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

By Abigail Boyd|Updated July 12, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Karen Devlin, LPC

Have you ever wondered why individuals get divorced? Are you worried that your marriage may be headed in that direction?

Want To Talk About Divorce? Is Something Else On Your Mind?
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.

When people think of common divorce reasons, they may imagine a husband walking in on his wife in bed with another man or of a couple that is constantly shouting at each other at the top of their lungs. While those certainly cause divorce in some cases, some of the less talked about divorce reasons may surprise you.

There is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to divorce, especially on the internet. While it's true that almost 50% of marriages in the United States will end in divorce, marriage and 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 first marriages.

If you're looking to strengthen or repair your relationship to prevent it from reaching the point where a divorce is an option, knowing the most common divorce reasons can help you recognize any problems and take action on them before they can fracture your marriage.

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 must be honest about their negative contributions.

Turning a critical eye towards oneself can be difficult, especially if you're not used to it. A therapist specializing in relationship counseling can assist you and your partner in the process.

Top 8 Divorce Reasons In The US

1. Poor Communication

Poor communication is currently the leading cause of divorce in the United States. While this may seem surprising at first, poor communication can undermine many aspects of a partnership.

The way people are raised and the life experiences that shape them profoundly influence each person's communication skills. Whether you were taught to keep your emotions inside or to talk about anything bothering you in the hopes of finding a solution, these patterns become deeply woven into our relationships.

If you and your partner have vastly different communication styles, this can lead to frequent clashes and arguments. Over time, this can cause cracks in your relationship that cause it to fall apart eventually. If neither of you can properly communicate your needs and feel heard, it will lead to chronic feelings of dissatisfaction, disappointment, and resentment. If every conversation ends in an argument, no one wins.

Communication problems usually go hand in hand with the following reasons for divorce.

2. Cheating

As you may have expected, 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 are 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, therapy can be invaluable.

3. Chronic Stress

Persistent stress is also a common culprit when it comes to divorce reasons, according to research. This should 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 arises 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," everyone soon-to-be husband and wife have a certain mental picture of what married life will look like. This often can 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. This can get bad enough to be a reason for divorce.

That's why it's important to have a frank and honest talk with your partner about your expectations before you walk down the aisle. That way, your dreams can be more aligned with your real life, which will increase satisfaction for both of you.

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 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.

You and your partner must work together for financial harmony from the start to avoid crashing later on. If possible, be honest with each other about all of your current debt and other money issues before your wedding day. Work together to create a budget and keep each other accountable. Establish financial goals that are in line with what both of you 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's hard to build a life when the two of you want starkly different things, and, eventually, you'll naturally move in different directions.

To prevent this, you must prioritize checking in with each other occasionally about your goals and dreams. This applies to major issues, such as whether or not 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'll be able 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 illness. Or maybe you're not in the mood.

Intimacy is an important part of a relationship, and conflicting intimacy needs can lead to a marriage breakdown. While temporary issues can be worked through, sometimes a couple is not compatible sexually.

8. Domestic Abuse

One of the most serious reasons for divorce is emotional, mental, and physical abuse present. It usually starts 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 through the use of verbal putdowns, physical force, intimidation, gaslighting, threats, and sometimes, physical force.

In most cases, the best option for the partner being abused is to end the marriage. It takes the abuser truly seeing their ways and sincerely committing to change to move forward, and sadly, this rarely occurs. You're not responsible for anyone's behavior but your own, and in the case of domestic abuse, that means protecting 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 that far. The sooner you and your spouse identify the problems in your relationship, the sooner you can tackle them head-on.

Want To Talk About Divorce? Is Something Else On Your Mind?

If you're experiencing one or more of the struggles listed above regarding your marriage, it's 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.

Couples therapy allows you both to develop the skills necessary to resolve relationship troubles. You'll be able to strengthen your relationship and give it the best possible chance for success. ReGain.us is there to provide you with expert counseling that fits into your busy schedule.

Helpful resources for relationships & more in your inbox
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak With A Licensed Therapist
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
Get The Support You Need From One Of Our Therapists
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.