To some people, divorce is a surprise. To others, it's the ending you were trying to avoid. No matter your journey, there are always some similarities. The journey through divorce is heartbreaking, regardless of the reason which tipped the relationship over the edge.
If you are worried your relationship is running towards this unhappy ending, reading the Top 25 Reasons For Divorce might help you vocalize your issues and open up a path to communication and help, before the avoidable crash.
Today, we will explain the general causes of divorce, the facts and figures of divorce in the United States, and the main reasons why couples go through a divorce.
The Cause Of Divorce In Marriages
There are many reasons that a marriage might end in divorce, which means that there isn’t a quick bandaid option to fix a failing relationship.
You may have noticed that divorces have risen over the last 75 years, but this isn’t due to a rise in unhappy marriages. Instead, there has been a cultural shift around the meaning of marriage, and in turn, there has been a change in the stigma that once surrounded divorce.
Where once marriage was a commitment of support between a worker and a homemaker, it has turned into a promise of fulfillment, teamwork, and care.
Because all adults are allowed to work, we no longer need to segregate people into a workforce and a home force. As a country, the United States has created independence, allowing marriage to be about the love of two people instead of a business arrangement.
This also means that a lack of fulfillment, an inability to work together, or an absence of care is all it takes for someone to no longer feel satisfied in their marriage.
U.S Divorce Statistics
According to the United States, Census Bureau divorce rates have declined in the United States even as technology has made divorcing faster and cheaper. In 2019, divorce rates from women and children ages 15 or over dropped to 7.6 per 1,000 people. For comparison, in 2009, the divorce rate was 9.7 per 1,000.
This means that over 10 years, there has been almost a 2% drop in divorces altogether. This might have you thinking that as a country, we are getting the hang of picking sustainable love, however marriages are also in decline.
In 2019 the marriage rate was only 16.3 per 1,000 women and children ages 15 or over, which is down from 17.6 per 1,000 women and children ages 15 or over.
You may have noticed that this rating system only includes women and 15-year-old girls. This means that LGBT couples have not been considered in the review. As such, two women marrying will skew the results, as will two men. Therefore we have to take the United States Census Bureau with a pinch of salt. This is especially important as 53.4% of same-sex married couples are female.
Top 25 Reasons To Divorce
Although there are a myriad of reasons for two people to divorce, we are going to discuss the top 25. Most of these issues, once understood, can be resolved to save the marriage. If they cannot be resolved, understanding the cause can make the separation easier to digest as you end an old relationship and start a new one with yourself.
1. Fell out of love
One of the most heartbreaking reasons for a divorce is when no one did anything wrong. There is no blame, no anger, no guilt, no shame. You simply look at your partner and realize that you no longer love them.
Many divorce lawyers say that this reason for signing the papers is their most common.
If you worry that you or your partner might be falling out of love, there isn’t much you can do other than try and rekindle the spark.
Remember what made you fall in love in the first place; recreate that feeling and try to bring the passion back.
Some couples find that joining a couples therapy session can help start the process of reconnection, but sometimes the reason for falling out of love is more than just an unfortunate turn of fate. The other reasons below might be the underlying cause.
2. Infidelity or extramarital affairs
When someone starts to find sexual or physical connections outside of their committed relationship, this can be the one activity that breaks a relationship. It isn’t just “sex with another person” which caused this dramatic decline; it is the broken trust.
Most marriages contain a spoken agreement to not sleep with another person. To many people, this understanding is the key reason for their wedding. When this agreement is broken, the marriage becomes void in the heart of the betrayed, and the paperwork simply makes it official.
According to the 2014 Infidelity and Behavioral Couple Therapy study by Rebecca Martin and Andrew Christensen, infidelity in American Marriages range from 20% to 40%.
In the study, the researchers found that couples therapy often creates a bridge of understanding from the events. The reason for the extramarital affair and how to mend the relationship are two ways in which treatment can heal the marriage.
3. Lack of sex
Everyone has a different sexual libido. Some people crave sex on a weekly or even daily basis; others want sex on a monthly or spontaneous occasion. There are even people who do not want to have sex at all. Not wanting sex isn’t a sign that there is no attraction or love between the spouses; you may simply be Asexual, and that is okay.
