What really fuels the drive for divorce between couples? What happened to living together happily ever after? Although life is unpredictable, no one gets married thinking they’ll end up divorced two years, five years, or even 10 years down the road.
Of interest to note is that women initiate divorce more often than men. Data from a 2015 research study conducted by the American Sociological Association (ASA) notes that two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women, and, if women are college-educated, it’s 90%.
Regardless of who initiates a disillusionment of the marriage and seeks the counsel of a divorce lawyer, what are the most common reasons why?
Major Causes of Divorce Today
Cheating is one of the primary causes of divorce today. Extra-marital affairs are responsible for between 20% to 40% of divorces.
Once a spouse cheats, the trust in them is simply gone. It is very hard for the offending spouse to gain back the full trust of their partner. This then tends to cascade into other behaviors and problems such as other underlying issues rising to the surface, feelings of rejection, the propensity of denial, and the relationship dynamic is permanently changed. Which is why most couples end up getting divorced after one spouse has an extramarital affair.
Another common reason why married couples go their separate ways is financially related. Although couples vow to stick with each other ”for richer or for poorer” on their wedding day, financial issues are another leading cause of a marriage being dissolved. Some of the financial issues that break down most marriages include:
- Financial instability
- Financial abuse, where one spouse controls all the finances
- Power dynamics as a result of different incomes between spouses
- Disagreements over saving or spending habits
Though financial instability does speak for itself, financial abuse is often not well defined. While it is not uncommon for one spouse to manage all of the finances, financial abuse is when a single spouse controls all of the liquid assets in an abusive marriage. Often leaving the other spouse without access to funds without their direct oversight or no access at all.
Couples who do not have important conversations about how finances should be handled before marriage, and throughout their marriage, tend to have more disputes about money management. Lack of financial compatibility often leads to divorce.
Lack of intimacy
A 2017 study of U.S. General Social Survey data from 2002 found 16% of married couples were in a sexless marriage (defined as no sex in the past year). While some couples will be ok with a lack of sexual intimacy, many will not if it does not improve, or their partner is unwilling to discuss or work on the issue.
If you have spent time with divorced people, you may have heard them say that they felt like they were living with a stranger or a friend, but no longer a lover. Lack of intimacy is one of the major reasons why married couples drift apart.
Different forms of intimacy such as physical intimacy, spending quality time together, showing affection toward one another, and investing emotionally in one another are some of the things that help couples to sustain long-term marriages. When these diminish or disappear entirely from a marriage, it can take a toll.
Lack of respect and appreciation
Respect, security, confidence, and understanding are some of the things that make a partner feel appreciated in marriage. A lack of feeling respected, if not resolved, can act as a catalyst for separation or divorce.
Lack of equality in the home
Lack of equality in the household is still cited as a main contributing reason for divorce. This inequality, whether it is real or perceived, in household labor can over time cause frustration and resentment.
In a more traditional type of marriage a woman would be a homemaker and was the primary caregiver to children if there were any. The man would be the breadwinner and take care of the outdoor chores. Not that this type of marriage no longer exists but there has been a dramatic increase in the labor force participation of women since the 1970s, and this has brought on a new type of household dynamic that has caused a strong shift over time.
According to a 2020 Gallup poll on who was more likely to do household chores, laundry chores still tip towards women reporting they do it 58% of the time. But this is still a significant drop from 1996 when it stood at 70%. The poll also indicates women report a strong move to parity for many of the other household chores such as: cleaning the house, grocery shopping, cooking, and doing the dishes.
Men have also reported a significant increase in sharing household chores across the board. Though oddly enough, men have reported an increase in yardword responsibility from 55% to 59% of the time while women have reported the same 10% since 1996.
Substance abuse is cited as another leading reason why a partner chooses to walk away from their marriage, especially if it has been a long term issue and the offending spouse is unwilling to seek help and treatment.
Physical, verbal, or emotional abuse
Outside of substance abuse, physical, verbal, and emotional abuse are definitely a reason for a partner to seek divorce. No one should have to tolerate any form of abuse in a relationship. In a 2013 study by the National Library of Medicine domestic violence was cited as the main reason 40% of the time for both parties to file for divorce. While too much conflict was the main reason 53.8% of the time.
What most people seek and want in marriage
Most people want the following things in a partnership, and these can go a long way in heading off the divorce discussion:
- Good communication
- Financial stability
- Emotional support
- Trust and loyalty
- Commitment to each other