Monday, 15 June 2015

Cold feet

It seems that a surprising number of those about to marry already doubt that the relationship will last. And quite a few of them consider leaving their spouse-to-be at the ceremony. But for one reason or another they go through with it - often only to confirm their original doubts and get divorced.

A survey of 1,600 divorcees found that 49 per cent were worried on their wedding day that the marriage was a big mistake, and two thirds thought about calling it off.

So why did they squash their doubts and carry on anyway? They thought their partner would change for the better. They thought "it would all work out". They were too embarrassed. They felt guilty letting their partner down. They succumbed to family pressure. Or they thought it was just "wedding nerves".

One woman who explains her numerous doubts says she only realised how empty her marriage was when a workmate got engaged and she burst into tears.

I wonder how many of the divorcees cohabited before they married. It seems to me that a period of cohabiting will make it very clear whether you're suited to each other and likely to stay together or whether it's just not going to work.

Jenny and I cohabited for 14 years before we married, and by then were confident we would stay together. Even though the marriage was basically for financial reasons (I would only inherit her occupational pension if I was a spouse), we had no doubts whatever as we did the necessary at the local register office.

But I can understand those with cold feet not having the nerve to stand up and say "No, I just can't do it". Especially if it's a mega-bucks white wedding with all the trimmings. Disappointing hundreds of people and throwing all that cash down the drain. Looking like a complete idiot for going along with huge preparations.

Who wants to be a party-pooper?


Wisewebwoman said...

Then again, why do we think it should be a life commitment. The whole wedding industry is built on illusion. Call me a cynic. The pressure is horrific to go through with it, even with doubts on the wedding day.

And the money thrown at all the fripperies in the hope it will be returned via gifts.

Pshaw and humbug.


Anonymous said...

Wow, to WWW.

Banish all marriages is how I feel. Marriage does something bad to a good relationship...

Nick said...

www: I agree, the idea that it's a life-time commitment is pretty unrealistic, especially now that people live so long. And yes, a simple pledge of commitment has been blown up into this enormous commercialised industry - and into a kind of theatrical performance.

Susie: A ban on marriages wouldn't bother me at all. Too many people get married for all the wrong reasons. But it certainly hasn't spoilt our own relationship. We're scarcely aware that we're married. For us it was just an occasion for a slap-up meal with two good friends who acted as witnesses.

Dave Martin said...

The wife and I just wanted to be married, and but for not wanting to disappoint the relatives we would have just grabbed a couple of witnesses off the street and called it right.
Even so, it was a cheap and cheerful registry effort, reception at the pub, honeymoon by coach to Austria, total cost about 600 quid.
Nothing flash, nothing fancy, no doubts, and just passed the twenty year mark in February.
It doesn't matter how 'Hello Magazine' the wedding day is, if you're not made for each other then it's all a waste of time.
Where there's doubt, there is no doubt.

Nick said...

Dave: Your marriage plan sounds about right - the functional stuff mixed with a bit of pleasure, and no absurd chucking money in all directions. Indeed, a fancy spread in Hello magazine is no guarantee of a happy future.

Bijoux said...

I think that studies have shown that cohabitating before marriage leads to a higher divorce rate. It's probably due in part to people who won't live together also won't divorce, due to religious beliefs. Also, young people (never married) who are afraid to commit 100 percent in the first place to marriage are more likely to not be as committed down the line, even when they are married. Just my theory.

It's sad that people go through with a wedding when they have serious doubts, but I can see how easily that can happen.

Grannymar said...

Nick, I have cold feet, but it is nothing to do with marriage!

I was fortunate in that from the moment I met Jack, I knew he was the person I wanted to share my life with. Neither of us had any doubts. Our day was simple: Immediate family only and the party took place in our large back garden. The sun shone and everyone enjoyed the day and we enjoyed our life together.

Nick said...

Bijoux: There are a lot of contradictory stats around marriage. One study found that the younger you were when you married or cohabited, the more likely you were to split up. The older you were, the more likely that you'd pick the right partner and stay together.

