Why do so many marriages fail?
Are you asking yourself this question?
No one ever imagines themselves divorced. It’s the kind of thing we always think will happen to other people, but never to ourselves.
When love is the most incredible feeling in the world, and so much effort goes into pursuing, building, and caring for the ultimate relationship with our soulmate, how then do so many couples still make the mistakes that lead to divorce?
In this article we discuss everything you need to know about divorce: the top 10 reasons people get divorced, why divorce can sometimes feel like it’s inevitable, and the signs to look out for to see whether or not your marriage can be saved.
We have a lot to cover so let’s get started.
10 reasons for divorce
1. Marrying for the wrong reasons
If you marry for the wrong reasons, how can you honestly expect the marriage to be a success?
Sadly, many people think differently. Maybe they don’t even think at all. Or maybe, they go into a marriage thinking their reasons are good enough to make a go of it.
But the reality is if your marriage is not made out of mutual respect, shared goals and compatibility, much less real and enduring love, your marriage is going to fail.
Clinical Psychologist and eHarmony chairman and founder Dr. Neil Clark Warren explains:
“It’s frighteningly easy to choose the wrong person. Attraction and chemistry are easily mistaken for love, but they are far from the same thing. Being attracted to someone is immediate and largely subconscious. Staying deeply in love with someone happens gradually and requires conscious decisions, made over and over again, for a lifetime. Too many people choose to get married based on attraction and don’t consider, or have enough perspective to recognize, whether their love can endure.”
Marrying for money, to escape an unpleasant situation, or to try to meet someone else’s expectations are not good enough reasons to marry. Couples divorce because ultimately, they find out that they can’t live the rest of their lives with someone they don’t respect or like.
2. Losing yourselves in the marriage
Codependency is never a good thing for any relationship, much less a marriage.
When two people are so intertwined and dependent on each other, they fail as individuals, therefore failing as a couple.
According to world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê, codependency is “the most recurrent and terrible of patterns which can exist in a relationship.” It is when two people play two very distinct roles of the “needy” and the “savior.”
Marriage doesn’t require you to give up who you are. It’s about two complete individuals building a life together.
And that’s where most people get it wrong. Couples divorce because they find themselves lost in their marriage. They look around and find that they’ve given up so much and have become miserable. They have stopped working on their own growth, that they feel like they have no life’s purpose anymore.
3. Extreme incompatibility
I’ve always believed that the success of any relationship or marriage boils down to one thing:
The relentless decision to keep choosing each other, every day, despite differences and life’s difficulties.
After all, love is not a feeling. It’s an active choice.
Your biggest mistake is marrying someone and expecting them to be perfect. When you think like that, you’ll always be disappointed. But when you marry someone and accept that they’re human—with flaws, baggage, and history, then you’ll be more willing to compromise.
But there’s also a limit to that rule.
Sometimes, you just don’t work well with someone. And those extreme incompatibilities may ultimately lead to a marriage breakdown. Mistakes are made, people get hurt, things are said—creating a toxic environment that can be so unhealthy, that the best option is to divorce.
In this instance, couples need to draw the line between saving a marriage and saving themselves.
4. Lack of commitment
Studies also show that one of the main predictors of divorce is a lack of commitment.
But what does commitment even mean nowadays when relationships seem so expendable?
It’s easy to say that “I’m committed to this marriage” when things are nice and comfortable. But married couples need to understand that commitment goes deeper than that. It’s about taking active steps to keep the marriage going forward.
Commitment is doing what it takes to make a marriage work. So a lack of commitment is an act that disregards and disrespects not only your partner but the marriage itself.
No one wants to be with someone that doesn’t fight for them. And marriage is about two people working on life together, not by themselves.
(If your marriage is in trouble and you need a practical, no-nonsense guide for making it better, checj out our Mend The Marriage review).
5. The timing wasn’t right.
A lot of people marry before they’re truly ready. Unplanned pregnancies and societal pressure for example, play a part.
But research suggests that timing plays a huge factor in a marriage’s success.
According to sociological researcher Nicholas Wolfinger, there is a “window” for the perfect time to get married—between 28 and 32.
