is marriage right for you?I love living single and I know that many other people do too, but that does not mean that it’s for everyone. For some people, marriage may be the better option. But how can we know?

Of course, I think that most people who are single-at-heart live their most meaningful lives as single people. I don’t have any data yet on how the lives of people who are single-at-heart change over time. For example, if people who are single-at-heart do marry, do they end up less happily married than those who are not single-at-heart? The relevant research has not yet been done.

The available research compares different kinds of couples to see which ones have happier or more lasting marriages. A study showing that cold feet (doubts about getting married) are a bad sign, especially for women, has already been discussed at Psych Central (here and here and here). So in this post, I want to tell you about another study that adds to the evidence for the relevance of your own personal doubts, and adds another set of experiences that can also be warning signs.

The findings on the warning signs were reported in the context of a study of covenant marriages. In my next post, I will explain more about those marriages and tell you how the quality of those marriages differed from the quality of garden variety marriages, according to the study. The conclusions I will describe in this post apply to both kinds of marriages.

In the research, 707 couples from Louisiana were surveyed within a few months of the wedding, then again about 21 months later and then about six years after the first contact. So the couples were followed for a total of about seven years, and the husbands and wives answered questions separately. (These were all hetero marriages.) Each time, the participants were asked how satisfied they were with their marriage overall, as well as with regard to love, physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, conflict resolution, fairness, quality of communication, and finances.

The question about cold feet asked participants whether they had been unsure about having made the right decision to marry “this person at this time.”

The authors also believed that the following events, experienced before marrying, would be risk factors for less happy marriages:

  • One person feels that he or she was not getting a “good picture” of what the other person was really like.
  • The couple breaks up and gets together again more than once.
  • There is a lot of conflict in the relationship.
  • One or both partners was romantically or sexually involved with someone else at the same time

The wives and husbands were also asked about their beliefs about traditional sex roles. They indicated whether they agreed with statements such as the following:

  • “All in all, family life suffers when the wife has a full-time job.”
  • “The husband should spend as much time as the wife taking care of infants and toddlers.”

On the average, the couples became less and less satisfied with their marriages over time. The relevant question, then, is whether couples reporting the various risk factors became unhappier sooner than the couples without the risk factors.

The answer was yes. For both wives and husbands, pre-marital experiences of cold feet, not having a good picture of what the other person was really like, experiencing lots of conflict, multiple break-ups and involvement with others at the same time were all, on the average, bad news. People with those experiences had marriages that became unhappier sooner.

Traditional sex roles were also linked to less satisfying marriages. Remember that all of the couples were from Louisiana and about half of them were in covenant marriages.

There were two more factors that put couples at risk for becoming unhappier faster. One was having a preschool-aged child in the home. The other was being a woman. So on the average (meaning, the results are not true for every couple), married couples become less satisfied with their marriages over time, but the wives become dissatisfied sooner than the husbands do.


DeMaris, A., Sanchez, L. A., & Krivickas, K. (2012). Developmental patterns in marital satisfaction: Another look at covenant marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 989-1004.

Runaway bride photo available from Shutterstock