Marriage issues around sex often occur when one partner assumes their desires (or lack of) will be met, and the other assumes their sexual time scales will be met. When you enter a relationship without talking about your sexual drive, you may become frustrated or scared when your partner refuses or demands more from you.
If this issue sounds similar to you, then talking about your needs may take away the defeat you both feel. There is often a common ground or a sexual interest that can heal this tender conversation topic.
4. Health problems
A change in health status can have a dramatic effect on someone’s life. If your partner or yourself has gone through a life-altering event, then your mood, characteristics, and abilities will likely change.
Sometimes the change becomes too much. Many of us believe we will stick with our partners through sickness and in health, however, one of the major reasons for people in the 50s, 60s, and 70s getting divorced is due to declining health.
Sometimes life-altering health problems and declining health problems are not the reason for divorce, but unchecked or a lack of understanding around mental health causes the friction instead.
A 2008 paper by Peter Butterworth and Bryan Rodgers found that couples who had one partner with a mental health condition were more likely to have higher rates of marital disruption than couples with no menthol health problems.
Alternatively, couples who both had mental health problems were able to reduce the risk of dissolution.
5. Arguing or too much conflict
A fiery temper isn’t enough to break a marriage, but having the same arguments over and over again will slowly chip away at both partner’s sense of self. These arguments make the individuals feel like they have not been heard and are not being appreciated.
This type of problem often comes from not seeing the other person’s point of view or not letting an issue go. Arguing is considered a significant factor in divorce, as 57.7% of divorcees say this was their main reason for leaving.
Suppose you are worried that this issue sounds familiar. In that case, couples counseling can give you the tools you need to understand each other and better communicate the problems you have while listening and appreciating your partner at the same time.
READ MORE: Signs You Are In A Toxic Marriage
6. Getting married too young
Marrying young isn’t always a sign of disaster in the future, however, very few people are the same during their teenage years, the young adult years, and their mature adult years.
Our personalities are still developing, and most of us haven’t been through a real hardship in our lives yet. Getting a full-time job, trying to grow a family, and dealing with changing ambitions are major ways in which our personalities will develop.
If you marry at an age when you are still undergoing significant life difficulties, then the person you are after these changes may no longer fit with your original life plan.
45.1% of divorcees say they married too young, and the couple no longer saw life in the same way. Their ambitions were different, and their life needed to follow separate paths.
7. Financial problems
In the materialistic world that we live in, where capitalism rules the roost, having the same mindset around money is critical. If you want to live in the now and spend your money as soon as it arrives, or if you want to save up to ensure that you always have an “in case of a rainy day” fund, you need to ensure that your partner feels the same way.
If this conversation hasn’t happened, then a power struggle often occurs where both people think they know what's best for the couple. This can lead to secret spending or over-monitoring.
Money touches everything in our lives, so you need to have a strong foundation of understanding in your marriage. 36.7% of divorcees say that financial problems caused their marriage to break.
To combat this, each couple should allow their spouse a bit of financial freedom. Separate bank accounts might help so that the shopper doesn’t need to show every recipe, and the saver can create their pocket of safety money. But if someone has a spending addiction, a therapist may be more realistic than a restricted bank.
8. Political Differences
People with major political differences often don’t get married in the first place. Whether we realize it or not, our political beliefs are reflected in almost every part of our lives. However, political views often change as we experience new things in the world.
If your understanding of right and wrong changes with this new information, but your partner’s doesn't, real conflict can grow. Unfortunately, there is very little you can do to understand each other, as there is very rarely a correct answer to a political debate.
9. In-law problems
Joining a new family often means understanding a new dynamic and social-political group. Navigating this new group is like starting a new school, but it matters what the other people think of you, as that opinion will be fed to your partner too.
If you know your family acts harshly towards your partner, then being the social barrier between the two will help to keep the peace.
However, if the dis-like becomes too potent, a family meeting might be in order. This includes everyone, partner and all.
10. Religious differences
Religious differences, like political differences and families, are often a cultural and moral direction point. Seeing the world through one religion or another can create massive tensions when you realize that your partner doesn’t see the world the same way.
Understanding that these issues should come up before a marriage begins will help you take on the rocky roads of life without being confused by your current differences. However, if you are partnered with someone who underwent a change in spirituality, the switch can be alarming and confusing.
