What Are The Top Reasons For Divorce?

By ReGain Editorial Team|Updated July 12, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Lauren Guilbeault, LMHC

Divorce continues to increase as the years go by, even though fewer people are getting married. Scientists have studied the top divorce reasons. Most of the evidence is based on each ex-partner's version of what led up to the divorce. Another challenge of discovering the real top reasons is that people don't usually get divorced after one incident. A process usually happens, generated from many factors, resulting in a more or less gradual emotional separation.

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How Do People Decide To Get Divorced?

Most people decide to get a divorce after considering the situation for a while. Typically, people want their marriage to work. Whether that's to make them feel like a person's success, hold onto financial security, or keep some other benefit that the marriage is providing them. That's why most divorces don't happen suddenly.

One or both partners begin to notice clusters of behaviors that work together to make the marriage less and less satisfying. All these individual problems add up until something happens that makes one or both partners realize that they're no longer able to maintain the relationship. After this 'final straw,' they move forward with a divorce.

There are a few marriages that are ended suddenly. Usually, this happens very soon after the wedding. They realize they made a mistake and decided to move on. Most divorces that seem sudden result from a long process that neither partner had realized was happening.

Benefits Of Knowing The Top Divorce Reasons

Right about now, you might be asking yourself, 'So, why does it matter what the top divorce reasons are? If I'm going to get a divorce, won't I have my reasons?' The answer, of course, is that you would have whatever reasons made sense to you, regardless of whether they're on any list of top reasons or not. So, again, how can this help you? Here are a few of the benefits this knowledge can provide:

  • When you're aware of the most common problem areas, you can work together to avoid them.
  • You can have more compassion for yourself and your partner as you navigate this difficult course.
  • You can feel less isolated when you find out that others have experienced similar relationship issues.
  • You might come to a clearer understanding of what went wrong, so you can learn to do better in the future.

Top Contributing Factors In Deciding To Divorce

As a part of a study on the top divorce reasons, researchers created a table listing the top contributing factors for divorce among the study people. For each reason, a percentage is given. This is the percentage of the people who saw that reason as one contributing factor in their divorce.

Lack Of Commitment: 73%

Lack of commitment to a marriage can take many forms. In most cases, the person who lacks commitment doesn't try very hard to contribute to the relationship's well-being. They might behave in ways that seem to indicate they don't care whether the marriage works or not. These can include:

  • Not communicating openly with your partner.
  • Not talking seriously about important issues.
  • Refusing to acknowledge problems or work toward fixing them.
  • Shrugging off promises rather than trying to fulfill them.
  • Always putting work or friends ahead of the relationship.
  • Failing to set aside time to spend with your partner.

Going to couple's counseling can help the two of you discover for yourselves just how committed you are to make the marriage work.

Extramarital Affairs: 59.6%

Extramarital affairs have probably been a cause of breakups almost since marriage began. Some of the great historical records include marital infidelity stories and the serious damage it caused to the marriage.

Most married people go into it thinking that they'll be sexually faithful to each other. Finding out that your partner is having an affair is not only a great shock, but it also sends a hurtful message to the person being cheated on.

After marital infidelity, the best way to heal your wounded marriage may be to discuss the problem with a marriage therapist. You can learn to stand up for yourself, see your partner's perspective more clearly, and create a stronger and healthier relationship.

Too Much Conflict: 57.7 %

Conflict in marriage is normal and healthy. Why did over half of the study's participants name too much conflict as a contributing factor? There's something you need to remember about the conflict. It isn't its presence that's harmful; instead, it's the way you deal with it that matters most.

Couples who are successful in dealing with their conflicts tend to get right to the issues involved. They don't walk away, attack each other personally, or hold onto the argument. They solve the problem and move on. Couples who won't do that typically end up either divorced or in a very miserable marriage.

You can't completely avoid conflict, and there's no need to avoid it. Instead, you can learn how to argue in respectful ways, getting your point across without hurting the person you can be closest to.

Getting Married Too Young: 45.1%

When people get married very young, they can sometimes come to regret that decision later in life. Of course, no one can say what would be different if you hadn't married at an early age. The question itself is enough to cause many people to be unhappy in their marriage.

