancel the wedding,” Greer says. “You should get counseling or some other type of support to figure out why you’re feeling so distressed. However, if it’s simply about doubts that can be addressed, trust that these won’t be strong enough to stop you from going ahead with the wedding day.”

Cold Feet Before the Wedding?

A January 22, 2013 article in The New York Times, written by Benedict Carey, discusses a series of studies on a not uncommon phenomenon: doubts right before getting married. Carey discusses research that found men and women who think they might be making a mistake are more likely to divorce later than those without doubts.

Although that may sound like common sense, with a divorce rate of 40% for first marriages, surely most of these couples started life together happily and did not anticipate an ending; they all believed they would be part of the successful 60%. Without some degree of faith, and a leap, who would want to get married (or at least, who would marry without a prenup)?

Older research shows that with major decisions — like buying a house or car, getting married, or even taking a long trip — the farther you are from the goal, the more you focus on the positives; but as the goal gets nearer, negative thoughts loom large. Knowing this, it makes sense that people would feel jittery about the fast approaching marriage but discount those feelings.

Even when doubts become overwhelming, if the wedding process is far along, it feels harder to back out: are the invitations ordered, or worse, mailed? Has the band or DJ been hired, the venue reserved, the dress chosen and altered, the out-of-town guests ticketed, the major nonrefundable deposits paid?

And what does it mean to have cold feet, anyway? Is it a small, nagging feeling that a mistake is being made, or an internal scream that yells, “Stop!” How serious is “serious enough” to listen to the doubts, weigh them as more important than the embarrassment and financial losses, and cancel the wedding?

It’s one thing to have last minute doubts about the person you are going to marry; it’s something else altogether to have doubts because you really love someone else:

My research on lost loves has given me a perspective on how extreme these doubts can be and yet be ignored. My research participants (men and women alike) have described being in hotel rooms, the night before the wedding, with former sweethearts — making love, crying and saying “goodbye forever” — then walking down the aisle the next day to marry a person who has no idea their beloved is really in love with someone from the past!

The first time I heard this, from a man, it seemed shocking that he had such deep love for a former sweetheart, having sex and tremendous feelings of loss right before his wedding, but went through with the marriage to someone else the next day, thinking he could (should?) leave his old flame behind. But then more stories arrived in my research box written by people who did the same thing.

Fortunately, that extreme behavior wasn’t common, but it was common for people who years later reunited with their lost loves to confess that when they walked down the aisle, they not only felt they were making a mistake but deeply wished they were marrying their lost loves instead. And yet, they married. What is not surprising is that, when the lost love contacted them years later, they put their marriages aside and renewed this loves for their old flames.

I started my research in 1994. At that time, the idea of reuniting with a high school sweetheart in midlife or late life seemed like a fantasy to most people, something that was extremely rare and unobtainable. Indeed, I thought I was researching a rare phenomenon and would have trouble finding enough participants for a meaningful study. Now, the average person is aware that many couples do reunite (or try) years after their adolescent breakups.

It is my hope that when love for an old flame reignites, or when even interest and curiosity return during an engagement, these doubts about an upcoming marriage will be taken seriously and not buried. When you bury feelings in sand, the tides are likely to shift someday and expose the painful, underlying reality.

Copyright 2013 by Nancy Kalish, Ph.D.

WWE wrestler Nikki Bella, who recently broke off her engagement to fiancé/actor/wrestler John Cena because she wants kids and he doesn’t, admitted that during the wedding planning, she’d given into getting married in his hometown so he wouldn’t get cold feet.

The couple is reportedly back together already, but this is exactly the sort of situation where having cold feet ought to be a red flag. The trouble is, we use the phrase too casually, making it extremely confusing for a person in a wedding context.

I was engaged once after dating someone for almost 8 years. Initial excitement quickly gave way to a deep, queasy sense of dread, with me flashing forward to an entire life exactly like the relationship. Six months later, we broke up. It’s weird to think of this as cold feet, the same phrase I’d use if I was just a little nervous about making a big decision.

Whether it’s jitters or five-alarm doom, cold feet is allegedly one of the most common feelings you can experience before getting married. Lifelong commitments are a big deal, the thinking goes, so wondering if you’re super-duper sure you’re making the right decision is normal. Who wouldn’t run through all your second thoughts before signing your life away?

