Every couple experiences love and marriage in their own unique way. Similarly, the experience of falling out of love and the breakdown of marriage is unique too. But what is that final straw that breaks the camel’s back? Are you here looking to check if your reason belongs on a list of the most common reasons for divorce? Is there a right or wrong reason to break your vows and call it quits?
Honestly, the list of reasons for divorce is endless. And you may be having a hard time trying to figure out if your relationship issues are big enough to warrant a separation. This is why we consulted advocate Siddhartha Mishra (BA, LLB), a lawyer practicing at the Supreme Court of India, to tell us about the most common reasons couples split up. If you are considering divorce and are wondering if your reason is valid, the insights of our expert and this list of the most common reasons for divorce will certainly prove helpful.
Common Reasons For Divorce Statistics
Marriage is no cakewalk, and not all marriages result in ‘happily ever afters’. Gone are the days when married people upheld the promise of living together and supporting each other despite problems and at the cost of their self-respect and peace of mind. Many married couples now choose to part ways instead of staying in unhappy marriages. That said, it’s also true that not every unhappy couple takes the divorce route.
Statistics indicate that 48% of American couples who married in the 1970s were divorced within 25 years. Statistics from 2005 in England and Wales suggest 45% of marriages will end in divorce before couples reach their 10th anniversary. While the USA and Russia lead the charts of divorce rates, India has one of the lowest divorce rates around the world, at less than 1.1%. These figures, however, do not reveal the many stories hidden in them or offer insight into why do people get divorced.
This does not necessarily mean that where women are more empowered, divorce rates are higher. Even though most reports would list increased independence of women as one of the primary causes of the rise of divorce rates. There are still countries where there is an explicit law that states the married woman is to obey the husband. Nor does it mean that a country with a low divorce rate has a higher Happiness Index. The bottom line is, truth often is not as black and white as data and digits.
Regardless, the rules of love do not change with time. Communication, trust, love, and security remain to be the foundations of healthy marriages. This means the most valid reasons for divorce are not hard to wrap our heads around. Today we bring to you the top legal reasons for divorce. We hope it empowers you to avoid the mistakes that can break up a marriage or help you make the decision to part with your spouse.
Related Reading: 7 Predictors Of Divorce You Should Be Aware Of
15 Most Common Reasons For Divorce
It’s not uncommon to hear that the increasing independence of women, both emotionally and financially, is one of the main reasons why divorce rates are increasing. Siddhartha says, “The divorce rate has doubled within the last two decades. Often, this trend is attributed to a host of factors, right from parental interference to growing independence of women, awareness of human rights, or education.”
However, he adds, “It is the lack of commitment, which results in infidelity and extramarital affairs or other issues. These, then, prove to be the final straws for an already deteriorating relationship.” So, while on the surface the issues can seem more circumstantial, at the core of it, commitment issues could be causing your bond to break. Sounds complicated? Let’s look at the 15 common reasons for divorce for clarity:
1. Financial incompatibility in married life
In this day and age, it is really difficult to build a robust married life if the couple has different financial goals, making it arguably the number one reason for divorce. While one may believe in saving for retirement, the other could be working toward splurging on annual holidays. One partner may believe in the value of top-quality education for their children, but the other could prefer instant gratification in a luxury lifestyle.
There is a cost involved in your choice of alternatives, no income is ever limitless. Surprising as it may sound, one of the most common divorce reasons is linked to money management and financial incompatibility. When couples do not openly talk about money and do not address their differences of opinion, financial stress can cause resentment to build up. And the resulting damage can be beyond repair.
Siddhartha says, “Money issues affect everything else in a relationship. Ego problems frequently crop up when partners are not on the same page.” Whether it is differences in financial goals, spending habits, or one partner making more money, some couples head for divorce when they cannot come to a consensus regarding the right way to handle money. Not all couples are able to handle financial stress in a mature, sensible way, and the resulting strain is a common reason for divorce.
Related Reading: What Are The Consequences Of Affairs Between Married Couples?
2. Infidelity or extramarital affairs
Infidelity is arguably one of the top reasons for divorce. In fact, it is a legitimate legal reason for divorce. The law recognizes that a partner can divorce their spouse if adultery in the marriage can be proven. A married partner having an extramarital affair betrays trust in a relationship. This is solid grounds for divorce because an affair can make it intolerable for the other spouse to continue in the marriage. Siddhartha, however, adds that it is often difficult to prove in a court of law.