People might regret marrying young because they feel they missed out on the part of their youth. They may feel that they didn't have enough experience to choose their life path yet. People who marry young may feel that they never had a chance to reach their full potential as an adult, or they may feel that they didn't get a chance to live the carefree life of a bachelor or bachelorette.

There is no way to go back and relive the past differently. Accepting whatever losses you've incurred or feel you might have incurred is the only way to heal this aspect of a broken relationship. Then, when you've accepted what is, you can move on to making better choices now.

Financial Problems: 36.7%

There's a common feeling, especially in the Western world, that the money problem isn't a good enough reason to get a divorce. After all, love can happen at any income level. However, money can represent a power struggle between the partners if each has a different attitude about the best way to deal with money issues.

For example, if one spouse enjoys spending so much that they'll open every possible loan account, multiple credit card accounts, and spend all the savings, the more financially conservative spouse is likely to feel powerless and unable to have the financial situation that helps them feel secure.

Financial problems can be overcome. It takes more than making out a sound budget, though. Each partner has to examine their attitudes about money, their spending and saving habits, and how they prioritize their needs before they're ever able to make practical changes.

Substance Abuse: 34.6%

Substance abuse leads couples into unhealthy patterns of interaction. Often, one partner abuses substances while the other becomes codependent. If the two do drugs together, the relationship becomes rooted in addiction and selfishness.

A marriage marked by substance abuse often ends when one partner decides to seek help and discovers how unhealthy the relationship has become. Or, they can go in with a commitment to doing what it takes to heal the marriage even as they make better choices for themselves. In either case, it's very hard to make progress without the help of a counselor.

Domestic Violence: 23.5%

Domestic violence doesn't happen in every marriage. If it does, it is perhaps the very best reason for divorce. You need to protect yourself, and waiting for the other person to change isn't always a productive use of your time and effort. Whether you immediately file for divorce or must move out of the abuser's home, you need to get away as soon as possible. After you're safe, you can consider whether to work with a couples' counselor to heal the marriage or get help while you end the marriage.

Health Problems: 18.2%

Sometimes, when one partner has a devastating illness, the other rises to the occasion. They drive them to chemo appointments, stay by their side as they recover from surgeries, or cook for them when they have to be on a special diet. They make the partner's health and comfort their primary mission in life.

In other cases, though, one of the partners has trouble living with the presence of physical and emotional pain. They may prefer to escape a household where illness affects every interaction, spending time with friends or potential lovers to avoid being with their ailing spouse.

The person who is sick may feel like they're a burden. They might feel that their partner secretly resents them, even if they don't. They sometimes feel unreasonably guilty because they know the marriage would be different if they hadn't gotten sick. Help from someone outside the marriage is almost always needed to set such a relationship back on course.

Lack Of Support From Family: 17.3%

Support from the couple's parents and other family members can dramatically increase their ability to stay together even in bad times. When people feel like a part of an extended family, the marriage feels more solid. They aren't forced to rely on just themselves for every need but can get assistance naturally, whether emotional, practical, social, or financial support. If their families shun them, it may become hard to pull together those resources for themselves.

Religious Differences-13.3%

Relatively few couples felt that religious differences played a part in their divorce. Religious differences, when they happen, can arise from the partners belonging to two different religions. They can also come up in couples involved with the same religion but have different beliefs within the religion's larger framework.

Religious beliefs can be held very deeply. You can't change someone else's religious beliefs or practices, nor would you want to. Still, we want to believe that our partnership will live a life that we can respect within the bounds of our religion. If you and your partner have major differences in your religious beliefs, a counselor can help you identify the specific differences and find ways to respect each other still.

Little Or No Premarital Education: 13.3%

Need A Place To Discuss Divorce - Or Something Else?

A few people in the study indicated that if they had had better information before marriage, they might have made better choices in their relationship. They might have decided not to marry at all, or they might have gotten their marriage started on the right foot. If you're thinking of getting married, a good way to begin your journey is with premarital couples' counseling.

When divorce looms large on the horizon, it can be difficult to face your problems as a couple without feeling overwhelmed. Having a counselor to rely on and to guide you through this difficult time can only help you make the right decisions and travel the course you've set for yourself in the best way possible.

You can talk to a licensed counselor at ReGain.Us for paid online counseling when and where you like it. Whether you choose to work on your marriage separately or as a couple or you decide to move forward with a divorce, a counselor can provide help, support, and education to make the process easier.

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