It’s clear, though, that no one who gets cold feet knows exactly what to make of it. People with cold feet ask other married folks who had cold feet if they are happy they ignored it. They ask strangers to help them decide whether to go through with a wedding. Some experts say it’s totally okay to have cold feet before getting married, while others advise cold-feet-havers to run for the hills.

But a few years back, a study found that having cold feet is a clear predictor of divorce. Researchers discovered that at least one person in roughly two thirds of couples experience this phenomenon — 47 percent of grooms and 38 percent of brides. The uptick in divorce for those who had cold feet only happened when the woman felt the frosty draft, though. “This appeared to be less true for men,” researchers noted, “consistent with our prediction that women’s greater attunement toward relationship problems would render their doubts more diagnostic.”

In other words, when men get cold feet, they’re just being dudes, terrified of commitment, but it’s not necessarily any kind of insight or reflection of the actual quality of the relationship. When women get it, it must mean there is something really wrong.

This may be why there are joke socks for grooms that say, “In case you get cold feet.” But a news story of a lady getting cold feet, for instance, involved a 32-year-old Georgia woman who faked her own abduction to get out of her wedding.

The saying dates back at least to the late 1800s in a Stephen Crane novel and is used to indicate losing one’s courage. Its origin is still unclear, though some people think it’s a military reference to soldiers with frostbitten toes.

But we use it now for any kind of wedding related jitters whether it’s just classic nerves or an “I’m actually in love with someone else” scenario. In the royal wedding alone, Meghan Markle’s cold feet were described as her just being a “nervous wreck” over the scrutiny of a public wedding watched by millions, especially after learning her father wouldn’t attend. In other words, no doubt about Harry, just stressed out.

Markle’s dad was also described as having cold feet, however, this was used to describe him opting out of the wedding after being exposed for staging paparazzi photos. In other words, no doubts about their union, just too embarrassed to show his face.

Diana and Prince Charles, we were reminded, were both said to have had cold feet before getting hitched in 1981. Charles reportedly told an aide, “I can’t go through with it…I can’t do it,” while Diana said, “I can’t marry him, I can’t do this, this is absolutely unbelievable.” But here cold feet is a thousand percent appropriate: Charles was in love with Camilla Parker Bowles, and Lady Di knew it.

These are all wildly different scenarios that use the same expression, which is why we keep writing articles trying to figure out what’s really going on. Benedict Carey spoke to researchers in 2013 with this goal in mind. “Yet most big decisions prompt some nervous hesitation, and research suggests that it is the nature and source of those doubts that matter, not their mere presence,” Carey writes at the New York Times.

So it’s okay to have some doubts, but if you don’t really trust the person you’re with, or dislike their parents, or are in love with someone else, this is something you should probably sit with and think over rather than just dismiss. The trouble is, weddings are such a perfect storm of pressure and distractions, Carey explains, that it makes it really really hard to do this when it’s happening to you.

The distraction and high stakes of the big day lead many people to dismiss the doubts as “pre-wedding jitters,” one expert tells him. Another issue is that people tend to idealize the person they’re going to marry, so they make a concerted effort to ignore all their bad qualities, not realizing the suppressed doubts will absolutely resurface. People also set an incredibly high bar for happiness and perfection from their partner. So being too busy to address the feelings, while invested in an idealized version of your mate, pretty much guarantees cold feet will be misread and repackaged into normal stress.

There are things you can do: One, Carey writes, is to write down and write through the doubts, which will help you address the issues, and experience greater confidence in the choice you end up making. Another solution is to identify what kind of doubts you have. If you’re excited and nervous, clinical psychologist Anita Sanz told Slate, then talking through it with other married people will probably assuage it. “They can reassure you that it’s normal and that they felt that way, too,” she said.

“But if you’re talking about the cold feet that’s the kind of nagging gut feeling or intuition that something just isn’t right and you shouldn’t be going through with the wedding, that’s something else entirely,” she explains. Then you’re going to have to actually stop and figure out why you feel this way and whether it can be addressed. This hinges entirely on being honest with yourself though, which given the above pressures to sideline the dread, is probably very very difficult.

So to repeat: Cold-feet nerves are good. Cold-feet gut warning is bad. But hopefully by now you’re not in too deep to figure this out, much less pull the plug, so that faking your abduction seems tempting. Because even though wedding insurance will reimburse you for all the stuff you can’t control, it doesn’t cover changing your mind.

