Why Do Couples Break Up After Being Married For Years?

Updated September 6, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

It can be shocking to see a couple going through a divorce after decades of marriage. You may wonder what could cause them to end the relationship, or perhaps you are considering a divorce after being with your partner for years. Read on to learn why couples may end their marriage after a long time together and how therapy can support you in a divorce.

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Are You Thinking Of Ending Your Marriage After Decades?

Why Do Couples Get Divorced?

Getting married involves pledging to spend your life with someone, so choosing to get a divorce isn't an easy decision—especially if you've been married for years. While the reasons for ending the marriage are unique to each couple, numerous psychological studies offer data that can help explain why people divorce after years or even decades together. 

Most Common Reasons For Divorce

  • Lack of compatibility with partner
  • Abuse, whether physical, verbal, emotional, financial, or another form
  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Infidelity
  • Financial issues
  • Lack of communication with partner
  • Addiction in one of its many forms
  • Being too young when marrying
  • Lack of intimacy
  • Constant conflict and poor conflict resolution

Why Do People Divorce?

Statistics About Divorce In Long-Term Marriages

What Is Gray Divorce?

Gray divorce is a term used to describe couples divorcing when partners are 50 or older. According to reports from the United States Census Department, of all the American adults who got divorced in 2021, 34.9 percent were 55 or older, with more than half of the marriages lasting 20 years or longer. 

Divorce Rates For Baby Boomers

  • Ages 55 to 64: 45%
  • Ages 65 to 74: 39%
  • Age 75 and older: 24%

United States Census Bureau, 2021


What Makes Couples End It After Years Together?

After spending the time and effort entwining their lives, what makes couples decide to end the relationship after years or even decades? Explore some common reasons to end a long-term marriage gathered through psychological studies and surveys. 

Evolving And Growing Apart

People grow and change over time, evolving into more complex and refined versions of themselves. Unfortunately, that sometimes means that couples who’ve been together for a long time can grow apart until the differences between them become insurmountable. 

There’s No Communication Anymore

The open, honest communication you likely started your marriage with can fade over the years for many reasons. Perhaps you both got too comfortable and assumed your partner knew what you were thinking and feeling. Maybe you feel like your partner doesn’t care what you say or even listen when you talk. 


Cheating is one of the leading causes of divorce in the United States. Learning that your partner broke their vows to you and was unfaithful can be a painful and traumatic experience. Many people cannot forgive their partner and move forward after infidelity. 

Unresolved Anger And Resentment

One or both of you may have repressed your feelings when upset about something. While it may have avoided a conflict at the time, bottling those feelings up can lead to unresolved anger and resentment. Just as termites can weaken the frame of a house, those emotional wounds can fester and damage the connection with your spouse. 

Disagreements Over Money Or Lifestyle

Changes in lifestyle and income can lead to frustration and conflict in a marriage. If you and your spouse don't work together to find practical solutions, financial issues could cause enough strain to drive you away from each other. 

Physical, Mental, Emotional, Or Another Type Of Abuse

No one should have to live with the trauma of being abused in any form. No one can decide the tolerance another person has, and every abuse survivor has their own reasons for staying and leaving when they do. 

If your partner’s behavior turns violent, it can be essential to know the available resources because no one deserves to be abused. If you've experienced domestic or intimate partner violence, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Are You Thinking Of Ending Your Marriage After Decades?

Craving Something New Or Different After Years Of Monotony

You may feel that your relationship has grown stale over the years. The routine with your partner can feel inevitable and constraining, leaving you longing for something new and different. If your partner isn't willing to try new things or explore the joys life has to offer alongside you, it can be easy to let the distance between you grow. 

“Couples married for 20-plus years are now more likely to divorce than any other age group. The divorce rate among this demographic has doubled since the 1990s and is predicted to triple by 2030” — Why Do Couples Divorce After 20 Years of Marriage?

Failure To Meet Expectations

You may find that your spouse has routinely failed to meet your expectations in the marriage. If you've been disappointed too often, you may decide to end the marriage and move on with your life. However, you may also want to reevaluate your expectations to ensure they are realistic. 


If one partner in the marriage has been significantly more successful in their career or avoided the physical problems often associated with aging, jealousy may become an issue. Perhaps your partner refused to stop flirting or did other things to make you insecure. Whatever the reason, jealousy can often lead to bitterness and resentment. 

An Empty Nest And Nothing In Common

Many couples find that after their children are grown and living independently, they no longer have anything in common with their spouse. If you’ve spent the last 18 years or so focusing on your kids to the detriment of the emotional intimacy with your spouse, you may find that you don’t know how to relate to each other anymore and can’t reconnect. 

Sexual Incompatibility

As you’ve both aged, physical and hormonal changes can affect your sex drives. You may find that your desire is left unsatisfied because your partner has no interest or is unwilling to discuss sexual difficulties. You may find that your sexual tastes and desires have changed, and your partner isn’t willing to try something new.

Signs It May Be Time To Let The Marriage Go

If you haven't ended the relationship yet, but you can see your tolerance threshold on the horizon, knowing how to recognize when the marriage is too damaged to save may be helpful. 

  • You don’t feel comfortable expressing your thoughts, ideas, or emotions to your partner.
  • One or both of you find reasons to avoid going home and spending time together. 
  • Despite efforts to repair the rift, there is no affection or emotional intimacy between you.
  • You don’t communicate with each other anymore, and verbal engagement is a thing of the past. 
  • One or both of you always seem to feel agitated when you’re together. 

Coping With Divorce After Long-Term Marriage

  • Focus on self-care.
  • Lean on your support network.
  • Grieve the divorce but set a time limit on your suffering. 
  • Reach out to a mental health professional for support. 
  • Remember that things will get better, and you may find love again. Studies show that 52% of women and 64% of men get remarried after a divorce

How Therapy Can Help You Heal After Divorce

Whether you’ve been surprised by your partner asking for a divorce after years together or you sought this major life change, you’re likely feeling a chaotic whirlwind of emotions. Consider working with a licensed relationship therapist through a virtual therapy platform like Regain. Therapy can help you examine and understand your feelings. You may also develop healthy coping strategies to manage stress and adverse emotions and communication skills to help you move forward into a new, healthy relationship when you’re ready. 

Many therapists use cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients identify and reshape harmful, negative thought and behavior patterns. Studies show that psychotherapy is equally effective online and in person. However, virtual treatments offer numerous unique benefits, such as lower costs, shorter wait times, and access to a much more comprehensive selection of mental health professionals. If you don’t match with a therapist who makes you feel comfortable and meshes well with your situation and personality on your first try, it’s simple to connect with another therapist. 


People grow and change with time—and sometimes, they grow so far apart that the relationship can’t survive. The information in this article offers insight into why couples get divorced after years of marriage and how couples therapy can help you heal after ending the relationship.  

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