Many brides and grooms experience cold feet.

Most write their feelings off to “normal jitters” or “something to white-knuckle through.”

In my 14 years of counseling brides and grooms, that’s definitely not the approach I take. Because cold feet are serious, and they do impact the marriage. There’s academic data to back this up.

Have you shared with anybody that you’ve got a case of cold feet?

What’s their reaction been? “Oh, that’s just normal jitters….every bride & groom gets that.” I bet you’ve heard that, or some variation of that line – “it’s normal to have cold feet.”

What I really dislike about this “normalizing” of cold feet is: You are being advised to ignore your instinct.

  • Ignore your gut feeling? Don’t think. Don’t feel.
  • Put your head in the sand and wish the cold feet away.
  • Get down that aisle and deal with your feelings AFTER you are married.

The head-in-sand approach to cold feet is, I believe, how most brides & grooms deal with them – Passively.  Hoping & wishing they will go away once the wedding has taken place. There are numbers out now that confirm how ill-advised this approach is.

Do you know the data on cold feet before your wedding?

And it’s impact on divorce? How women’s cold feet impact the marriage differently from men? Do you know the stats?

Get the data from the UCLA academic study on cold feet.

In September 2012, researchers at UCLA published a study that shows how common cold feet are. 232 newly wedded couples were interviewed every 6 months for 4 years. At their initial interview, they were asked, “Were you ever uncertain or hesitant about getting married?”

47 percent of husbands and 38 percent of wives said “yes”.

So, cold feet, this study shows, are really common. But, in the words of the lead author of the study, cold feet are “common but not benign.” Especially for women.

Let’s unpack the numbers a bit.

First, let’s look at couples in which neither the husband nor the wife had doubts – that’s 36% of couples. Of those couples, 6% got divorced within four years. So, if there were no pre-marital doubts, only 6% of couples divorced.

Now let’s look at the couples in which there WERE doubts: 

  • When only the husband had doubts, 10% of the couples got divorced.
  • When only the wife had doubts, 18% of couples got divorced.
  • When both partners had doubts, 20% of the couples got divorced.

Justin Lavner, lead author of the study says: “What this tells us is that when women have doubts before their wedding, these should not be lightly dismissed. Do not assume your doubts will just go away or that love is enough to overpower your concerns. There’s no evidence that problems in a marriage just go away and get better. If anything, problems are more likely to escalate.” 

Or, as Thomas Bradbury, a UCLA psychology professor and co-author of the study, put it more bluntly: “Do you think the doubts will go away when you have a mortgage and two kids? Don’t count on that.”

OK, so now that you know these scary but very real facts about the impact of cold feet, does this mean you should call your wedding off right now? No.  

But your cold feet are telling you that NOW is the time to go to work – on yourself and on your relationship, so you can make the best decision for your life and future happiness.

Don’t put your head in the sand, cross your fingers that this is normal and that it will go away just in time for your wedding. (This is what I imagine most of the couples in the UCLA study did – or what your well-meaning friends & family are also advising you to do, too.)

I disagree. If you have cold feet, it’s time to get to work. Your top priority NOW is to TAKE ACTION to define the source of your cold feet.

When I tell brides this, I often get this reaction:

  • The source? Huh? What do you mean, the source?
  • Isn’t HE the source of my cold feet? 
  • If he were the right guy, I wouldn’t be feeling this way, right?

Not necessarily. Let me explain. This is exactly the work I do when I counsel brides with cold feet. I’ve been doing this work for more than 10 years, with hundreds of brides with cold feet, and in this time I’ve been able to define the 4 areas brides need to fully explore in order to get to the source of their cold feet. 

Let’s take a quick spin through the in-depth work I do with brides.

1. How much are your cold feet due to wedding stress? Do you feel pressured to create a picture-perfect wedding? If most of your angst is about the wedding, take steps to control your anxiety. Delegate tasks to trusted friends and family. Scale down your grand vision into something more meaningful and manageable. Hire a wedding planner. And remember that your wedding day – and the stress that accompanies it – will soon pass.

2. How much are your cold feet due to concerns about your fiance? His emotional distance or volatility? His nice but dull-ness? His lavish spending or thriftiness? His drinking or drug use? His temper? These are serious concerns, and it’s essential to see the man you’re about to marry for who he really is. And then decide if he is really the one for you.

3. How much are your cold feet due to concerns about your relationship? Do you have the intimacy and closeness you desire? How well do you communicate your needs, wants, opinions? Do you fight fair or dirty? These things are not necessarily dealbreakers; much of this can be worked on. Now is the time to educate yourselves through reading books or going to couples counseling to acquire the relationship-building skills you lack. And remember: you weren’t born knowing how to be married. You’re both beginners at this, and that’s OK.

4. Or are your cold feet really all about you? For many of the brides I have counseled, THEY are the source of their own cold feet. But they didn’t even know it! (It always looks like it’s the guy, that poor, sitting duck….).

Here are some questions to ask yourself to get your own self-analysis going.

Are you afraid of ending your single life? Of becoming a wife? Of growing up and leaving your family (no matter how old you are)? Do you feel like you’re abandoning your parents? Is there a wounding event in your past – your parents divorce, a death in the family, or bad relationship – that you haven’t fully processed yet? You’d be surprised how often brides discover that their cold feet is about THEM, not him.

  • Phew, I bet you’re saying. That’s a lot of heavy lifting to do, a lot of turning over of stones and looking at things you don’t really want to look at.
  • I know, I know. I’m asking you to stop wishing away your feelings as “normal jitters” and become very pro-active and deliberate.
  • Here’s why: if you put yourself through this process — through these paces – you will come out the other side knowing in your bones whether or not this is the right marriage for you. 
  • You will have a more complete and realistic sense of yourself and who you are; who your future husband is; what your marriage might really be like; and whether or not you actually want THIS marriage with THIS person.

This is why cold feet may be the best thing for your marriage. Because if you take your cold feet head-on and fully address them, you will end up in 1 of 2 places:

  1. Fully committed & fully confident about the marriage and the man you are about to commit to.
  2. Out of a relationship you don’t really want in the first place. Without the long-term emotional scarring that comes with divorce.

For all brides I work with, their cold feet are about challenging-but-fascinating journeys of self-discovery. 

Their engagements – called off or not — become life-changing times of personal growth, which strengthen their sense of selves and confidence in the world.    

It can be profound work for the brides I go through this process with.

What I want you to do right now is to accept the fact that you have cold feet, and not deny it. 

Do your work, do your research on yourself and your relationship, so that you can make a fully informed decision. Because if you do this work, you will come out the other side of it confident about your decision to marry him, OR you will get yourself out of a marriage that you don’t really want, a marriage that would likely be heading for divorce.

That clarity of mind – that clear “yes” I want to get married or “no I do not” – that’s why cold feet may just be the best thing for your marriage.

If you’d like my help in getting to the source of your cold feet, just drop me an email and we can get started right away.


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