Tracy Moore

Tracy Moore is a staff writer at MEL. She covers all the soft sciences like psychology, sex, relationships and parenting, but since this is a men’s magazine, occasionally the hard ones. Formerly at Jezebel.

These Are The Real Reasons Brides Get Cold Feet On Their Wedding Days

It’s relatively normal to get cold feet before your wedding.

Whether it’s because you’ve been building up a bundle of stress during your planning process, or because you’re starting to choke on the nerves when you think about spending the rest of your life with just one person, pre-wedding jitters can make you want to pack up your things and run away.

So, what should you do if you start to feel like you’re about to walk down the aisle and say hello to a lifetime with a person you’re suddenly feeling iffy about?

Who should you talk to if you wake up in the morning of your wedding and wish you were single?

Last week, we dove into this topic from the groom’s point of view. This week, we bring you the brides.

In case you feel any of the above insecurities, take note of what these six brides did after they got cold feet on their wedding day, and how it turned out for them after they made their decisions:

1. I ran away for a little while.

Like, two hours before the ceremony, I was feeling super strange. Everything wasn’t making sense anymore when it came to the guy I was marrying and why I was getting married to him. I think I just felt a ton of stress and everyone kept saying to me, ‘Are you ready? Are you ready?’ I didn’t know. The more people asked me that, the more I just wanted to get the hell out of there. So I did. I wasn’t in my wedding dress yet, but my hair and makeup was done. I didn’t tell anybody and just went for a walk around the hotel. I came back an hour later and felt like I was ready to get married and do this. I made the right decision. It’s been two years of being happily married.

— Jessica G., 28

2. I called the whole thing off.

The hardest thing I ever had to do was look myself in the mirror on the day of my wedding — the wedding my parent’s spent $75,000 on — and say I have to call this off. I was lying to everyone if I went through with it. I had caught my ex-fiancé cheating on me three months before. He told me he wouldn’t do it again and that we should put this behind us. I tried so hard. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by calling the whole thing off. But the morning before it all started, I just couldn’t go through with it. So many people were shocked and upset. I still can’t face a lot of family members.

— Royal K., 24

3. I told the groom.

After the ceremony, I got cold feet. It was so emotional and everyone was looking at us and expecting us to cry and laugh. We just didn’t have much emotion through the ceremony. I think we were both nervous. After the ceremony, I took my husband in another room and asked him if he really wanted to do this because I thought maybe I pressured him to get married. He told me he wanted to marry me, but not in front of 250 people. The wedding was what was making our relationship awkward, not the marriage part.

— Cindie G., 29

4. I realized it was all nerves.

For a good two weeks before the wedding, I felt like I didn’t want to get married anymore. I had no one to tell. Any of my bridesmaids would have judged me. All my family members would have been angry because they never liked the guy I was marrying, and now they spent a ton of money on our wedding. On the day of the wedding, I wasn’t feeling right. I ended up locking myself in the bathroom and trying to get to the root of the problem. I guess I just realized that marriage is scary — nobody tells you that. Weddings are stressful. I wish someone told me that. In the end, both of those things were my problem. It was all nerves.

— Haley H., 26

5. I chatted with the Rabbi.

I couldn’t stop crying before it was time to walk down the aisle. I told my bridesmaids I was just nervous, that’s why. The Rabbi pulled me aside and we had a heart-to-heart. He asked me how I was feeling about the whole thing. I guess I was just honest and admitted that I was tired by the whole wedding planning process and unsure about the future. After talking to him for 20 minutes, I felt better about the whole situation and decided to get married.

— Leslie V., 29

6. I went through with it. I had no choice.

I told my wedding planner right before it was time to get married that I wasn’t feeling right about all this. She looked me in the eye and said if I didn’t want to get married, I didn’t have to. That I could pack up my bags and just go home. She said she would even drive me back home if I wanted to go. Even though she was giving me an out, I felt like I had no choice. I felt like she was even using reverse psychology to make me go through with it. In the end, I felt like I didn’t have a choice. So I just went through with the wedding. Our marriage only lasted a whopping six months.

— Veronica H., 26

Brides and Grooms: Cold Feet

In fact, Moir-Smith and her husband found that they were both uneasy for much of their engagement, even though, as therapists, they thought they’d be able to handle it. And she discovered that they were not alone. Cold feet are a near-ubiquitous but downplayed part of engagement. It’s the dirty secret that brides and grooms hate to talk about. But soon after her wedding, Moir-Smith focused her practice solely on brides-to-be and wrote the book Emotionally Engaged: A Bride’s Guide to Surviving the “Happiest” Time of Her Life—clients came out of nowhere.

