The Most Common Reasons Why People Get Divorced In The U.S.

Updated March 14, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

While it's true that upwards of 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce, divorce rates have been on a steady decline for the last few decades. This is partially due to people in their 20s waiting longer than past generations to settle down and get married. Divorce is more common in subsequent marriages than in first marriages. If you're looking to strengthen or repair your relationship to prevent it from reaching the point where a separation is an option, knowing the leading causes of divorce can help you recognize any problems and act on them before they can fracture your marriage. Whether you’re here out of general curiosity or because you have concerns about your own relationship, keep reading to find out what the most common causes of divorce are in the United States. 

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Top eight divorce reasons in the U.S.

Spouses separate for several different reasons. The troubles that one couple may be able to work through could be what tears another pair apart. Still, there are typical reasons that most couples cite when ending their marriage. Consider the following top eight reasons couples get divorced in the U.S.:

1. Lack of commitment 

Lack of commitment is currently the leading cause of divorce in the United States. This can undermine many aspects of a partnership. Perhaps one partner doesn’t care to help out around the house, isn’t interested in being involved in family events, or doesn’t assist their spouse in caring for any children they have together. When problems arise in the marriage, someone who isn’t committed to making it work may not care to talk things out. They may disregard their spouse and seem generally uninterested or unwilling to improve the marriage. They could also neglect their partner’s needs and treat them with less respect and love than they deserve. A lack of commitment could also extend further to things like affairs in some cases. 

2. Cheating

Divorce cases citing infidelity as a major contributing factor are common. Discovering that your spouse cheated, whether it was one time or an ongoing affair, can have devastating emotional consequences. Long-term extramarital affairs may be the hardest to recover from and are responsible for a significant portion of divorces.

The reasons that people cheat vary, including dissatisfaction, drifting apart, self-confidence issues, and a loss of love. These contributing factors usually persist a while before the dishonest party steps outside of the marriage.

While infidelity can cause severe damage to a relationship, it doesn't have to destroy it. If both partners truly care about each other and are committed to moving past the incident and rebuilding trust, it is possible to save the marriage. Therapy can be invaluable during this process.

Ilona Titova/EyeEm

3. Chronic stress

Persistent stress is also a common culprit when it comes to divorce reasons, according to research. This may come as no surprise to anyone who has felt the strain chronic stress can have on a couple. Stress can come in many different forms, including:

  • Ongoing illness
  • Working long hours
  • Having different schedules
  • Childcare responsibilities
  • Job loss

It's also well-documented that chronic stress can have a negative effect on a person's health over time. This includes an increased risk of health problems such as depression, heart disease, certain cancers, and stroke.

You can't always eliminate the sources of stress from your life. The problem can arise when you and your partner begin to stress out on each other instead of working as a team to determine solutions to manage difficulties together.

4. Unrealistic expectations

Before they say, "I do," every soon-to-be husband and wife has a certain mental picture of what married life will look like. This can often include fairy tale ideas that don't correspond with reality. While a little bit of dreaming is perfectly healthy, if there's a significant enough gap between expectation and reality, you may feel disappointed and dissatisfied. Unrealistic expectations can lead to divorce if left unaddressed. 

Having open and honest conversations with your partner about your expectations before you walk down the aisle can be vital. Communication can help ensure that each partner’s needs are met and that each person’s visions for the future are aligned. Being on the same page can increase satisfaction for both parties. 

5. Financial difficulties

Money troubles are another common reason couples seek divorce. This can include mounting bills, job loss, credit card debt, and other money-related troubles. If both partners can't agree on managing their money, are dishonest with their spending habits, or their income isn't balanced, serious problems can arise.

One study showed that a husband's lack of employment could predict divorce. However, job loss from either partner can cause a significant strain on the marriage. This stress can contribute to the other problems on the list. It can be important for partners to work together for financial harmony from the start to avoid problems later. Being open and honest about any debt, spending habits, and money goals can help prevent either party from being blindsided. It's possible to establish financial goals that are in line with what both people want.