Like with a political difference, people can experience eye-opening events that lead them down a different path. If your partner is not on the same direction, then this unexpected change may show how your ideals no longer align.
13.3% of divorcees say that religious differences were the cause of their marriage ending. Strangely enough, only 33% agreed that this was the reason, which suggests that religion might be the underlying problem or that others don’t see it as an issue.
11. Spousal abuse
Most people don’t go into a relationship thinking their spouse will abuse them or that they will abuse their spouse, and yet domestic violence is the 23.5% reason for divorce.
Of course, physical abuse isn’t the only way that your partner could hurt you; psychological abuse, emotional abuse, and financial abuse are all horrible ways in which your partner can try to dominate your life and control you. These three forms of abuse are often undetected by friends and family, and your partner might not even realize that they are falling into the abusive category.
Of course, this doesn’t excuse the behavior, but many people do not realize how badly they are hurting the people they love as they do not try to empathize with their partners.
Controlling someone's clothes is a form of controlling their personality and their voice. Restricting an allowance is a way to make sure they cannot leave.
This type of abuse can often be changed through marital counseling, but physical abuse often needs anger management.
12. Little or no premarital education
Some websites around marriage and divorce don’t explain what premarital education means. This doesn’t mean whether your partner went to college or not; instead, it means what you and your partner realistically can expect in a marriage.
People often get their assumptions of marriage through TV and their home life. If your home life consists of a working dad and a stay-at-home mom, and this family lifestyle is consistent with the TV shows you watch and your friends' family dynamics, too, then it would be safe to assume that you also expect to follow this script. Unfortunately, there isn’t one way to be a family or a married couple. This 1950s dynamic is not true for everyone.
Entering into a marriage with any pre-formed ideas of your roles and your partner's roles can be a massive barrier to overcome, especially when you open that discussion after your wedding day. 13% of divorcees say that the lack of premarital education was their reason for separation.
The best way to stop anyone from falling into this category is to have this conversation when they are young and in school, as well as having this conversation in the partnership before getting married.
Talking about joint responsibility, different skills in the relationship, and different interests will help you create your own personal dynamic which isn’t filled with resentment or assumption.
13. Unattracted to spouse
Not to be confused with falling out of love with your partner, being unattached to your spouse often means marrying them for the wrong reasons in the first place. If you are not attracted to your partner, then you may find yourself yearning for a romantic or physical connection that you don’t currently have.
Entering into a marriage with this type of unbalance of feelings means you may be focusing on other aspects of your partner’s self. Personality, money, and influence can all be valid reasons for marrying depending on where you are in the world, however, to make a relationship last, a level of attraction needs to be there.
In a 2014 study by James McNulty and Laura Widman, a theory was established which linked narcissism with infidelity. Before we jump the gun, we are talking about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is defined as a person with an exaggerated sense of self-importance. This leads to a constant need for admiration, along with a lack of empathy for others.
Many people fit into this category without realizing it. When it comes to marriage, the lack of empathy creates a one-way communication tunnel, which can easily lead to partners of people with NPD feeling like they lack worth. If gone unchecked, this disorder can rapidly create depression in the partner and frustration in the person with NPD.
Therapy can help someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder understand how other people communicate, and couple’s therapy can help the two individuals reconnect with each other.
15. Lack of equality
Equality in a marriage is everything. It shows an equal balance of love, admiration, respect, and responsibility between two people. Without equality, one person may take on more responsibilities for the marriage, which can lead to resentment on both sides. The active partner may resent the passive partner for becoming a maid to their home, or child care to their kids, whereas the passive partner may build resentment around having no control over their lives.
Usually, these patterns occur early on without any issue, and as the years go by, a slight resentment begins to grow until it snowballs into a “make or break” problem.
Some people manage to get around this problem by becoming a “together, living apart” couple. This way, they can have control over their responsibilities but can still keep their positive relationship.
Others find that creating new boundaries and listening to other people’s needs create a sense of harmony in their lives.
16. Substance abuse
Substance abuse, including alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs, often lead to financial hardship and a misdirect of an important task. Simply enjoying a beer and wasting your last $10 on a crate are two different things, and knowing when a party time has turned into a desperate need can help you slow down and see the carnage around you. Substance abuse is the 21% cause of divorces, according to divorcees.
