Can "Cold Feet" Predict Marital Breakdown?

When Jennifer Carol Wilbanks disappeared from her Duluth, Georgia home in 2005, shortly before her planned marriage to fiancé John Mason, it triggered a nation-wide search along with media speculation that her fiancé was responsible for her disappearance.   The case took an even more bizarre turn when Wilbanks phoned John Mason from Albuquerque, New Mexico claiming that she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted.    Despite insisting that her story was true, the lack of evidence and the growing skepticism by police investigators eventually made Wilbanks confess that she had made up the story to conceal her running away from home due to a massive attack of “cold feet".   She was eventually prosecuted for giving a false statement and forced to reimburse the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s department for the costs involved in the search.    Her fiancé later married another woman.

Although the “cold feet” phenomenon is commonly experienced by most couples engaged to be married, extreme cases such as that of Jennifer Wilbanks remain rare.  Still, premarital doubts have become ingrained in popular culture with movies like Runaway Bride starring Julia Roberts and bridal magazines providing counseling for handling doubts.

But are premarital doubts a natural part of the wedding process or can they be a sign of potential problems in later marriage?    A study recently published in the Journal of Family Psychology examined the “cold feet” phenomenon in a longitudinal study to see whether premarital doubts could predict later marriage failure.  

To read more, check out my new blog post at Psychology Today.

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