What should be a time of bliss can also feel like a time of loss, and that’s healthy. Only by grieving the end of single life can you fully embrace your new married life. “It’s a long slow trudge through some pretty dark places,” Moir-Smith says. Not everyone gets cold feet, but an identity shift will happen. If you don’t allow it to happen before the wedding, it will catch up with you later. Here are a few ways to help you deal with your anxieties:

Getting a Grip

  • Your Fantasy Engagement: Describe what you always wanted engagement to feel like. Recognizing your expectations can help you to acknowledge and defuse your frustrations and disappointments.
  • The End of Singlehood: Honor the end of single life with a private ritual. Gather objects that symbolize the life you’re leaving—photos, CDs, the keys to a condo you bought as a single—and reflect on what each one means to you. Or write down a list of everything you’ll be leaving, and burn it ceremonially.
  • Draw a Family Map: Map out all the connections between you and your family on a sheet of paper. Then add your fiance. Meditate on how that will change the role you play with each of your family members.

Danger, Danger

What if your future spouse isn’t the right match? Or what if you’re just not ready for marriage? Rachel Safier, author of There Goes the Bride, called off her wedding two weeks before the big day. Since then, she’s talked to a lot of runaway brides and says that none regrets canceling her wedding. Their only regret is not stepping up sooner. “People know what they need, but finding the truth is not as hard as accepting it.”

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

  • Look Downrange: Ask yourself if you’re anxious about the big day—the money, the relatives, the planning—or about the rest of your life. Find the real source of your anxiety.
  • Open Up: “Talk to people in happy marriages,” Safier says. “Ask them if it’s normal to feel this way. But most important: talk to your partner. Once the ring is on the finger people feel the conversation is closed but it’s not.”
  • Pen to Paper: “Write down all your crazy thoughts,” Moir-Smith says, “and look at them later with a cool head.” Sometimes thoughts you’re not aware of come to the surface. For example, if you can envision having an affair in a few years, you’ve got a problem.
  • Under the Weather: “Before my wedding, I had migraines and I caught every cold under the sun,” Safier says. When disaster is imminent, “people feel physical pain, like something is rattling the cage from the inside telling them something is wrong.” So listen to your body.

Don’t be scared to head for the hills if it feels like the right thing to do. Embarrassment and wasted expenses—common excuses for ignoring frosty tootsies—are a small price to pay when avoiding a breakup down the road. But if you know you’re on the right path, work through your anxieties and you can enjoy your day in the sun.

Kirill Linnik/

A bride or groom getting cold feet before the wedding is often dismissed as a natural reaction – something that everyone goes through before declaring “I do.”

However, new research suggests brides and grooms-to-be should take heed of their pre-wedding jitters.

Two separate studies show premarital attitudes have long-lasting consequences. Having cold feet can foreshadow an unhappy marriage, while having confidence in a relationship can predict wedded bliss years later.

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“The take-home message is don’t ignore those doubts,” says Matthew Johnson, assistant professor of human ecology at the University of Alberta.

Johnson and his fellow researcher Jared Anderson of Kansas State University conducted a study, to be published in the journal Family Process, that examined the relationships of 610 recently married heterosexual couples.

The researchers found that those who were certain of their decision to tie the knot were more likely to spend time with their partners a year and a half into their marriage, doing things like going out for dinners or simply hanging out together. These couples were also more likely to be satisfied with their relationships after three years of marriage.

“The couples that are more confident in their decision to get married are likely to invest more in their relationships,” Johnson says. “And a very pragmatic and key way you do that is through the amount of time that you spend with one another.”

Johnson and Anderson’s findings complement a recent study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, which examined how marriage turns out for those who have premarital doubts.

The study showed that of more than 230 newlywed couples, 47 per cent of husbands and 38 per cent of wives admitted they had been uncertain about tying the knot. It also found that women who experienced pre-marriage jitters were two-and-a-half times more likely to divorce four years later than women who were confident about getting married.

(Divorce rates were also higher among men who had doubts, but the difference was not enough for researchers to consider husbands’ premarital concerns to be a significant predictor. The researchers suggested women’s doubts could be a stronger sign of trouble ahead because “women’s greater attunement toward relationship problems … would render their doubts more diagnostic.”)

