Divorce has long been a topic of study for social scientists and other academics. Some researchers have looked at easily measurable characteristics that increase the likelihood of divorce, such as the age at which people marry. Other studies, on the other hand, have gone straight to the source, interviewing divorced persons about why they believe their marriages ended.
We reviewed the findings of several of the best research (details below), developed a list of the top eight causes of divorce, and rated them based on how frequently study participants indicated those difficulties were a major factor in their divorce.
It's vital to state the obvious before moving on to the list: There are usually multiple causes for a couple's divorce (which is why the percentages for the answers total more than 100%), and those reasons are sometimes linked. When people are having other troubles in their marriage, they are more prone to have extramarital affairs, and communication challenges worsen concerns like money disagreements. Another complicating element is that couples frequently dispute what precipitated their breakup, which is unsurprising.
Even yet, with the benefit of hindsight, it can be instructive to hear what other people have to say about why their marriages ended. And, if you want to avoid the same fate, knowing when indicators of these issues appear in your marriage can assist.
1. A lack of dedication
Lack of commitment came out on top in various studies where people were asked to choose from a list of major reasons for their divorce. (This was the response of up to 85 percent of participants in one study.) Another study found that lack of commitment was the reason couples were most likely to agree on—even though one spouse usually blamed the other for not working harder to repair the marriage.
Lack of commitment might appear nebulous and difficult to show (or disprove), especially to the individual who is being accused. Extramarital affairs, a refusal to talk about the relationship, and a failure to cooperate toward common financial goals are all symptoms that the couple is headed for divorce. That's perhaps why so many people point to a lack of commitment as a major reason for divorce—they view it as the root of a slew of other, more visible issues.
2. Incompatibility and Separation
All of the legislators who chose "irreconcilable differences" as the basis for no-fault divorce were correct. When asked why their marriages failed, many divorced persons say something along the lines of "we grew apart," "we drifted away," or "we were just incompatible" (up to 55 percent in one study). Other divorce grounds that have come up in various research could be included in this concept of incompatibility, such as:
* A lack of ideas that are shared
* Marriage at a young age (which makes growing apart more likely)
* Problems with sexuality
* Disparities in religion
Many couples, of course, accept and even enjoy their differences. Most successful marriages, on the other hand, are built on a foundation of shared (or at least overlapping) interests, priorities, and values. Outward indicators of incompatibility frequently coexist with other prevalent causes of divorce, particularly poor communication, which comes next on the list.
3. Issues with communication
In numerous research, almost 50% of participants reported poor communication as a factor for divorces, such as excessive bickering and inability to communicate with one another. Communication issues can also be the root of other causes for divorce, such as disagreements over money and family duties.
When you and your partner are constantly disagreeing, it's easy to spot. Keep an eye out for recurring disputes about the same item or disagreements that never truly get addressed, even if the confrontations aren't that frequent or unpleasant. That could indicate that you need assistance learning to communicate more effectively with each other, such as through couple's therapy.
4. Extramarital Relationships
Although infidelity (or adultery) was included in all of the studies we looked at, its prevalence among the causes of divorce varied from roughly 20% in one study to 60% in others.
This large range may reflect the fact that at least some divorced persons regard an affair as the final straw following a series of other marital issues. Those other issues could be the reason someone seeks closeness, excitement, or distraction outside of the marriage—or even as an unconscious attempt to provoke the other spouse into calling the marriage off.
5. Money Disagreements: Financial Incompatibility
Financial problems—in particular, concerns about how their ex-spouse handled money—were cited by roughly 40% of people in various surveys as a primary reason for divorce. Fights about money are commonly referred to as "financial incompatibility" since they usually emerge from differing goals and ideals when it comes to making financial decisions.
When you and your spouse are financially mismatched, look for the following signs:
1. One of you keeps secrets about purchases or other financial decisions or even downright lies about them (like making investments or withdrawing money from savings)
2. Before making significant purchases or taking other actions that influence your combined money, one of you does not consult the other.
3. You can't talk about your finances on a regular (and calm) basis.
4. You are unable or unwilling to create common financial objectives (such as budgeting and saving to buy a house, have children, or develop a retirement nest account), and
5. You set financial objectives together, but one of you consistently fails to achieve them.
Financial incompatibility is more likely to be cited as a primary reason for divorce by couples with lower earnings, according to studies. There is likely to be more conflict over money difficulties when there is less to go around—and increased tension about being able to pay expenses. Of course, disagreements over money and property remain during the divorce process, regardless of a couple's income level.
6. Abuse of Substances
According to several surveys, between 10% and 35% of people divorced due to their spouse's alcohol or drug problems.
There are several indicators that your spouse may have a substance abuse problem, including:
1. Sleep, appetite, and hygiene changes
2. Behavior that is kept hidden
3. Mood swings that occur unexpectedly
4. Other personality changes, such as paranoia
5. Ignoring responsibilities at work or home
6. An unexplainable desire for further funds
7. Having trouble paying attention or remembering things.
7. Domestic Violence
Domestic abuse was cited by 15 percent to 25% of participants in several studies as a major cause of divorce. More than a third of participants in a study of elder divorced couples named verbal, emotional, or physical abuse as one of the three main reasons for their divorce.
Domestic abuse as a cause of divorce is viewed differently by women and men. Domestic violence was cited by 42 percent of women, but just 9 percent of males, in a national survey as a major factor for their divorce. This could be because women are far more likely than men to experience intimate partner violence, and victims of abuse are far more likely than perpetrators to blame the behavior for their divorce.
When seeking help for domestic violence, consider your safety and privacy.
Consider the privacy of your computer, smartphone, or tablet if you seek help for domestic abuse online or over the phone. If you share equipment, a phone plan, or the same network, your abuser could trace your calls, search history, and even whereabouts. The National Domestic Violence Hotline and RAINN are two organizations that offer aid and tools to help with your safety and privacy.
8. Family Responsibilities Conflicts
When questioned about the major reasons for divorce in various research, over 20% of participants indicated disputes in their marriage over:
1. How to bring up their children
2. Duties for child care
3. Various responsibilities in the home and family
It's worth mentioning that at least one study found that women were much more likely than males to blame their divorce on these disagreements. (Older studies that gave participants a list of reasons rarely included conflicts over family responsibilities, possibly because many social scientists overlooked or made assumptions about gender roles in men and women's marriages.)
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