Here’s something else though:
Wolfinger analyzed data between 2006 to 2010 from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) and made a startling discovery:
Marrying after your mid-30’s is actually riskier than marrying before. In fact after age 32, “the odds of divorce increase by 5 percent per year.”
Whether or not this window might be true, you can’t deny that marriage works better when both individuals are “fully-formed” adults—meaning they are emotionally and mentally independent and have a better “sense of self.”
6. Financial problems
Financial problems don’t just create problems materialistically, it also creates emotional problems.
A survey conducted by Ramsey Solutions indicates that money problems are the second-biggest reasons for divorce, next to infidelity.
The problems are commonly caused by starting the marriage while on debt (having an expensive wedding that you can’t afford), financial infidelity, or a wide difference in salaries. One reason could also be having different financial priorities.
According to personal finance writer Andrea Woroch:
“Unfortunately, this can cause frivolous fights between two people who have completely opposite views toward money. If one partner spends without thought and the other frantically saves every penny, there’s bound to be tension. The spender may feel that his or her partner is constantly nagging and cheap, while the saver may feel vulnerable to the effects of overindulging.”
Sooner or later, these differences in financial views will cause strain that eventually leads to divorce.
Addiction can cause incredible strain in any relationship, most especially a marriage.
Currently, there are 24 million Americans who are married and have an addiction, according to statistics.
When one person suffers from any kind of addiction—be it drugs, gambling, sex or alcohol—it affects the person closest to them—their spouse.
Unfortunately, addiction can create a host of negative problems that often lead couples to divorce. Addiction creates an environment where trust and respect are lost. Addiction can also place a heavy financial burden on the whole family, not to mention causes emotional distress and abuse.
It’s no wonder couples who go through addiction often end up in divorce.
8. Violence and abuse
Violence and abuse are prevalent in marriages and intimate relationships today. In fact, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience some form of physical violence committed by an intimate partner.
But what can you consider as “abuse”? Yes, it could be physical violence. But it can be more than that too.
Domestic abuse is a pattern of physical, verbal, or psychological abuse, that affects the spouse in a negative way. It involves an attempt to control or damage someone’s physical and emotional well-being.
Unfortunately, many victims of domestic abuse find it difficult to leave that marriage. They’re stripped of their independence and the trauma has left them scared and vulnerable.
In this situation, it is best to seek help and get out of there immediately. The first step to divorce is to leave, and everything else will follow after achieving safety.
9. Growing apart
Marriage is like a plant. It needs constant love and care. If you neglect it, it will wilt away and die.
Many couples think that marriage is something you simply trudge along with. That it’s something that will take care of itself.
But marriage is work.
That’s not to say that it’s something you constantly have to force yourself on. But you need to take active steps to connect with your partner and to nurture that connection.
David Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship expert explains:
“If a couple doesn’t nurture the relationship, then it will stagnate, and the partners will grow apart. This shows that in many cases divorce isn’t about a particular ‘last straw’ incident or bad behavior, but simply the relationship fizzles.”
And for a lot of people who reach that point, there’s almost nothing left to fight for anymore.
10. Inability to tackle disagreements
Conflict is normal in relationships. A marriage is made up of two individuals. It’s not a single-minded organization.
married couples will argue about things. From petty grievances to something really big. But what separates a successful marriage from a doomed one is the ability to tackle these disagreements in a healthy and mature manner.
Couples need to remind themselves that it’s both of them versus the problem, and not them against each other. Otherwise, contempt will pile up until it becomes a big element in the room.
Psychotherapist Bonnie Ray Kennan explains:
“This kind of behavior creates a culture of disconnect. If one or both partners are unwilling to soften the marital conversation and stop fighting, the problem will get worse until there is no coming back.”
Are We Destined for Divorce?
There is nothing more magical than the day of your wedding – officially proclaiming and legalizing your commitment with your partner and soulmate in front of all your family and friends.
It’s a commitment to our community as much as it is a commitment to our significant other; the promise to love and to hold and to be with one another until the day we die.
But why do so many of these weddings end up in divorce? Do we not all share the same level of commitment and love for our partners when we get engaged and make that life-changing commitment? Do we doom ourselves by rushing in, or by making wrong choices, or by thinking with lust rather than love?
