Top Reasons for Divorce & How You Can Avoid Them


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My wife and I were on the brink of divorce in 2013. Luckily our marriage made it, but I decided to compile what I learned about the top reasons for divorce so you can avoid them.

Here’s what we learned during that difficult time:

The top reasons for divorce include basic incompatibility, infidelity, and money problems. Many couples struggle with 1 or more of those at any time. While infidelity and money problems are clearly defined, incompatibility can mean different goals, values, or an addiction issue.

Nothing feels worse than thinking your marriage is over.

Even if your relationship is now terrible or if you are pushing for divorce, it’s still a very painful process. We all experience the loss, the wasted time, and if we have kids, the terrible impact on them.

While some of the top reasons for divorce are really bad, almost all of them are something you can come back from with some effort and focus.

In this post, we’re examining each and every one of the top reasons for divorce, talking about the causes and how they impact marriages. More importantly, though, we also look at solutions for these reasons so you can get your marriage back on track.

You CAN save your marriage — even if your spouse says that they want a divorce.

You CAN rebuild that passion you felt for one another when you first kissed. And you can bring back that love and devotion you felt for one another when both of you said, “I love you” for the first time.

If you feel like your marriage is worth fighting for, then do yourself a favor and watch this quick video on how to Mend Your Marriage that will teach you everything you need to know about salvaging the most important thing in the world.

What are the top reasons for divorce?

A recent study by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts shared the top reasons for divorce statistics based on actual survey results.

They found the top reasons for divorce to include:

  1. Basic Incompatibility
  2. Infidelity
  3. Money problems

While those represented the bulk of the top reasons for divorce statistics, the study also found abuse, parenting issues, and substance abuse were also factors.

In my own life, I’m writing this post having been divorced once (20+ years ago).  But I’ve also seen my 2nd marriage struggle with a number of the top reasons for divorce. Struggles that at one time seemed overwhelming.

Thus I’m in a unique position to write about divorce and saving a marriage due to:

  1. My own mistakes that led to my original divorce
  2. My mistakes that almost led to my 2nd one
  3. What my wife and I did collectively to break, save, strengthen and renew our marriage

Is money the number one reason for divorce?

The short answer is probably not. 

There is a lot of studies out there on divorce.  While money fights and money problems do rank in the top reasons for divorce statistics, they don’t get the #1 spot in all the studies.

However, in an extensive study done by the National Survey of Families and Households, they did indeed find that disagreements over money were the #1 predictor of divorce.

What are the top 10 reasons for divorce?

Aside from the top reasons for divorce I listed above, the following items fill out the top 10 reasons for divorce:

  • Getting married too quickly and then realizing that compatibility & values don’t align
  • Communications problems
  • Incompatible sex drives
  • Lack of independence
  • Drug and alcohol issues
  • Once the honeymoon phase ends and romance subsides
  • Boredom with our partner

Do those top reasons for divorce have to destroy your marriage?

woman in black and white tearing a red paper heart in halfMiddle Class Dad top reasons for divorce statistics

I would argue no.  All of the top reasons for divorce (and many others) are solvable if both parties are willing to work on them together.

Problems and issues don’t exist in a vacuum (most of the time).  In most cases, it takes two to start a marriage.  Thus it also takes two to break it, end it or fix it.

Of course, if you’re in an abusive relationship, you should get out and seek help.  While it’s possible for the abuser to get help and reform their ways, you want to ensure your own safety while they undertake that process.

What is Incompatibility?

Incompatibility simply means you’ve drifted apart.

Maybe you have different life aspirations that you did before.  Perhaps you each have different ideas about children or where you want to live.  It might also include things like using drugs and alcohol or sexual desires.

One thing I see that’s common is this idea that we can somehow change or fix our partner. 

You see it all the time; the spouse who falls for someone but expects them to change once married.  Somehow it seems like a complete mystery to spouse A that spouse B is still the same person they were before the wedding bells.

It’s OK to inspire our partners to live up to their full potential.  But thinking, hoping or expecting them to change who they are is a fatal flaw.  We have to accept our spouse for exactly who and what they are; the good, the bad and the ugly.  Who they are at their core being doesn’t really change that much.

Thus we should know going into a relationship if this person is really the one. 