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Among those who stayed together, couples who had doubts were less satisfied with their marriages.

If people’s pre-wedding instincts tend to be correct, why do so many ignore their concerns and get married anyway?

Johnson suggests part of the reason is that people tend to get swept up in the momentum of their relationships. “Once they kind of get moving in a direction, it’s difficult to change,” he says. “In the process of planning a wedding … it’s very difficult to change that course, especially when your family and your partner’s family is involved.”

People may also brush aside their concerns because they feel societal or peer pressure to take the plunge, especially if all their friends are getting married, says Joan Marsman, a Toronto couple and sex therapist.

“There is this myth out there that once we’re married, it will all be fine. … There’s this idea that that will be a magical solution.”

Friends and family members will often dismiss a bride or groom’s concerns, she says, in an attempt to reassure them. If the wedding goes ahead, “They don’t want you to be mad at them later.”

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But just because you have cold feet doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship is doomed, says Allison Moir-Smith, a Massachusetts counsellor who specializes in working with anxious brides.

The doubts that people feel could be tied to concerns about letting go of a single-life identity, worries about growing up, or a whole host of anxieties involved in making such a life-changing move.

“People label everything as cold feet,” Moir-Smith says. “Yes, it might be about the relationship, but yes, it’s also about you making this life change. … It’s hard to tease out which is which.”

Unpacking those doubts helped Moir-Smith deal with her own case of cold feet before getting married in 2002 (and prompted her to focus her practice on counselling other brides).

Instead of feeling joy about being engaged at 34, she felt anxious and overwhelmed. “I was a wreck,” Moir-Smith says. She eventually realized “my personal emotional journey had nothing to do with my fiancé and everything to do with growing up, leaving my family, becoming an adult.

“I think it’s the mythology of engagement, of being only a happy time of life, when in fact it’s a time of enormous transition,” she says.

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“You have to put on this face and this front of being only happy … because if you show any cracks in that, people will then question your relationship.”

Once individuals identify and address the root causes of their anxieties, some may find marriage isn’t right for them after all. Moir-Smith says she has had clients call off their weddings after realizing they can’t remedy their fears. But others become much more confident about walking down the aisle once they’ve faced those fears.

That’s what happened to Moir-Smith. She and her husband celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary this year.

“Ten years, two kids,” she says with a laugh. “Lived to tell the tale.”

Heart-to-heart

U.S. bridal counsellor Allison Moir-Smith suggests asking yourself the following questions to better understand the source of your cold feet:

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  • Are you worried about the relationship itself?
  • Do you have concerns about your emotional intimacy or sex life?
  • Who is the person you’re actually marrying? (Not the person you want him or her to be.)
  • What is going on in your own life that you need to deal with?
  • Do you have unresolved issues about your parents’ divorce or marriage?
  • Are you conflicted about letting go of your single identity?
  • Are you reluctant or afraid of growing up?
  • Did you say “yes” because you were afraid to say “no”?

A January 22, 2013 article in The New York Times, written by Benedict Carey, discusses a series of studies on a not uncommon phenomenon: doubts right before getting married. Carey discusses research that found men and women who think they might be making a mistake are more likely to divorce later than those without doubts.

Although that may sound like common sense, with a divorce rate of 40% for first marriages, surely most of these couples started life together happily and did not anticipate an ending; they all believed they would be part of the successful 60%. Without some degree of faith, and a leap, who would want to get married (or at least, who would marry without a prenup)?

Older research shows that with major decisions — like buying a house or car, getting married, or even taking a long trip — the farther you are from the goal, the more you focus on the positives; but as the goal gets nearer, negative thoughts loom large. Knowing this, it makes sense that people would feel jittery about the fast approaching marriage but discount those feelings.

Even when doubts become overwhelming, if the wedding process is far along, it feels harder to back out: are the invitations ordered, or worse, mailed? Has the band or DJ been hired, the venue reserved, the dress chosen and altered, the out-of-town guests ticketed, the major nonrefundable deposits paid?

And what does it mean to have cold feet, anyway? Is it a small, nagging feeling that a mistake is being made, or an internal scream that yells, “Stop!” How serious is “serious enough” to listen to the doubts, weigh them as more important than the embarrassment and financial losses, and cancel the wedding?

