This morning’s *USA Today* includes an article: “‘With this doubt, I
thee wed’: Some know marriage will fail” by Sharon Jayson.
Here are some excerpts:
Tracie Donahue had some doubts before the wedding, but she got married,
So did Crystal Neumann and Cherrie Rasmussen, who say they also ignored
the red flags and tied the knot, only to sever it later.
Counselors and those who study dating, marriage and divorce say plenty
of couples get married when they shouldn’t.
And their numbers may be increasing, because more couples are casually
living together, which can complicate decisions about whether to marry,
says Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family
Studies at the University of Denver.
Stanley says his research on couples who cohabit before marriage has
found that “some of those wouldn’t have married if they hadn’t been
“People have committed themselves before talking about the commitment to
the future, and that can get you walking down the aisle not being sure
that’s the right thing, or what you want to do,” he says.
Stories of people entering marriages they felt were doomed from the
start intrigued Carl Weisman of Torrance, Calif., whose book, So Why
Have You Never Been Married? 10 Insights Into Why He Hasn’t Wed, arrived
He says a divorced woman he knows said something he thought was quite
profound: “I didn’t listen to my inner voice. I knew I was going to
divorce him before I even married him.”
That led Weisman to thinking about others who went into a marriage
knowing it wouldn’t last.
But he couldn’t find any academic research on the subject.
So Weisman, 50, who recently married for the first time, surveyed 1,036
people across the country and conducted in-depth interviews with dozens
more for his new book, Serious Doubts: Why People Marry When They Know
It Won’t Last.
Those surveyed had one thing in common: “They all ignored their inner
voice,” he says.
“They knew it wasn’t going to last.”
About half said they started thinking about getting divorced less than
six months after the wedding, he adds.
But that’s not to confuse the kind of serious doubts Weisman analyzed
with the common premarital jitters that many people feel before taking
Andrea Candell says her experiences as a relationship coach led her to
talk more about this in her book, His Cold Feet: A Guide for the Woman
Who Wants to Tie the Knot With the Guy Who Wants to Talk About It Later.
Although the book was largely for women, Candell found a difference
between cold feet and more serious reservations.
“Cold feet are focused on jitters around marriage and fears of the
unknown – the fear that getting married has no guarantee,” says Candell,
of Marin County, Calif.
“When it’s something more than cold feet, the issues focus on the partner.”
Weisman included in his survey only those who answered yes to the
question: “Did you know your marriage would end in divorce before you
He sorted for geographic representation, for age and racial and ethnic
Of the 1,036 respondents, 76% of men and 83% of women said that before
the marriage they felt “somewhat” or “extremely certain” the marriage
would end in divorce.
The rest were “slightly certain.”
Anecdotes may be telling, but they aren’t enough for academic
researchers whose studies appear in peer-reviewed journals.
“Part of the problem is that after the marriage or relationship is in
distress, people recast the history of their relationship,” says
marriage researcher John Gottman, co-founder of the Gottman Institute in
Seattle and an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of
Stanley agrees. “He has people trying to explain to themselves why it
didn’t work out.”
He says Weisman’s data “would be much more compelling if you actually
had people’s thoughts about how anxious they were on their wedding day”
to make sure time hadn’t colored their memory of how they felt.
Stanley says a study he’s doing now aims to address this.
Weisman cites four categories of reasons people in his survey set aside
serious doubts and got married anyway:
*External pressures from parents, partner or others.
*Misguided motivations (infatuation, to escape parents).
*Personal beliefs (such as that the partner will “change”).
*Thinking they won’t find anyone else because of personality traits or
Social stigma can play a part
Many engaged couples complete some form of premarital counseling or
education; some churches require it.
And that’s where differences in expectations may first appear.
“I have had people who came to a pre-marriage workshop, and it became
evident they shouldn’t be married,” says Presbyterian minister and
pastoral counselor Bill Hedrick, executive director of Tidewater
Pastoral Counseling in Norfolk, Va.
He says many are the children of divorced parents, which heightens
expectations to find the right partner.
And other factors would cause someone to proceed with a wedding despite
some doubts, he says, including social stigma to be married by a certain
age or a belief that options are dwindling.
“Quite frankly, many of us make an unconscious choice: ‘I’m ready to be
married, and this person has many of the qualities I’m looking for.’ ‘Of
all the people I’ve ever dated, this person is better than anybody
else.’ ‘If don’t take advantage of this, I may have wasted an opportunity.’ ”
Also, Hedrick believes many people don’t even know what a good marriage
“More than any generation in the past, we have the most unrealistic
expectations,” he says.
Pennsylvania State University sociologist Paul Amato has done studies
after divorce, asking people about their reasons; he says the most
common were that the two people drifted apart or one of the partners
But Amato says very few say they were a bad match from the start.
“Most people don’t get married thinking it’s not going to work out.”
The article is online at:
Clipping courtesy of Ken Pope