Marrying someone and then constantly griping at them for being the person they were before you married them just makes everyone miserable.  It’s also terribly unfair.

People will grow and change but it’s very unlikely to work by you trying to force it.  Accept them as they are.  This was a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way both with my wife but also some of my past relationships.  Thankfully, I finally get it now.

Do having different interests lead to divorce?


No is the short answer.

It’s important to realize that everyone is different. Many of us have different passions from our partners.

In my case, I’m passionate about my wife and kids.  But I’m also passionate about martial arts, cooking, staying healthy, playing music and this blog. 

My wife, on the other hand, is most passionate about helping autistic kids; something she’s very skilled at.  She’s also passionate about our family and fairly neutral (but supportive) on my other passions.

I understand and respect her passions and her mine.

We don’t have to share each other’s passions to respect and support them.  Thus it’s totally OK and healthy to not feel like you are 100% in sync on everything.  You want each partner to have their own dreams and you want to have some shared dreams too.  You support their dreams and they yours.

Time apart is good and makes the time together more special. 

That being said, when couples start to do everything apart, the connection diminishes, the spark fades and among other things, infidelity is more likely to happen.  So don’t forget to have regular date nights and some shared passions you do together.

Is infidelity the number one reason for divorce?

woman in dress laying on an empty bed appearing sad Middle Class Dad top reasons for divorce statistics

It’s certainly one of the most egregious acts one spouse can take.

And it’s not surprising that it’s in the list of top reasons for divorce. I would argue, however, that it doesn’t automatically have to lead to divorce.

Based on the divorce statistics, it’s also not the #1 reason for divorce.

In my relationships, I have been both the cheated on and the cheater.  Thankfully neither has been recent. Thus, I’m in a perfect (however unfortunate) position to see both sides.

First I think it’s important to look at the types of infidelity.  After all, while all forms are terrible, there are some differences.

Tiger Woods is a somewhat recent and famous example of a serial cheater.  He reportedly cheated on his wife with at least 8 different women.  Tiger then cheated on the girlfriend he had following his divorce.

He clearly has a deep-seated fear of commitment and until he gets help will continue to cheat. He has a sexual addiction.

On the other hand, you might have a spouse who has become lonely, isolated and starved for attention, affection, and connection.

Sometimes one spouse becomes so engrossed in trying to figure themselves out they neglect the other in the process.

Perhaps the lonely spouse has tried talking to their spouse and been met with excuses, apathy or indifference.  In this case, the cheater isn’t wanting or looking to cheat, but they could be vulnerable under the right circumstances.

This latter person isn’t just looking for random hookups. 

They are looking for what’s missing from their marriage that they desperately want back.  Again, any cheating is deplorable, inexcusable and unnecessary, but there are differences in cheaters.

If you aren’t sure you can Save a Marriage After Infidelity (click to read my post), check out my recent post on my story coming back from my own infidelity a number of years ago. My marriage is PROOF that you can save a marriage after an affair.

By far, my favorite person for relationship and marriage advice is Dr. John Gottman of the Gottman Institute. 

His book, about the 7 Principals for Making Marriage Work (click to check out my review) may literally have saved my marriage!

Back to my examples above of cheaters. In both cases, saving a marriage is possible, but the latter is probably easier to move on from.

In Tiger’s case, he needs therapy and probably needs to change his environment (and thus profession) so he can focus on doing the work he needs to do.  He won’t be a great partner or father until he does that work.

In the latter case, the cheater needs to recognize and take ownership of the damage the affair did.

They need to recognize that how they went about getting their needs met was incredibly damaging to the marriage and to both partners. 

The spouse of the cheater also needs to recognize their own role in pushing their spouse away or in not fulfilling their needs.  A clear understanding of what led to the affair is crucial.

But at the end of the day, there’s still no excuse for cheating.

Are money problems a deal breaker for your marriage?

khaki pants person with a wallet sticking up out of their back pocket Middle Class Dad top reasons for divorce statistics

Depending on the source, money fights and money problems rank in the very top reasons for divorce.

Disagreements over debt & lifestyle.  Arguments overspending habits and how the spouses communicate about that can all lead to money fights.

Honestly, this one, while one of the top reasons for divorce, is the easiest to fix.

