A lot of people get cold feet before the wedding. No big deal, right?
Perhaps it actually is a big deal.
A new study confirms that some people’s “spidey sense” about their relationships is eerily predictive. In other words, if you get a sense that you shouldn’t go through with your vows, pay attention to that voice, as it indicates you will likely struggle during the marriage.
Florida State University Associate Professor of Psychology James K. McNulty recently found that people intuitively know whether their marriages will be happy or fraught before they even head down the aisle. McNulty’s study looked at 135 heterosexual couples. All of them had been married for less than six months, and researchers contacted the participants every six months for four years. The couples completed a baseline experiment that indicated their happiness levels and gauged their fluctuating feelings about their marriages.
The study, released in the journal Science in the Nov. 29, 2015 issue, suggested that the “intuitive” feelings measured prior to the altar predicted martial happiness levels as well as future strife to a striking degree.
Researchers asked each participant to assess their relationships and the seriousness of their interpersonal struggles. They also graded their marriages by using adjectives. Analysts also assessed reaction times to positive or negative words flashed on a computer screen alongside photos of subjects’ spouses. When people had positive feelings about their spouses, they responded quickly to the positive words and slowly to the negative words. The conflict between the word and their feelings dramatically slowed down response times. Conversely, when they had negative feelings about their spouses, they responded slowly to the positive words and quickly to the negative words.
This test, performed at the beginning of the study, helped gauge the subject’s true feelings about his or her spouse. Four years later, the ones who showed negative attitudes reported that they were the unhappiest in their marriages. McNulty concluded that people should pay attention to negative gut reactions, even when such reactions are balanced by intellectual self-justification for going through with a marriage, and possibly seek therapy prior to tying the knot.