It’s one thing to have last minute doubts about the person you are going to marry; it’s something else altogether to have doubts because you really love someone else:

My research on lost loves has given me a perspective on how extreme these doubts can be and yet be ignored. My research participants (men and women alike) have described being in hotel rooms, the night before the wedding, with former sweethearts — making love, crying and saying “goodbye forever” — then walking down the aisle the next day to marry a person who has no idea their beloved is really in love with someone from the past!

The first time I heard this, from a man, it seemed shocking that he had such deep love for a former sweetheart, having sex and tremendous feelings of loss right before his wedding, but went through with the marriage to someone else the next day, thinking he could (should?) leave his old flame behind. But then more stories arrived in my research box written by people who did the same thing.

Fortunately, that extreme behavior wasn’t common, but it was common for people who years later reunited with their lost loves to confess that when they walked down the aisle, they not only felt they were making a mistake but deeply wished they were marrying their lost loves instead. And yet, they married. What is not surprising is that, when the lost love contacted them years later, they put their marriages aside and renewed this loves for their old flames.

I started my research in 1994. At that time, the idea of reuniting with a high school sweetheart in midlife or late life seemed like a fantasy to most people, something that was extremely rare and unobtainable. Indeed, I thought I was researching a rare phenomenon and would have trouble finding enough participants for a meaningful study. Now, the average person is aware that many couples do reunite (or try) years after their adolescent breakups.

It is my hope that when love for an old flame reignites, or when even interest and curiosity return during an engagement, these doubts about an upcoming marriage will be taken seriously and not buried. When you bury feelings in sand, the tides are likely to shift someday and expose the painful, underlying reality.

Copyright 2013 by Nancy Kalish, Ph.D.

Brides: Got Cold Feet? Listen To Your Head

It’s not unheard of for either the bride or groom to get cold feet before the wedding. Some pre-wedding anxiety is perfectly normal and natural, as virtually everyone experiences such anxiety to one degree or another.

But if you have real hesitation and doubt about going forward with the wedding, you may want to listen to your head and those doubts. Because new research released last week suggests that a woman’s hesitation before her wedding might predict a bumpy road ahead.

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.

The researchers, led by Justin Lavner, a UCLA doctoral student in psychology, studied 232 couples in Los Angeles during the first few months of marriage and then checked in on the spouses every six months for four years.

Among the wives who expressed doubts about getting married, 19 percent were divorced 4 years later, compared with only 8 percent women who did not report doubts. For husbands, those figures were 14 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

In 36 percent of couples, both partners said they had no doubts before the wedding. Four years later, only 6 percent of those couples had divorced.

Among couples in which both spouses reported premarital doubts, 20 percent got divorced. Of couples in which only the husband reported doubts, 10 percent got divorced, compared with 18 percent of couples who got divorced when only the wife had doubts.

What Do I Do If I Have Doubts Before My Wedding?

Doubts don’t mean doom for the relationship. There’s a few easy things you can do to put those doubts to bed.

  • Talk to your partner before the wedding. If communication is key to a relationship’s health, there’s no better time to put that to the test before the wedding. Sometimes talking about your insecurities and doubts with your partner can help reduce your anxiety and answer any questions you may have.
  • Talk to others for an objective point-of-view. Perhaps the emotionality of the wedding preparations are clouding how you see your significant other. Talking to an objective third-party might help put things into perspective — and see if they’re grounded in reality or not.
  • Don’t ignore real problems. Sometimes real problems crop up as a result of wedding planning, or just getting to know one another better in a deeper relationship that’s moving to a lifetime commitment. By dealing with these problems head-on, you can figure out if they are solvable before you make the commitment. By ignoring them or putting them off, you may be trying to convince yourself they’ll solve themselves.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be pressured. Weddings are often large, well-coordinated and expensive events. Don’t let the event take on a life of its own so much that you feel like you couldn’t call it off if the doubts aren’t resolved by the time of the wedding.

Anxiety and doubt are not the same thing. If you have real doubts about getting married, listen to those doubts and take action. It may not mean anything, but you won’t know unless you make a concerted effort to address it proactively — before the wedding.

Read the full article: Premarital Doubts are Legitimate Warning Signs

Brides: Got Cold Feet? Listen To Your Head

A January 22, 2013 article in The New York Times, written by Benedict Carey, discusses a series of studies on a not uncommon phenomenon: doubts right before getting married. Carey discusses research that found men and women who think they might be making a mistake are more likely to divorce later than those without doubts.