Unlike the other issues, this one is more technical than emotional.  First off if both spouses have different ideas on money, debt and savings we have to start there. 

It’s totally OK for each partner to not agree with the other.  But it’s crucial that both spouses feel heard and respected for their views. 

It’s also crucial that the 2 people come to an agreement that both sticks to 100%.

If you and your spouse are struggling and sick of living Paycheck to Paycheck (click to read my post), I urge you to take a moment and reviews some simple, but crucial steps to get out of the rat race and start living!

My personal recommendations to avoid money problems are:

  1. Only have joint bank accounts
    • You made a commitment to be together; that doesn’t mean sometimes
    • Joint accounts mean no surprises and full transparency
    • Not sure if joint accounts are best? Check out my post where I explore whether or not couples should have Shared Bank Accounts (click to read my post)
  2. If you do use credit (which I don’t recommend), again only have joint cards
    • No hidden credit cards the other spouse doesn’t know about
  3. Have a set limit that requires the other spouse’s approval on before spending above the limit
    • In our house, we pretty well don’t spend anything we haven’t budgeted for without checking with each other
    • Surprises lead to arguments.  Arguments lead to tension and turmoil.  Turmoil riles our ego. That leads to divorce (and no, I didn’t say that in a Yoda voice)
    • But minimally set a threshold (maybe $100 or $200) that has to be agreed upon by both before being spent
  4. Do a written monthly budget before the start of each month
    • It’s OK if one spouse is more the math/budget nerd than the other, but both should be in agreement on where the dollars are going
    • Give each spouse a set amount of “their” money; basically an allowance
    • The other spouse gets no say in how the other spends their allowance money
    • Every other dollar spent gets agreed upon before it’s spent
  5. Have a Rainy Day Fund to ensure emergencies don’t wreck the marriage
    • An emergency fund is a savings account that is about 3-6 months of your household expenses
    • No one uses the money unless it’s an emergency
    • As Dave Ramsey says, “An emergency fund turns a crisis into an inconvenience”
    • Not sure how to start an emergency fund or why you need one? Take a moment and review my 9 crucial reasons you should have an Emergency Fund (click to read my post on how to start one)

Need help getting started on a monthly budget?

I have a copy of my Budgeting Spreadsheet available at no charge

– a key step in steering you clear of one of the top reasons for divorce!!

This is the very same spreadsheet my wife and I have used for about 7 years.

It’s a simple, highly customizable, Excel spreadsheet and you can download it quickly and easily FOR FREE!

free budget spreadsheet click box Middle Class Dad top reasons for divorce statistics

The #1 thing you can do to save your relationship!

Communication is the key to avoiding all of the top reasons for divorce.

It really is that simple.  Communicating effectively about money, feelings & issues.  Not letting things build up silently only to explode later.

It’s not always easy to communicate with our spouse.  Often they are the person with whom we are most vulnerable. Thus we do a lot of dumb things out of trying to protect ourselves from possibly getting hurt by them.

Focus on love and trust and commitment and less on being selfish and fearful.  Focus on listening to your partner instead of just waiting for your turn to talk.  Speak the way you want to be spoken to. 

Apologize when you mess up.  It really isn’t rocket science, I promise!

Need some help on finding ways to Help Your Relationship Grow (click to read my post)? In my post, I walk you through

What is a good reason to get divorced?

I think if you are in physical or emotional danger from your spouse you should strongly consider divorce.

I say that believing firmly that people reach for divorce all too often.  We’re a society that wants instant gratification.  We want it now and when we don’t get what we want, we look elsewhere quickly rather than trying to fix the problem.

Whether you’re talking about a broken TV or a broken relationship, we are all too quick to toss it aside and get a new one.

But if your partner is emotionally or physically abusive, you need to consider your own physical and mental well being. It’s possible to get help for any issue, but you can’t put yourself at risk while your spouse goes through that process.

You could, however, consider a separation while they do that work. If they are genuine and willing to work hard to change, it could be possible to save the marriage. But again, don’t put yourself at risk.

How to save a marriage speeding towards divorce

By the time you start living in the top reasons for divorce, tensions are high.

Your marriage is rocky. Beyond that though, ego and pride swell enormously.  I wonder how many marriages could be saved if both parties simply put pride and ego aside and just talked?