Sometimes, it is possible to negotiate your path beyond the affair. Many couples have survived infidelity and made their marriages better through couples therapy. But this happens only if both partners are willing to put in the time and effort to heal together.
3. Abusive relationship is also among the top reasons for divorce
Married life is not rosy and happy for everyone. If you followed the Johnny Depp- Amber Heard stories in the tabloids, you will also know how ugly it can get. Some people find themselves entangled in marriages tarnished by physical and emotional abuse. However, studies have shown that women are much more likely than men to suffer intimate partner and spousal abuse. Domestic violence is more common than you actually think.
Not only this, emotional abuse by a partner suffering from personality disorders such as narcissism can be extremely cruel. Such a partner regularly manipulates their spouse through abusive behavior involving gaslighting, love bombing, stonewalling, giving the silent treatment, abandonment, threatening, alienating the partner from society, etc.
These victims are battered for life, so it is best for them to separate from their abusive partner and find a safe and better life. Abuse of any kind should not be tolerated and one should get rid of such a toxic relationship as soon as possible.
If you are physically threatened and in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
4. Loss of individual identity
Even when you are one-half of a couple relationship, it is important that you maintain your identity. A marriage will naturally change you as you grow older and grow into your relationship, but it should not force you to be something you are not! You still need the space and support of your partner to be who you are, with no strings attached. But that unfortunately is often not the case.
That’s why one of the top reasons for divorce is people feeling alienated from themselves. They feel that their individual identity and personal space are compromised due to their married partner’s expectations. When such feelings are left to fester, it causes a state of marital crisis that becomes difficult to resolve. To avoid that, you must learn how to nurture space in a relationship.
5. Communication problems are a major reason for divorce
To build and sustain a strong and healthy relationship, it is essential that you talk to and understand each other. Fights and arguments are inevitable, and differences of opinion are healthy, but you do need to find common ground, which is only possible by talking things out.
Siddhartha says, “Poor communication leads a marriage to disaster. It makes people feel isolated.” Both spouses need to feel heard and respected. Constant criticism, bickering, too much conflict or snarky remarks, and dissatisfaction with the time spent together indicate a lack of good communication skills. Mindful, honest communication may seem hard to put into practice, but most problems can be handled if a couple knows how to communicate.
The importance of healthy and open communication can be gauged from the fact that most divorce proceedings involve couples therapy, and skillful mediation through a divorce checklist to ensure both parties move forward without harmful acrimony. You must learn to communicate effectively, be it to avoid having your marriage end up in a divorce or have a harmonious divorce in the face of irreconcilable differences.
Related Reading: Should You Get A Divorce? – Take This Divorce Checklist
6. Low intimacy levels is also a common reason for divorce
Physical intimacy plays a vital role in a happy and healthy marriage. However, you are bound to slow down over time with familiarity, increased responsibilities such as child rearing, and health problems and physical changes that may come with aging. It is impossible to keep the honeymoon period going for an extended period of time. Even the religious beliefs of one partner can cause sexual incompatibility in a relationship.
Sexless marriages are a huge reason for dissatisfaction among couples and a leading cause of divorce. Though remember, not all such marriages end in divorce. But if you are living as roommates who share expenses, maybe for childcare responsibilities, the estrangement may result in other problems.
Whether a cause or an effect, problems in sex life arise if there are misunderstandings or a feeling of being unappreciated and unloved. It could also have an effect on your self-image, which is crucial to feeling intimate with your partner. Emotional intimacy is equally important. Even cuddling, or a swift kiss can change the mood. It does not have to be heated, passionate sex all the time, but small things that mean an appreciation of each other and simply making time to enjoy each other’s company.
7. Incessant arguing and fighting
Let us call this poor conflict management. In relationships, you should not threaten, issue an ultimatum, or avoid a discussion when things get heated. These little things, when combined, can become one of the most potent reasons for divorce. Why? Simply because if you are continuously fighting and have marked differences of opinions, then evidently you will not be able to live a happy life together.