Older studies suggest that cohabiting is more likely to lead to divorce, but more recent studies suggest that isn't the case.

However, my enthusiasm for cohabiting may well be based on false assumptions! All I can safely say is that it worked for Jenny and me.

Nick said...

Grannymar: That sounds like an ideal marriage ceremony as well. I like the idea of a party in your back garden rather than some overblown jamboree in Hotel Swank.

kylie said...

My gut told me that I shouldn't marry the person I did but logic told me my gut was wrong.
What I have learned is that my long term happiness is not much related to my partner and it is the same in any relationship, whether they seem to be ideal or not.
I take responsibility for my own growth and happiness, own my behaviour, organise my own self care etc and my wellbeing is in my own hands.

CheerfulMonk said...

We had a simple wedding --- just family and a nice dinner together afterwards. I didn't care at all about the wedding, I was interested in the marriage. We didn't cohabit first, but we had been going together for about three years and were marrying for life.

Nick said...

Kylie: You're right, our long-term happiness is our own responsibility and not that of our partner. But I would expect my partner to help and support me rather than actively opposing me.

Jean: If you were going together for three years, you must have been pretty sure by the time of the wedding that you would stay together for a while.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Again, this is one of those areas where it's easy to confuse what works for you with what would work for everyone.

My ex-husband and I lived together for a year before we married. And had a good 20 year run, but I think it was unrelated to the fact that we lived together first. As our divorce was unrelated to that fact.

Marriages post-kid are a different animal and I think some people elect not to officially live together before remarrying because of the kids.

There's no right or wrong to it - people do what's best for them in their own particular circumstances.

Nick said...

Agent: I'm persuaded by your argument! I guess my assumptions about cohabiting are nothing like as clear-cut as I imagine. And that's an interesting point about doing things differently when you have kids.

Rummuser said...

Urmeela and I dated for 8 years on and off before one long stretch of six months at a time when we thought that we should get married. All my friends and family told her that she was making a mistake and her family and friends told me that I was making a mistake. We took the plunge anyway and the marriage lasted all of forty years. Times are different now. I see more and more singles in their forties than I used to see when I was that age. Quite a few of them are in live in relationships and that too seems to be working out fine.

Nick said...

Ramana: So much for all the relatives and friends who thought you were both making a mistake! There seem to be more and more cohabitees, which is fine except that legally they're likely to have problems if they split up.

Jennifer said...

Gregg and I lived together for about 7 years or so before we got married. When we decided to make it official, we didn't tell anyone....we went to the courthouse, had a notary marry us, and went to a nice state park on the coast and camped out for a week. It was pressure, no crazy expenses, and we told our family and friends after we got back from our honeymoon.

We just celebrated our 9th anniversary, and we both still say it was the best decision we ever made. It's the marriage that's important--not the wedding ceremony! :)

Nick said...

Jennifer: That sounds like an ideal wedding too. As you say, no crazy expenses, just a great trip to the coast. Clearly your seven years of living together made you confident of a lasting relationship - and you were right!

Jay, Sparking Synapse said...

Perhaps that's why the big, white wedding came into being? Perhaps in those days of semi-arranged marriages, and of marriage being an economic and social necessity for women, it was felt necessary to build something that it would be hard to back out of? Just speculating there.

Our wedding was quite low key compared to most. My dress was homemade by our neighbour, cotton seersucker trimmed with yellow braid. My shoes were brown ones, dyed yellow by yours truly. We did get married in a church and have a lot of people to the reception, but it was not huge and expensive. Even then I think it would have been difficult to back out, in all truth.

Did I have doubts? Yes, I did, a few. Were they groundless? Most of them were, pretty much, and after 39 years I think we can say that it has worked out. I suppose the trick is to know whether the doubts are 'normal' pre-wedding nerves or something more serious.

Nick said...

Jay: As you say, the big question is whether the doubts are just that, fleeting doubts, or whether they're signs of a serious incompatibility that means the marriage is built on sand.