What Is The Number One Cause Of Divorce In The United States: Legal Dissolution Statistics In The U.S.
By: Russ Womack
Updated February 25, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Galyen, LCSW, BC-TMH
When he put that wedding ring on your finger on that special day, you thought for sure you'd be together forever. Life was perfect and surreal; you and your spouse never fought and always agreed on everything. A decade has passed and you realize that your marriage is on autopilot. Spontaneous dates and flirtation has given way to long days at the office and picking up kids from daycare. Where you once had all the time in the world for each other now succumbs to a kiss before bedtime or an "I love you", which in itself is rare. You've lost interest in your spouse, your marriage, your future; and divorce-the one word you swore would never enter your marriage-now takes the forefront of your thoughts.
Legal Dissolution Statistics in the U.S.
According to national statistics, U.S.divorce rates have climbed steadily over the last 150 years, although certain factors have disrupted that steady climb. For example, due to the Great Depression in the 1930s, many couples chose to stay together because they couldn't afford the cost and substantial life changes after divorce. It wasn't until the unemployment rate decreased that the upward divorce trend continued. After World War II, there was a distinctive spike in the rate of divorce; in 1944 the divorce rate was 29%, in 1945 it rose to 35%, and in 1946 it increased another 8 percentage points to 43%. A few factors played into this increase: the stress of deployment strained some marriages to the breaking point. Wives left husbands for new partners while their spouse was fighting overseas, and husbands left wives for the English or German girlfriends they met while on deployment. Also, women who worked during the war to support the war effort found freedom in working and didn't want to give it up.
The next big jump in the rate of divorce was in the 1970s. In 1970, the divorce rate was 35%, while only nine years later it jumped to 53%. Changes to the divorce laws, including having the option of no-fault divorce and the ability to cite irreconcilable differences as the reason for the divorce made obtaining a divorce much easier, thereby contributing to the increase.
The U.S. divorce rate slowly began falling in the early 1990s and has since continued on an overall downward trend. In fact, Americans today in their late 20s have a less than 50% chance of getting divorced and their chances of staying married are increasing. The falling divorce rate may have a lot to do with millennials' attitudes toward marriage. Unlike baby boomers who married young regardless of their circumstances, millennials are choosing to marry once they have completed their education, have established their careers, and have sound finances.
What is the Leading Cause for Divorce in the United States?
A lack of commitment is the number one reason for divorce, followed by extramarital affairs, too much conflict, and getting married too young. Here are the top ten reasons for divorce in the U.S. as of 2014, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information:
1. Lack of Commitment - 75.0%
- Extramarital Affairs - 59.6%
- Too Much Conflict - 57.7 %
- Getting Married Too Young-45.1%
- Financial Problems-36.7%
- Substance Abuse - 34.6%
- Domestic Violence - 23.5%
- Health Problems - 18.2%
- Lack Of Support From Family - 17.3%
- Religious Differences - 13.3%
What is Commitment?
Commitment is defined as an intention to maintain a relationship over time. First, there is the initial commitment, or the promise, which takes place when a couple decides to get married and they offer each other their initial commitment to the relationship through their vows. Next, there is keeping the commitment, or keeping true to the words promised on the wedding day. Over time, the strong and dedicated commitment will not only keep you both faithful to your marriage but will strengthen it, too. But this dedication can shift and cause a lack of commitment. This shift occurs because we're making promises about behaviors and outcomes, but diminishing or ignoring the process necessary to achieve those goals. It's like wanting to be a professional baseball player but not willing to put in the time and effort required to achieve that goal. When a couple starts experiencing trials such as financial problems, jealousy, adjustments because of having children, and intimacy problems, there are chances that one's commitment will also be affected.
What happens when a spouse who used to be committed starts to change? What happens when there's a lack of commitment to marriage? How does that lack negatively affect the foundation of the marriage?
How Does Lack of CommitmentAffect a Marriage?
One of the primary contributors to the feeling of lack of commitment is that one spouse or the other, or both, begin to take the other spouse and the relationship for granted. The idea of you or your spouse being the most special person in the world is no longer being nurtured, and this lack of attention or lack of feeling special is what fosters and feeds the feeling of lack of commitment.
One of the primary reasons why lack of commitment causes the downfall in a marriage is that once the spouse begins to take their partner for granted, one or both of the spouses begin to drift away from the relationship.No longer feeling loved or important will have a direct negative effect on your marriage. The bottom line is that if one refuses to work on the relationship, to nurture the relationship, and put continuous effort into keeping the spark alive, the marriage will not be saved.
Many newlyweds are living in a honeymoon bliss with no children to take care of, no heavy demands or pressures. After the honeymoon phase dissipates and a few children are added to the mix with changing diapers at 2:00 in the morning and finding time and energy after a full day at work to help the kids with homework and cook dinner, not to mention cleaning up the kitchen afterward, the attention is normally given to each other and the relationship is compromised. Marriage is tough. It requires both spouses to work hard at keeping it alive. If only one spouse is dedicated to this, it will not work.
The lack of commitment in marriage may lead to infidelity, which is the number two cause for divorce in the U.S. A person who doesn't feel the responsibility of committing to their vows could be susceptible to different types of temptations.
If your marriage is already at a point of starting to fracture and crumble and you aren't committed to saving your marriage, you won't make the necessary time and effort to draw you and your spouse closer. In addition, you might not be as willing to seek help to fix any problems your marriage may be experiencing because you won't desire to put your heart into making it work. In essence, without commitment, you'll most likely disregard your spouse's needs, your responsibilities, and the quantity and quality of time required to resurrect your marriage.
Ways To Strengthen Commitment
According to a focus on the Family, here are some ways to strengthen and nourish your marital commitment:
Say It With Actions. Back up your commitment with action. Be intentional. Make yourself available when your spouse wants to talk. Open up your calendar to spend quality alone time with each other. Laugh together like you used to. Date each other as if you're still counting.
Say It With Words. Communicate. Find time alone with no distractions and tell your spouse that you are committed to your marriage for the rest of your life. Assure your kids that you and your spouse are committed to each other and to them through thick and thin.
Remind Yourself. Remember all the positive aspects of your marriage. Think back to the beginning and remember why you fell in love with your spouse. Reminisce when you dated and how you couldn't wait for the phone to ring.
Set Goals. Envision how would you like to see your marriage grow. What areas would you like to see improve? Work with your spouse to create a game plan to achieve those goals and consistently work toward those goals. Celebrate together on a weekend away when you've reached a goal, no matter how big or small it is.
Get Others Involved. Surround yourselves with supportive individuals who share the same values and want to see your marriage succeed. Form accountability partners and those who will encourage you. Seek out an older married couple who have been married a long time to mentor and encourage you both.
Renew Your Wedding Vows. Publicly express your continued commitment to your spouse. Invite friends and family to witness and pledge their support for your marriage.
If you're struggling with a commitment to your marriage or any other marital problem, seeking help from a mental health professional can be beneficial for the long-term wellbeing of your marriage. Regain is always available to those in need of help. With lack of commitment being the number one cause of divorce in the U.S., you can be assured that you are not alone and that we at Regain are here to help you work through it. With Regain, you can speak with a therapist 24/7, seven days a week. With chat, text, phone, and video chat options, you can speak with a therapist in a way that is most convenient for you.
You can contact Regain by clicking here.
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