The stress and isolation that comes from conflicts and arguing could also make someone look for comfort outside the marriage. This slowly eats the couple’s connection. There can be many factors that can provoke conflicts and arguments, such as:
- Difference in outlooks
- Difference in expectations
- Increased stress – financial, work-related, or just surviving in a big city
- Cabin-fever or a lack of space
However, the reasons for a couple’s inability to work through these issues can also be poor communication and conflict resolution skills, a lack of commitment toward the relationship, and a lack of respect for the partner. It is important to understand why you and your partner snipe at each other and work through those difficulties. While this is a common cause of divorce, there is always the option of seeking talk therapy from a licensed clinical social worker or a relationship counselor.
Although, not every couple at war with each other ends up divorced. The solution at times can be as simple as, “Everybody needs a little time away/ I heard her say/ From each other/ Even lovers need a holiday/ Far away from each other,” as goes the song, Hard to Say I’m Sorry by Chicago.
8. Getting married when not ready
All marriages come with their share of responsibilities and challenges, which couples are expected to take on with confidence and as a team. But many people get married due to several external pressures instead of truly feeling ready to do so. This inhibits their will to make efforts to sustain the relationship.
Sometimes, when a marriage is forced, it leads to issues cropping up even before the beginning of married life. Likewise, people who marry young tend to feel that they took the step before they could achieve their other goals. Marriage keeps them away from focusing on their dreams. The resulting discontentment of lost opportunities and broken dreams is one of the leading causes of divorce.
In such cases, premarital intervention or premarital education may prove invaluable. Premarital counseling teaches young couples various techniques to help resolve issues such as tenets of skilled communication, trust-building exercises, and how to talk about finances or discuss ideas of fidelity, even before taking marital vows together, giving them a solid footing to build a life on.
Related reading: Premarital Counseling – 12 Reasons You Should Opt For It
9. Lack of equality in the relationship
Usually, resentments in marriage fester when spouses are not able to live as two equal human beings. One partner might feel that he/she is given too much responsibility or he/she is not being allowed to make major life decisions. It may be a perceived inequality in the splitting of roles, tasks, household chores, finances, parenting responsibilities, expectations…. the list is endless.
When a couple faces relationship challenges, they need to find a way out of them as two equals before the resentment combusts the relationship. Not every unequal marriage ends up in divorce, though such relationships do need more work than usual. And inequality may become such a burden on the camel’s back that a little straw will immediately break it. So what to do to foster equality in a marriage?
Learn to apologize. Address your partner’s concerns. Be open to feedback. In fact, treat it as an opportunity to learn and improve in love. One of the litmus tests of a healthy marriage is the ability to apologize without feeling demeaned. Or feel threatened of losing the other. You can, of course, “agree to disagree”. But it shouldn’t come out of frustration but rather from a space of mutual respect. What causes a divorce, after all? A lack of love and respect.
10. Continuous interference from the parents
Setting up their own homes, their spaces, and their lives separate from the older generations is a rite of passage that prepares young couples for the journey ahead. However, in some cases, this separation is purely physical. “Sometimes, the interference of in-laws even when away can be overbearing”, says Siddhartha. At the same time, it is sometimes one spouse who refuses to set boundaries with their parents causing the other spouse to feel distanced from them.
Such interference leads to misunderstandings, between both generations, or between the couple and is often cited as a common divorce reason. Awareness, mutual respect as well as a conscious setting of boundaries can help at such times. It may help to learn about leave and cleave boundaries after marriage and consciously apply them in your married life.
11. Mismatched aspirations
If you have been wondering why do people get divorced when they were so much in love at the beginning of the relationship, here is another classic example. When two people get married, it is expected that they will have a shared vision of their future, dreams, and interests. However, this is not the case for all couples. Couples often come together, enjoying the present, ignoring red flags, without having had enough discussions about their future.
Some couples need to find common interests, while others thrive in the time apart pursuing their own interests and coming together to share their experiences with each other. However, when dreams, wishes, goals, and visions for the future are not in sync, it is better to split than continue together.
Failing to see the future with your partner clearly and realistically is not unheard of. That’s why “no fault” is also now a common reason for a divorce. Premarital preparation and relationship education can help couples learn more about each other, see if they’re compatible, and avoid divorce.
Related reading: 12 Realistic Expectations In A Relationship
12. Mismatched values
Just like a mismatch in future goals, a mismatch in values is cause for concern. When asked what causes a divorce, many reasons are listed. This one, however, is often left out even though this is one of the top reasons for divorce. Wars have been fought over ideologies. Differences of opinion about race, religion, nationality, culture, gender, sexuality, and even one’s political alliance have more impact on a relationship than you would dare to admit.