There are a million reasons why a loving couple might divorce. According to Marriage.com, the 10 most commonly cited reasons for divorce include:
- Weight gain
- Financial issues
- Constant arguing
- Lack of equality
- Lack of intimacy
- Unrealistic expectations
- Failure to communicate
- Rushing into marriage
The good news: divorce rates are no longer as high as they once were, with divorces peaking in the 1980s at 50% (which is why we have the popular line, “half of all marriages end in divorce”).
These days, divorce rates have fallen to around 39% in the US, and the main reason for this drop in divorce is that millennials are more selective with their partners than previous generations.
But 39% is still 4 out of every 10 marriages, meaning a lot of couples are making giant, wrong decisions that negatively impact the rest of their lives without knowing it.
While we can no longer say that the divorce rate is half of all marriages, plenty of marriages still fall apart.
So why does this happen?
The Unnatural Nature of Monogamy
For some scientists, monogamy might just be an unnatural act for humans. According to evolutionary biologist David Barash of the University of Washington, monogamy isn’t embedded into our natural instincts.
Staying with one partner for the entirety of our lives is difficult for many of us to do because it isn’t the way we were biologically hardwired.
According to Barash, roughly 80% of early human societies could be considered polygamous, with humans sharing partners with one another in small communities.
We eventually shifted to monogamous social rules because of the two-parent advantage, as societies figured out that children raised in two-parent environments had better chances of survival than those raised in polygamous communities.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that monogamous relationships are impossible. It simply means that more effort is required for humans to stay monogamous, and they can be more easily tempted to consider polygamy.
This explains why infidelity rates are so high even amongst partners who love one another and don’t want to leave each other.
However, love does fade away for other reasons.
Understanding Why Love Fades
As we’ve discussed in previous articles, love takes work. Falling in love and following your initial passion in the honeymoon phase of a relationship can be easy, but once those flusters of emotion and lust fade away, a couple has to do the hard part – maintaining their love and keeping it going.
The truth might not be something you want to hear – love naturally fades away. According to Dr. Dan Lieberman, Harvard paleoanthropologist and author of The Molecule of More: How a Single Molecule in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity – and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race, all our feelings surrounding love and romance are controlled by a single chemical – dopamine.
And without this dopamine, even the most loving couples can feel different about one another.
“Attachment comes from the satisfaction we take in being around another person, day after day,” Dr. Lieberman says. “These brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are associated with the here and now.”
And the reason why this matters is that many of us don’t understand the difference between attachment – the love and bond that long-term couples have for each other – and “passionate love”, which is singularly driven by dopamine.
Dopamine, Your Internal Chemical Cupid
Dopamine makes us feel good, granting us a certain buzz whenever our brain releases it. And being around someone we sexually and romantically desire releases that dopamine, causing the thrill and excitement associated with schoolyard love.
Unfortunately, no matter how much you truly love someone, the dopamine release you get in their presence eventually lessens as your brain becomes used to them.
However long your brain takes to become accustomed to your partner to the point that you no longer experience dopamine releases can vary; in some cases it might just take weeks, and in other cases it can last years (this partially explains the common myth of the 7-year itch, when couples tend to break up after 7 years).
When the dopamine stops hitting us, we then need to actively commit to the relationship, should we decide that the relationship is worth our time even without the artificial positivity boost of dopamine.
This is when couples must experience the challenge of attachment – the active pursuit of working towards enjoying one another’s presence and making that feeling stronger than the dopamine release of starting a new “fling” with a new person.
Essentially, the key to a successful relationship that outlives the dopamine drought is developing strong attachment while the dopamine boosts are still significant so that the emotional attachment remains even after the neurochemical attachment has faded away.
But of course, this isn’t to say that once you and your partner have been together for a long time then you’ll never trigger dopamine releases in one another again.
It simply requires work and effort from both parties. Without this work and effort, love in a relationship eventually fades.
Here are some ways we allow this love to fade:
1) We skim over pain. – We stop acknowledging our partner’s pain or our own pain, and allow each other to stuff it down instead of clearing it up.
2) We become emotionally selfish. – We stop emotionally reaching out to our partner because we are tired or lazy, and we stop opening ourselves up.