I also wonder how many want to reconcile but are afraid to be the first one to extend the olive branch?

Ego, pride, and fear are your enemies in trying to save your marriage.

If you and your spouse have mentioned divorce, now is the time to for humility. 

Do you want to be divorced and 6 months down the road filled with regret wondering what if you had simply said: “I’m sorry”?

During tense situations, it’s easy to get our guard up. 

It’s easy to let anger fly and arguments escalate.  Sometimes we have to choose between being right and being happy. You can stand on principle, but you may stand alone.

Another common scenario during separation is for one or both spouses to bad-mouth the other to friends and family. 

I want you to avoid this.  If for no other reason than how it will affect your willingness to later reconcile.  You see, if you later have to go back to those people and explain that despite all the bad things you said you’re now reconciling, you’ll be hesitant to do so.

You’ll be afraid all those people will judge you or see you as weak.

You taught them to hate your spouse and now you want them to accept them back again.  That puts everyone in an awkward position.

That ego and pride I mentioned might stop you from doing what’s in your heart. If you need counsel or someone to let it all out to, that’s what a good psychotherapist is for.

What are the grounds for divorce?

Legally speaking, in most places, a no-fault divorce will be grated on grounds such as an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, incompatibility or irreconcilable differences.

Even without those reasons, you can also typically get one after a period of separation. A no-fault divorce means that neither party is responsible for the failure of the marriage.

Of course, there are also reasons where one spouse could be held at fault for destroying the marriage. Those could include:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Infidelity
  • Drug or Alcohol issues
  • Being disabled
  • Abandoning the marriage
  • Physical abuse

If you have tried and tried and just can’t make your marriage work, or if your spouse has done irreparable harm to you or the marriage, it may be time to consider divorce.

While many divorces do turn ugly and can cost a significant amount of money, they don’t have to.

Check out all the options at US Legal Form (click to see on their site)s to download and file all the paperwork yourself, potentially saving you tens of thousands of dollars.

When one spouse has moved on

Sometimes when the couple separates, one (or both) immediately enter into another relationship.  In most cases, even if it’s a relationship that had been an affair, the spouse in that relationship really just wants what they had before.

They just want everything to be like it was when the marriage was new; before the drama, strife, criticism, and turmoil.  They just don’t know how to get it back.  But the presence of this third person will prevent both spouses from being able to reconcile.

The spouse who’s alone will feel resentful of this new relationship.

They will most likely to be completely unwilling to engage in counseling as long as the 3rd person is in the picture.

The spouse with the new relationship is afraid to be alone; that’s why they entered a new relationship so quickly in the first place.  That, along with it just felt nice to feel wanted again without negativity.

Thus this spouse may be unwilling to end the new relationship to try and save the marriage.

They fear being left with nothing if saving the marriage doesn’t work. In truth though, to save the marriage, both spouses have to commit 100% or it won’t work.

That means no outside relationships.  But it also means being willing to go to therapy.  It means getting out the pains and frustrations, but ultimately focusing on the good in the marriage; not the negative.

Each spouse has to show the other that there’s a good reason to fix things!

couple at sunset with mountains in the background Middle Class Dad top reasons for divorce statistics

Is it too late to save your marriage?

Think of your emotions as sitting in a well.

The well is finite.  Love gets drained from the well as anger, frustration and hate get added.  Eventually, you reach a point where the negative emotions outweigh the positive ones.  The good news is the cup is constantly changing.  It doesn’t have to stay full of negativity. You can dump it out and refill it anytime you choose to!

You can fall BACK in love!

Honestly, as long as you and your spouse elicit any emotional response from one another that’s a good sign.  If you didn’t care about each other, you’d both feel nothing. 

So feeling anger is good as it means you still feel something.  And that something is something.

Until the ink is dry, it’s never too late to save your marriage.  Even then you can still marry them again or maybe get the divorce thrown out.  It’s never too late as long as both are willing to try.

The top reasons for divorce don’t actually have to end in divorce.

You CAN save your marriage — even if your spouse says that they want a divorce.

You CAN rebuild that passion you felt for one another when you first kissed. And you can bring back that love and devotion you felt for one another when both of you said, “I love you” for the first time.

If you feel like your marriage is worth fighting for, then do yourself a favor and watch this quick video on how to Mend Your Marriage. It walks you everything you need to know about taking your marriage and making it even better than it ever was.