When two spouses have opposing values and/or morals, the marriage is likely to turn into a crisis. Imagine a woman is pro-choice and when she becomes pregnant realizes she wants an abortion but finds out her partner is pro-life. Or one spouse has a gay sibling while the partner was raised with an orthodox belief system. In situations like these, it could be impossible for them to find a common ground.
Once again, premarital counseling and relationship enhancement programs will urge you to discuss these things before marriage so that nothing comes as a surprise and puts you out off in a way that you are put off the entire relationship.
13. Unrealistic expectations are one of the leading causes of divorce
Some couples come into the marriage with unrealistic expectations or dreams that the other cannot fulfill. One partner, or both, may still be too immature for the serious effort of building a marital relationship. Instead of keeping realistic expectations from their marriage and having a clear idea of what it takes to make it work, a couple’s idea of married life may be influenced by romantic notions peddled in literature and cinema. Those who get married young are especially more susceptible to this.
When you have unrealistic expectations of the ultimate romance, you set up your partner for failure. This habit makes the other person feel constantly pressurized and he or she may ultimately succumb. In case the couple is not able to manage their expectations realistically, the resulting disappointments can lead to a divorce.
14. Abandoning your marital responsibilities or desertion grounds for divorce
Leaving your home, walking out, or leaving by mutual consent is not grounds for divorce. “When a husband and wife agree to live separately as a trial, sometimes to reevaluate what the marriage brings, that is not grounds for divorce itself. However, if a spouse abandons their spouse without any cause, or provocation, and for a certain period of time, this is considered desertion grounds for divorce. This time period and other details can vary from country to country and state to state,” says Siddharth.
“But if a spouse has good reason to abandon their spouse, then it is called constructive abandonment. In other words, if the court sees that one partner was practically forced to leave, or not come back, then it is not considered their fault,” he adds. For example, lock-out (changing the locks) or kicking someone out of the house. Or even in the case of abuse and emotional neglect.
However, this too, as per Siddhartha, is a tricky legal ground to prove, and “the guilty spouse can easily maneuver around the law and the deserted spouse may not get justice”. Consult a good divorce attorney or law firm if you find yourself dealing with desertion and abandonment.
Related Reading: 10 Things To Do When You Are Thinking About Divorce
15. Substance abuse
Addiction support groups have forever called addiction a family disease for the way it affects not just the addict but their family. Substance abuse, such as drug abuse and alcoholism or binge drinking creates an unstable family environment. It gives rise to other issues, like psychological problems, heated arguments, financial problems, physical abuse, etc.
It forces people to neglect their core responsibilities, both at home and work, and creates an unsafe and detrimental living environment for the children as well. Ultimately, resentment develops in the other spouse and the marriage ends because of it. This study says that “a consumption increase of 1 liter of alcohol per capita brings about an increase in the divorce rate of about 20%”. If your partner or you are dealing with substance abuse, look for online support groups or physical support groups in your area to take charge of your life.
- Divorce rates across the globe are rising exponentially
- Primary reasons include more independence and empowerment of women giving them the confidence to walk out of troubled marriages more easily. Changing priorities of individuals that value happiness much more than fulfilling obligations is also an important impetus
- Top reasons for divorce include financial incompatibility, infidelity, sexless marriages and lack of intimacy, domestic abuse, loss of identity, and inequality in relationship, to name a few
- Communication problems, incessant arguing, poor conflict resolution, mismatch in values and future goals, interference from parents, desertion and abandonment, alcoholism and other substance abuse are other valid reasons for divorce
- Premarital counseling, couples therapy when faced with marital problems, learning communication skills, trust building, are some of the ways to avoid divorce
- Consult a skilled lawyer if you must seek divorce
This list covered some of the major causes of divorce. However, it is not an exhaustive list by any means. No two relationships are alike, nor are the issues that can put a strain on your marriage. There may be many more reasons for divorce and unique solutions to resolve them. Do not make a hasty decision when it comes to ending your marriage. Little everyday things can go a long way in saving a marriage. Consult a professional to help you figure out where your relationship stands and what is the way out of this misery.
This article has been updated in February 2023.
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