3) We stop looking into each other’s eyes. – We stop staring into each other’s eyes, the easiest way to connect and bond.
4) We cling onto negative history. – We cling onto old pains and bring them back up whenever we want to use them for an argument or a “win”.
5) We stop touching each other. – We stop making an effort with our sex life; we don’t kiss, touch, or take care of ourselves physically.
6) We assume things about each other. – We’ve been with each other for so long that we think we can just assume everything, making our partner feel unheard.
7) We confuse safe with boring. – We get scared with the stability and safety of our long-term relationship, and start confusing that safety with tedium.
8) We overthink. – We overthink and overanalyze every word, every action, every nudge. This kills our organic connection and natural intimacy, making things feel robotic.
When You Don’t Want Divorce: 4 Signs Your Relationship Can Still Be Saved
If you’ve started feeling that your relationship might slowly be edging towards that horrible and fatal separation, but you don’t want to let go just yet, here are signs you can look out for that show that there is hope yet at a second life for your marriage:
1) You Acknowledge Your Imperfections, And Your Partner Does To You
You’ve had the fights, the arguments, the long nights of backs and forths. You’ve all said the worst things you could say to each other (or so you hope).
Now ask yourself – how do you feel? Is there still something inside of you willing to fight for the marriage?
Do you see your partner’s point – the things you’re doing wrong or could be doing better – and do they see yours?
Is there any point in your disagreements where you can connect and touch base? If so, this is where you can begin the healing.
Do you feel…
- You can understand some of your partner’s pain, even if you don’t agree with everything
- You can do better at some parts of your relationship and you haven’t been trying your best
- Your partner is willing to admit the same things
2) When You Are Reminded of Your Partner, You Smile
You’ve done everything together. Maybe you’ve travelled the world or you’ve watched every movie together for the last decade; you’ve shared every holiday and birthday for as long as you can remember.
At the end of a long, grueling fight, you find yourself aimlessly thinking, and for one reason or another, your thoughts fall to your partner. You remember a funny memory, a silly event, and you laugh quietly to yourself.
Do you feel…
- Nostalgic for a previous version of your relationship with your partner, in a not-too-distant past
- Hoping your partner would come in the door right now and make things right
- Unwilling to let go of those fun memories and start a new relationship
3) You Both Care About Your Family More Than Anything
Not all marriages have kids, but for those which do, kids are usually the most important parts of your love. You made them, raised them, and you feel their pain every time you and your partner fight.
You hate disappointing them, and when they ask if you and your partner are mad at each other or will split, you can’t bear to tell them the truth.
And you know in your heart that your partner feels the same way, and you couldn’t ask for a better mom or dad for your kids than them.
Do you feel…
- That your love for your kids is enough to keep you and your partner together through these rough times
- Your partner is the best mom or dad they could be, and they inspire you to be better, too
- That you and your partner shouldn’t just think about your own feelings, but the feelings of your children
4) You Still Feel Safe with Them at the End of the Day
For those who divorce, the biggest reason is because they can no longer see themselves with their partner together sharing a happy future.
They stop feeling safe in the presence of their partner, and feel that it is no longer possible to grow with their partner at their side.
Ask yourself – how does your heart feel about your relationship, about your presence with your partner? Are you aching to simply get away from them? Or do you still want to hold them, keep them close to you, and make your life bigger with them?
Do you feel…
- That you want them lying next to you when you go to bed
- Thinking that the relationship is perfect except for one or two things that you can work out together
- In love with your partner like you’ve never been in love before
When Divorce Is Inevitable, Whether You Like It or Not: 7 Signs Your Marriage Can’t Be Saved
With so many stories of marriages coming back from the brink, we always want to believe that we can save our marriage as long as we try hard enough.
But there are some marriages that are unsalvageable, and the sooner you and your partner accept that reality, the sooner your lives can move on.
According to researchers, amongst couples that sought to improve their relationship but still ended up divorcing afterward, the most significant reasons for the separation were:
1) Lack of commitment
3) Too much arguing and conflict
If you aren’t sure if your relationship has reached the tipping point, here are 7 signs that may help you see your marriage is at its unfortunate end.
1) Discussions Have Become Impossible
You just can’t stand each other anymore to the point that sharing thoughts has become impossible. One person talking leads to the other person immediately going on the defensive.