Although that may sound like common sense, with a divorce rate of 40% for first marriages, surely most of these couples started life together happily and did not anticipate an ending; they all believed they would be part of the successful 60%. Without some degree of faith, and a leap, who would want to get married (or at least, who would marry without a prenup)?

Older research shows that with major decisions — like buying a house or car, getting married, or even taking a long trip — the farther you are from the goal, the more you focus on the positives; but as the goal gets nearer, negative thoughts loom large. Knowing this, it makes sense that people would feel jittery about the fast approaching marriage but discount those feelings.

Even when doubts become overwhelming, if the wedding process is far along, it feels harder to back out: are the invitations ordered, or worse, mailed? Has the band or DJ been hired, the venue reserved, the dress chosen and altered, the out-of-town guests ticketed, the major nonrefundable deposits paid?

And what does it mean to have cold feet, anyway? Is it a small, nagging feeling that a mistake is being made, or an internal scream that yells, “Stop!” How serious is “serious enough” to listen to the doubts, weigh them as more important than the embarrassment and financial losses, and cancel the wedding?

It’s one thing to have last minute doubts about the person you are going to marry; it’s something else altogether to have doubts because you really love someone else:

My research on lost loves has given me a perspective on how extreme these doubts can be and yet be ignored. My research participants (men and women alike) have described being in hotel rooms, the night before the wedding, with former sweethearts — making love, crying and saying “goodbye forever” — then walking down the aisle the next day to marry a person who has no idea their beloved is really in love with someone from the past!

The first time I heard this, from a man, it seemed shocking that he had such deep love for a former sweetheart, having sex and tremendous feelings of loss right before his wedding, but went through with the marriage to someone else the next day, thinking he could (should?) leave his old flame behind. But then more stories arrived in my research box written by people who did the same thing.

Fortunately, that extreme behavior wasn’t common, but it was common for people who years later reunited with their lost loves to confess that when they walked down the aisle, they not only felt they were making a mistake but deeply wished they were marrying their lost loves instead. And yet, they married. What is not surprising is that, when the lost love contacted them years later, they put their marriages aside and renewed this loves for their old flames.

I started my research in 1994. At that time, the idea of reuniting with a high school sweetheart in midlife or late life seemed like a fantasy to most people, something that was extremely rare and unobtainable. Indeed, I thought I was researching a rare phenomenon and would have trouble finding enough participants for a meaningful study. Now, the average person is aware that many couples do reunite (or try) years after their adolescent breakups.

It is my hope that when love for an old flame reignites, or when even interest and curiosity return during an engagement, these doubts about an upcoming marriage will be taken seriously and not buried. When you bury feelings in sand, the tides are likely to shift someday and expose the painful, underlying reality.

Copyright 2013 by Nancy Kalish, Ph.D.

Illustration by Jocelyn Runice

Welcome to today’s installment of SELF.com Myth-Busting: The Getting-Married Edition. It can seem like if you’re really in love with someone, you float through the time leading up to your wedding on a cloud of tulle and warm, fuzzy dreams of the future, nary a doubt in sight. But as you’re about to see, that’s absolutely false. A lot of women experience intense worries before getting married, whether they’re tying the knot with their forever person or someone who’s completely wrong for them. Here, 11 women share the reasons they freaked out before their weddings and how the relationships actually ended up working out.

1. She worried she wasn’t getting married for the right reasons.

“I was afraid I was doing what my mom wanted me to do. On my wedding day, I looked over at my father and he said, ‘You don’t need to do this. We can turn around and walk away right now.’ It was as if he read my mind. I laughed at him and said, ‘Dad, come on,’ and we walked down the aisle. The marriage lasted 11 months because my husband was as wildly unfaithful as he had been before we got married. But my father’s words and instinct never left my memory. That day, I learned just how much he loved, knew me, and cared about me.” —Angela H., 42

2. She thought her then-fiancé wasn’t pitching in enough.

“My husband and I got married during a pretty hectic time. I was trying to handle all my moving pieces—writing term papers, researching houses and wedding venues, getting a promotion—when I realized my fiancé was just hanging back, happy to see me manage our lives. He had work and school too, but I felt like I was doing the heavy lifting. I started to wonder if the next chapter of life was also going to look like a solo act. After getting overwhelmed, I let him know how I felt. After that, he tried every day after that to relieve some of the pressure.” —Daniela R., 29

