The Number One Reason For Divorce And How To Prevent It

Updated June 14, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
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When you think of the leading causes of divorce in America, what comes to mind? Infidelity? Financial problems? Family conflicts? A lack of commitment? It's a complicated question to answer the question why do people get divorced? The answer may surprise you. While the dissolution of a marriage is usually a complicated situation, the top reason is related to most other problems that arise. If you're concerned about the state of your relationship, knowing the most common reasons for divorce can allow you to identify areas that you and your spouse may need to work on and learn how to prevent divorce.

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Marriage counseling can help make couples stronger

The number one reason for divorce

According to recent research, while the national divorce rate is declining, ongoing communication difficulties are the number one reason couples divorce in the United States. According to one study, 67.5% of marriages that ended did so primarily due to communication problems. Communication is the foundation of a successful relationship. It allows for a strong bond that encourages the growth of your bond over time. If your communication is impaired, it can severely stunt that growth and cause unnecessary arguments, resentment, and hostility.

Communication problems usually persist for a long time before the marriage ends. If you and your spouse are regularly arguing or disagreeing with one another, or have a tendency not to speak to each other at all out of fear of conflict, it's crucial to recognize the problem and proactively find better ways to communicate.

What causes communication problems in a relationship?

Research has supported the theory that each of us develops an attachment style shaped by hoq our primary caregiver's raised us. 

Those with an anxious-preoccupied style are hyperaware of signs of rejection and often need validation. An offhand comment may activate a person with anxious-preoccupied attachment to worry that the relationship is in jeopardy.

Those with dismissive-avoidant or fearful-avoidant attachment styles may be less comfortable talking about their feelings and may avoid conflict whenever possible. This often leads to the tendency to ignore their partner's complaints and bids for attention. This can become a vicious cycle that eventually tears the couple apart.

A lack of empathy causes many communication problems, including not taking the time to listen to one another. This can be due to defensiveness or "mind-reading," where we interpret what another person is saying through the lens of our feelings and beliefs.


Communication warning signs

Usually, there are many warning signs before a marriage falls apart. Reasons to get a divorce normally don't just pop up overnight. Unfortunately, you or your partner may not realize these ongoing problems unless you step back and evaluate your relationship and ways of communicating with each other. It can be uncomfortable to acknowledge marital difficulties, leading many couples to stay in denial. However, that only leads to deeper cracks in the marriage over time.

The first step is to be honest with each other and admit that there is a real problem. Read over this list of common communication problems and see if you recognize any at play in your relationship:

  • Blaming instead of working on a solution together.
  • Looking down on the other person.
  • Constantly criticizing the other person.
  • A lack of positive feedback, praise, or appreciation.
  • Refusing to discuss issues (the “silent treatment").
  • Mind-reading (assuming you know what your partner thinks without asking).

If you recognize these warning signs as being a part of your marriage, don't panic. Instead, start figuring out how to solve them. If you and your partner are dedicated to making the marriage work, it begins by improving your communication.

Preventing communication breakdown

Couples that regularly make time to talk to one another, not just about trivial matters but about their feelings, dreams, and hardships, are more likely to have a successful marriage. Those who let other matters get in the way will likely drift apart and consider separation over time.

It's vital that you truly listen to your partner when they're speaking and focus on what they're saying, not on crafting your reply in your head. This may sound simple, but many people don't truly listen to one another. This can quickly lead to conflict when people feel misunderstood or unheard.

It's also crucial that there's a give-and-take in your communication. If one partner only talks about their struggles or achievements without expressing interest in what their partner is experiencing, that can make the other partner feel unimportant.

Establishing effective communication

A lack of communication is one of the top reasons for divorce. While not every marriage can be saved, if both people truly love each other and are invested in making the relationship work, effective communication is key.

Marriage counseling can help make couples stronger

What does it mean to communicate effectively? Effective communication in marriage involves:

  • You and your partner clearly stating your needs and concerns to one another without blame or excessive criticism.
  • You and your partner are making an effort to listen and understand one other's perspectives truly. 
  • Using "I" statements instead of "you" statements. ("I feel upset when you come home from work late without letting me know ahead of time.")
  • Keeping the focus on the issue at hand without bringing up past mistakes or conflicts.
  • Giving more positive feedback on what you like about your partner and less negative statements.

Many people were never taught how to identify their needs, let alone how to communicate them. Fortunately, these are skills that can be learned no matter your age. A therapist can guide you through identifying, naming, and communicating your feelings and needs, as well as understanding your partner's.

Other common reasons for divorce

What causes divorce besides communication issues? Other serious issues can sabotage marriage and lead to divorce. These reasons to divorce frequently make "top 10 reasons for divorce" lists.

Infidelity is a top cause for many divorced couples, playing a role in up to 30% of divorces. It is also one of the most common grounds for divorce in the world. Once shattered, that trust is difficult to rebuild. The partner cheated on may struggle with self-esteem issues and a feeling of not being good enough. However, cheating is usually reflective of deeper problems.

Financial struggles also top the list of reasons for divorce. Money squabbles, whether caused by a loss of employment, unchecked spending, or difficulty paying off debt, can lead to chronic stress between a couple. That is especially true if there is an imbalance of income between two partners.

A lack of intimacy can also contribute to an unhappy marriage. A loss of interest in sex from either partner can put a wedge between them. The problem seems to be most prominent when one partner has sexual needs that are not getting met.

Intimacy isn't just about sex, but also about physical closeness, such as hugs and holding hands. Everyone needs a different level of intimacy, which can ebb and flow due to various factors. However, a couple needs to work to ensure they meet each other's needs for intimacy for the relationship to thrive.

Other common reasons for divorce include domestic abuse*, chronic stress, unrealistic expectations, substance abuse*, conflicting goals, and more. 

If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

The role of couples therapy

Even if they care a great deal about one another, some couples find it difficult to establish strong communication. You may naturally communicate in a different way than your partner. At times it can feel like you're speaking different languages. This can be frustrating and chip away at the relationship. There can also be underlying problems that complicate the relationship and add an extra layer of animosity.

Patterns of communication can be deeply rooted and take time, patience, and effort to shift. Divorce reasons usually start subtly, and the sooner you and your spouse confront the problem together, the more likely you'll be able to preserve the marriage. A therapist can guide you through the sometimes-rough areas of this journey.

Therapy can be beneficial for couples looking to improve their communication and strengthen their relationship. Your therapist will teach you and your partner methods of better communicating and listening to one another. 

Since the therapist plays a neutral role, they can help diffuse underlying resentments and emotional tension that can stand in the way of true connection. Studies have found that marriage counseling can significantly increase marital satisfaction and happiness. 

It can sometimes be hard to fit couples therapy into our busy schedules. Regain offers online couples counseling from qualified, experienced therapists who can help get your marriage back on the right track – all from the comfort of your home or office, at a time that is convenient for you both. 

Counselor reviews

“Sessions with Natalie are very insightful and give practical advice on implementing new habits and changes. Be prepared to engage and be challenged to think in a different way. I know that my partner and I can already see improvements in our relationship and feel more positive about working through our issues together.”

“Austa has been wonderful thus far. She has helped my partner and I during an unimaginably difficult time... She has also guided us in communicating effectively and setting appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I was hesitant to pursue counseling at the beginning, but I truly believe that it is making a difference for our relationship. Austa is easy to talk to and she is a great listener. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a counselor.”


For many marriages, the root of many problems stems from poor communication. The good news is that learning better communication skills is possible, especially with the right guidance. Before you reach out to a divorce lawyer, consider connecting with a Regain counselor today to help get your marriage back on track. 

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