You are so accustomed to arguments that you’ve forgotten how to have civil discussions. One or both of you now no longer engage, and you instead stonewall – you walk away before the discussion starts getting heated.
2) You Avoid Each Other (Even When There’s No Fight)
It has become a norm in your household to spend as little time with each other as possible, even when there’s no current fight or no one is currently angry.
You both justify it as “keeping the peace”, but there is no such thing as peace between you and your partner anymore; it’s a conflict that has simply been put on pause because you are both tired of it. One or both of you grew up in toxic environments like this which is why you think this is normal and acceptable.
3) Everything About Your Partner Irritates You
We all have our little quirks, and we often fall in love (or simply accept) the quirks of our partner, whether it be picking their nails, whistling, leaving clothes on the floor, or a number of other things.
These things that you could once ignore have now become huge targets every time you notice them, or vice versa. You are simply emotionally “done” with your partner, and you lash out at them every opportunity you get.
4) When You Need to Vent, You Talk to Someone Else
Your partner is supposed to be your home, physically and mentally. But you no longer consider them a safe space, so you’ve started turning to someone else when you need to vent and let it out.
It might be because you don’t believe your partner has your best interests at heart; maybe you fear that they might use some of your angers and frustrations against you.
For one reason or another, your partner no longer feels like a confidante you can trust.
5) You Fantasize as if You Were Single
It doesn’t always have to be sexual or romantic fantasies. You might have started daydreaming about a life in which you no longer have your partner.
You sometimes find yourself planning for a future before you remember that you’ve forgotten to include your partner; maybe when you think of your long-term future, you no longer see them in your vision.
You care solely about your own goals and needs, completely disregarding the implications of still having your partner in this fantasy.
6) You Aren’t You Anymore
You know “you” better than anyone, and you haven’t felt like yourself in a long time. The defensiveness that you have become accustomed to at home has leaked over into all other parts of your life – your work, your hobbies, your networks, your family – and people around you have begun noticing.
Anxiety and stress have become daily parts of your life, and you don’t understand why. And the “why” is simple – you feel stuck and trapped, even if you won’t admit it, and you see no way out.
7) You Find Faults and Abuse Them
When you or your partner notice even the smallest fault in each other, you use that as a jumping board to start a new argument, or to resurrect your complaints and criticisms about your partner.
This is also known as “kitchen-sinking”; when you single out one fault and use it to describe a much larger personal complaint.
For example, you might want to complain that your partner is spending too much, but instead of focusing on the money spent, you focus on personal attacks, calling them selfish and irresponsible.
Divorce: Making the Decision and Moving On
No matter how horrible, stressful, and negative a marriage might have been, divorce is never an easy decision to make.
It’s one that will impact the rest of your life, and one that can be devastating mentally and emotionally.
Breaking the bond of a socially-contracted marriage can feel immensely embarrassing and shameful, even if you have all the reason in the world to do it.
It’s important you make the decision – whether to actively work towards saving your marriage or to end it right here and now.
All areas of your life will be negatively impacted by this indecision and marital state of limbo, such as:
- Your career: Lack of attention, moodiness, and stress can end up costing you your job and professional network
- Your relationships: Everyone around you will feel your anxiety and sadness, and if you don’t admit it to yourself and to them, it will only negatively change the way they see you
- Your health: Extreme marital stress can lead to physical health compromise, as you stop eating healthy, you stop exercising, and you stop generally taking care of yourself
When making the all-important decision, you need to ask yourself these questions and dig out the most truthful answers:
- If you decide to really try to save your marriage, do you have confidence that your partner will try as well?
- Do you still have any patience or forgiveness left in you?
- Have you gone past anger and hate and moved to indifference towards your relationship?
- Is there no longer any intimacy at all, including emotional intimacy and affection?
- Are you being abused or cheated on?
- Do you feel that your life will never get better with your partner?
- Are you better off being divorced?
Find your answers, and make your decision. It can be terrifying, stressful, agonizing and so much more, but it’s the most important thing you have to do.
Know what you want and more importantly, what you need to start putting your life back together.
Whether it’s with your partner or with yourself, only you can decide.
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