To some people, divorce is not an option. Religious groups often believe that leaving is better than divorce in the eyes of their deity, however, the law recognizes that leaving your partner should be grounds for separation.
If your partner has left you for more than 2 years in total, and you lived together before this separation occurred, you become eligible for a divorce. This divorce doesn’t need to be agreed on both sides to be set through the system, as the desertion is evident that the marriage didn’t work.
Sometimes people leave because staying is too dangerous, and they do not feel as though talking about a separation will be safe. Others believe that being married is one thing, but sticking to the marriage is another. There are a number of reasons for someone to desert a marriage, but you have your rights as the partner left behind.
18. Lack of shared interests
Sometimes the reason for a failed marriage has nothing sinister behind it. You may still love your partner but realize that you have nothing to talk about anymore. The common interests you once shared are no longer relevant to your current lifestyle.
Often when people marry young, this issue is the most difficult to deal with. Their friends have moved to different places, school is no longer a common factor, and all you are left with are each other.
However, the young are not the only ones to fall victim to this criminal-less conflict. As you grow and experience the world, the things you once found meaning in may now seem like a chapter in your life which you are closing. If your partner doesn’t feel the same way, then a natural gap in interest will start to form.
19. Imbalanced roles
If one person has too many roles in the relationship, it will make this spouse feel as though they have no break in their life. They work, look after the kids, cook, clean, manage their partner’s emotional state, and have to keep on top of the finances. With all these plates spinning, it wouldn’t be unusual for the stress to slowly mount.
Sometimes the need for a break may come out of the blue, other times a growing resentment will form. An easy way to stop this being a reason for divorce is by splitting the roles between the partners, ideally, with both partners receiving jobs they find interesting.
20. Stressful work
Working being stressful shouldn't seem like the partner’s fault, and it’s not. However, if your spouse is coming back home to a stressful environment, they may start weighing up what is most important to them. Their work or their partner. Unfortunately for some people, work does come first.
21. Lack of love and affection
Everyone in a relationship has a different way to show their love and affection. Knowing how your partner feels and likes to be loved can be a simple way to show your affections and let them know you are thinking of them.
They might enjoy you saying how you feel, holding your hand, a simple gift like a sweet on a hard day, or even just a tiny act of kindness to make their life easier.
Without acknowledging your love and affection, your partner will think that you do not care. Be sure to show how you feel, and make them aware of your love.
22. Lack of identity and equality
Some people feel as though they lose their identity when they marry. They become a “couple” and no longer their solo self. It is important for couples to spend time apart and enjoy their life without their partner, so they can continue to see their self-worth and understand their self-interests.
Having one day a week when one partner hangs out with their friends will be enough of a change and independence for them to feel like they are not conjoined at the hip and can have a separate mind and own thoughts.
23. Lack of communication
A lot of these reasons for divorce come down to a lack of communication, but the specific circumstances mean that the failure to speak turns into an argument, infidelity, or desertion. Sometimes the issue isn’t that dramatic, but it never gets resolved because the issue was never spoken about. Eventually, a distance grows, and neither one knows how to bridge it.
Starting a conversation is always a great way to begin.
24. Other half is having personal issues
Sometimes our partners are going through an issue that we cannot help with. Maybe something happened, and now they have PTSD, or perhaps a friend passed away, and your partner wants to deal with it alone.
When our spouses have issues we cannot help with, we often overcompensate to feel useful and helpful. Maybe we constantly give them food or try to deal with all of their other issues for them. This type of action can become smothering to our partner.
In this sensitive time, it can be challenging to balance on the line of helpful, giving space, and being there.
25. Getting married for the wrong reasons
To some people, getting married is THE end goal. Once they have made it, they don’t know what to do next. This is an example of getting married for the wrong reasons. In situations like these, the partners have false expectations and don’t know how to rectify a problem they didn’t foresee.
These types of people also find it difficult to realize what they have done wrong and so take out their frustrations on the people around them.
Before you get married, you should think about why you are taking these steps and if there is anything else you can do instead.
There are many reasons why people get divorced, but they often come down to misunderstanding what the marriage will look like, not appreciating what you have in front of you, and difficult circumstances that you couldn’t predict, and neither of you wanted to happen.
No matter the reason for a divorce, we must recognize that we are allowed to find happiness elsewhere, even if that means creating sadness for now.
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.