Why Do Couples Break Up After Being Married For Years?
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.
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
- 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
Statistics About Divorce In Long-Term Marriages
- Studies show the average length of first marriages is eight years before a divorce.
- People who married between the ages of 20-25 have a 44% to 60% chance of divorce.
- The average age people divorced in 2022 is 44 for women and 46 for men.
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%
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).
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
When should you break up your marriage?
Contemplating breaking up your marriage can be a very heavy decision to make. An article featuring a marriage therapist noted that the presence of any abuse or unhealthy behavior such as untreated addiction or compulsive lying is reasonable grounds to break up a couple. If you and your partner have tried everything to make things work and there is no positive progress, this might indicate it is time to break up your marriage. The article notes that it is important to listen to your gut, as many individuals experience an intuitive feeling that it is time to move on.
Is it better to divorce or stay unhappily married?
Deciding whether to stay in an unfulfilling marriage or pursue a divorce can be a very difficult decision. There are many reasons we might be hesitant to leave an unhappy marriage, whether we want to stay for the sake of the children or out of fear of change.
It is important to note that in some cases, unhappiness is temporary. Oftentimes growing apart can break up a couple. However, many couples can find ways to reconnect and stay together. Research has shown that about 66% of unhappy individuals who decided to stay with their partner were happy five years later. Many people find couples counseling to help address challenges in their relationship and move towards both individuals having their needs met. At the same time, marriages, where abuse or infidelity is present, are significant issues that can break up a couple.
It is ultimately up to the people in the couple to decide whether or not the issues they are facing are insurmountable. Problems that commonly break up a couple can be resolved if both individuals are willing to work. If you and/or your partner are not willing to put in the effort to improve the relationship, that could indicate that divorce is the healthiest option.
How do I break off my marriage?
Before talking to your spouse, it is important to clarify the reasons for breaking up your marriage. Taking this time to process will help you in determining what to say to your spouse. Plan a time for the initial breakup conversation by letting your spouse know you have something serious to discuss so they can mentally prepare.
During the conversation, be compassionate while also clear and direct about your decision to leave the marriage. Be prepared that your spouse may respond by asking for another chance to fix things. If you are set on your decision to break off your marriage, articulate this clearly so that you are not leaving the door of possibility open. It would be wise to set a time limit for the initial break-up conversation to get your point across without dragging things out, allowing more room for the other person to try to change your mind and convince you to reconsider.
What makes a relationship worth saving?
One of the most important signs that a relationship is worth saving is if both individuals are committed to making things work and implementing positive changes. However, the presence of any abuse or untreated addictions is often grounds for breaking up a couple.
How do you fix a relationship that's falling apart?
Strategies for saving a crumbling relationship include gaining insight into the issues and your role in them, talking openly with your partner about your emotions and concerns, seeking professional support, and setting a plan moving forward to enhance communication and connection in the relationship. Oftentimes, problems that have the potential to break up a couple can be worked through with open communication and commitment to making it work.
Why do couples break up after marriage?
How do you deal with a break up after marriage?
What percentage of married couples break up?
What is it called when a married couple breaks up?
Why do couples break up if they still love each other?
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