3. She was scared her health issues would interfere with her wedding day (and her marriage).

“I live with rheumatoid arthritis along with other autoimmune conditions. Six months before my wedding, I also had brain surgery. I worried that I wouldn’t feel well on my wedding day, that my fingers would swell and my rings wouldn’t fit, and that my scar from brain surgery would show. But I was also thinking long-term: Marriage is supposed to last through sickness and health, but will he still love me in 5, 10, 20, or 30 years? I talked about it with my husband. He was extremely supportive and comforting, and five years later, he still is.” —Ashley S., 32

4. She wonders if the conversation will dry up.

“I’ve been with my fiancé for almost 10 years, and we’re getting married in Spring 2017. I don’t have many worries leading up to our wedding because we’ve been together for so long, but I do get freaked out by the idea that we could run out of things to talk about one day. What if there comes a time when there’s nothing left to say because we’ve exhausted every topic?!” —Maggie B., 26

5. She couldn’t deal with his pets-or-me attitude.

“A week prior to getting married, my fiancé asked me if I could get rid of my two small birds. I’d had them the entire three-year relationship, and I had no idea how much he disliked them. They were like children to me, so I was shocked and honestly thought he was joking. To my dismay, he was not. My friends and family were disturbed as well. At that point, I kind of didn’t want to marry him, but I went through with it anyway. I never did get rid of my birds, but I did get rid of him a year later.” —Marrah S., 35

6. She could tell she wasn’t truly in love.

​”I married more for security than passion. My girlfriend had been in love with me for many years, even tattooing my lips on her ass without telling me. My darkest thought was that I wasn’t in love with her, but my mother​ tried to convince me it was just cold feet. Also, it was all planned, paid for, and people were traveling from out of state, so I went through with it. The moment we said ‘I do,’ it was over for me. We stuck it out for a year and a half, but my feelings never turned into romance. I shouldn’t have said I do when, in fact, I didn’t.” —April H., 54

7. She had a hard time identifying with his siblings.

“My husband is 20 years older than me. He’s the youngest in a big family, and all of his brothers and sisters were well into their 50s and 60s. His oldest brother is my dad’s age! I knew I wasn’t super-young, but the idea of entering a family where I had more in common with the nieces and nephews than my husband’s siblings kept me up many nights. My husband has always been supportive if I just need to get away to a movie or bar when we go to visit his family.” —Julie K., 37

8. She knew deep down that he was cheating.

“Before our wedding, we were arguing a lot. My friends told me it was just ‘wedding anxiety,’ but I was getting more suspicious about little things he was doing. They’d tell me it was all in my head, and I would always say, ‘No, it’s in my gut.’ My fiancé got upset when I started to question the relationship, so we got married. Then we got divorced because about a year and a half into the marriage, I found out that yes, he was cheating.” —Michelle K., 44

9. She worried they would grow apart as they got older.

“I was freaked out that my needs and wants might change as I get older and my husband won’t hop on board. I talked with him about it before we got married. He was very frank, and it was good to have an honest conversation about what we could possibly go through in the future. We even created a plan for a positive way to tackle problems. Since we’re newlyweds, we haven’t faced any issues in our marriage yet, but I’m still happy we talked about it.” —Taryn C., 28

10. She’s having a hard time dealing with how easy the relationship is.

“We were planning on getting married in August 2016, but we’ve postponed the wedding. I started experiencing extreme anxiety and depression in January, and I began seeing a therapist to figure out what was going on. I think a big part of it is the huge commitment even though my fiancé is perfect, we’ve been together for four years, and we’ve never had a big fight. Things seem easy for the first time in my life, but it still doesn’t feel like the right moment. It wasn’t worth it to continue feeling this way, scared that I wouldn’t be able to go down the aisle. I want to be in the right mindset when I get married, so I need to work through some of these feelings.” —Jennifer T., 32

11. She lacked examples of loving, lasting relationships.

“I was in my late 30s when I got married. Aside from a few friends, I had no models for successful relationships. It seemed like we were certainly walking into a doomed marriage, just statistically speaking. But neither of us had ever felt like this about anyone before, so we got married anyway. Three years later, we’re still madly in love.” —Danielle V., 41

Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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