6. Conflicting goals

People change as they get older, which can lead couples to grow apart as they mature into new versions of themselves. Along the way, your goals might change significantly, and what you once thought you wanted is no longer important. It can be hard to build a life when the two of you want starkly different things, and, eventually, you may naturally move in different directions.

To prevent this, couples can prioritize checking in with each other occasionally about their goals and dreams. This applies to major issues, such as whether you want children, to seemingly minor issues, such as wanting to renovate parts of your house. By working together to make sure your goals are in line with one another's, you can learn how to support each other along the way.

7. Intimacy issues

Throughout most marriages, there are times when one partner may be more interested in sex than the other. Maybe one of you is working longer hours than before or struggling with a mental health condition. Or maybe you're not in the mood or experiencing a lot of stress.

Intimacy can be an important part of a relationship, and conflicting intimacy needs can lead a marriage to break down over time. While temporary issues can be worked through, sometimes a couple is not compatible sexually. Couples counseling could help address these issues, and a compromise may be able to be reached to prevent the marriage from dissolving. 

8. Domestic abuse

One of the most serious reasons for divorce is emotional, mental, and physical abuse present. It may start small— a tendency toward critical comments, name-calling, or being told that you're too emotional. Over time, these issues can become constant, where one partner seeks to gain power and control over the other by using verbal putdowns, physical force, intimidation, gaslighting, threats, and sometimes, physical force.

In most cases, the healthiest option for the partner being abused is to end the marriage. You're not responsible for anyone's behavior but your own, and in the case of domestic abuse, that means putting yourself first.

How to strengthen your marriage

Troubles in a marriage can sneak up on a couple over time. It may be obvious that there's a problem if you're constantly fighting, sleeping in separate rooms, or feeling a persistent, underlying sense of resentment toward your spouse. Often, trouble can be caught before they get too far. The sooner you and your spouse identify the problems in your relationship, the sooner you can tackle them head-on.

If you're experiencing one or more of the struggles listed above regarding your marriage, it’s probably time to figure out solutions. If a couple loves each other deeply and is willing to work together to make things better, the relationship can come out stronger than ever.

People tend to lay blame on their spouses when a marriage isn't working out. Each person may be defensive about the role they've played in the degradation of the marriage. However, for the sake of the relationship, both partners need to be honest about their negative contributions. Turning a critical eye towards oneself can be difficult, especially if you're not used to it. Couples therapy can be a useful tool for those who are committed to seeing their part in the issues in the marriage and restoring it to a healthy, happy union.

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Online counseling with Regain

Many couples can work through the issues in their marriage on their own. However, sometimes professional intervention may be necessary to find solutions and healing. Regain is an online platform that provides counseling services to individuals and couples. Whether you have personal problems you’d like to work through alone or you’d like to participate in sessions with your spouse, Regain allows you to do both. With online counseling, you can meet with a therapist at any time and from anywhere you have an internet connection. Since married life can be busy, especially if you have kids or demanding careers, this can make it easier and more convenient for you and your spouse to get the support you need. Working with a therapist, you can process the problems in your marriage and come up with solutions to move forward into a healthier relationship.

The effectiveness of online counseling

Marital problems can create stress and tension and may even lead to declining mental health. Couples who don’t know how to move past conflict together could benefit from online counseling, according to one study. Researchers discovered that an online couples behavioral therapy intervention taught participants how to understand their partner more thoroughly, thereby allowing them to make lasting changes in their relationship. At the conclusion of the study, couples reported feeling greater relationship satisfaction and fewer instances of relational distress. Behavioral therapy relies on the idea that behaviors are learned and therefore can be unlearned and eventually changed. 


The reasons a couple splits up can vary, but research shows that there are several common causes that couples list when explaining their grounds for divorce. Rather than letting these reasons scare or intimidate you, you can use them to help create stability and security in your own relationship— whether you’re married or not. While relationships can be rewarding, they can also come with obstacles and challenging moments. If you’re navigating issues in your own relationship and feel stuck, a licensed therapist could provide support. Regain offers a variety of counseling services for couples and individuals and could guide you toward a happier, healthier partnership. 

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