Put your pride and ego aside. 

Focus on what you truly want.  Say you’re sorry.  Listen to your spouse.  It’s OK to want your spouse to do those same things too. But don’t play the game where you both are too proud or too stubborn to make the first move.

In a stalemate, everyone loses.

What I do know, as so eloquently stated below by famed General Stanley A. McChrystal, is that it takes a lot of energy to hold on to anger & past wrongs.

When you learn to forgive (yourself as well as others), you take your first step towards freedom and happiness.

If you struggle to Let Go of Past Hurts (click to read my post) and have trouble moving forward because of the past, I highly recommend you take a moment and check out my most shared post (on Twitter) on that very topic.

The terrible truth about why you should save your marriage

As I alluded to above, we live in a disposable society.

Our forefathers and mothers lived in an age when you didn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.  If the TV broke you fixed it.  If you have a breakdown in communication with your wife, you worked on it.

Many of today’s top reasons for divorce didn’t end in divorce 50 years ago.

Today, by comparison, we are all too quick to divorce at the first sign of trouble.

This cut and run attitude is destroying families, scarring children and ruining our society.  I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad who is divorced (of which I am one).  I’m simply trying to show you there is a better way; either for your current marriage or your next one.

The reasons you should try and save your marriage would certainly include:

  1. Love – You chose to say “I do” to this person once.  There must have been a compelling reason you both chose that; you’ve simply moved other less important things higher on the priority list
  2. History – When you choose to end a marriage you’re saying goodbye to what you’ve built; memories, places, people & things
  3. Lifestyle – A divorce often has a significant effect on the lifestyle of all concerned, including the kids
  4. Children – Not to make any divorced parents feel guilty but we all know divorce impacts our kids the most, and it’s done with them having no part in the disintegration of the marriage nor any say in choosing divorce

Let’s review some more top reasons for divorce statistics and specifically how they impact children:


Going back to the top reasons for divorce statistics I started this post with, I see the following trends according to DivorceStatistics.Org:

  1. About 7% of the population gets married every year
  2. About 3% of the population gets divorced each year
  3. Thus we’re trending at almost 50% of marriages ending in divorce
  4. The divorce rate is highest among ages 20 to 24 (almost 40%)
  5. The good news is once you reach age 35, the chances of divorce drop to only 6%
  6. The divorce rate is higher for 2nd and 3rd marriages than 1st marriages
  7. A whopping 73% of 3rd marriages end in divorce (clearly we have issues not learning from our mistakes!)
 

So what are my . . .

Top Reasons for Divorce and How You Can Avoid Them?

1. INCOMPATIBILITY

  • Maintain a balance between each spouse having individual interests and shared interests
  • Make sure both spouses fully support each other’s interests
  • Communicate opening, honestly and often
  • Try not to go to bed angry but definitely don’t use sleeping elsewhere as punishment for disagreements

2. INFIDELITY

  • If both spouses want to reconcile, they have to be 100% committed to fixing things
  • The cheater needs to go overboard on providing transparency with everything they do (phone, email, social media, etc)
  • The cheater needs to end all contact with the 3rd person
  • Both spouses need to understand why the affair happened
  • The cheater needs to take ownership of their actions and understand the magnitude of the damage they caused
  • The cheater needs to understand that even if they felt pushed away or unloved by the other, that does not justify an affair
  • Professional therapy will enable a faster & healthier road to recovery
  • The wronged spouse will need to feel heard and be allowed to express their anger and outrage in order to move forward

3. MONEY FIGHTS

  • Communication, transparency, mutual respect, and complete agreement eliminate 99% of all money problems
  • Share views on debt, spending, lifestyle, etc and reach an agreement both spouses agree to follow
  • Shared accounts on bank, credit and retirement accounts to ensure transparency and “no surprises”
  • Do a monthly budget before the start of each month where together you decide how the money for the month gets spent

Listen to Dr. Gottman expound on divorce predictors as well as steps you can take to fix things.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about the top reasons for divorce?

In this post, we took an in-depth look into divorce; a family tragedy that impacts thousands of men, women, and children each and every year.

We looked at divorce statistics, the impact of it on children and how to renew a marriage that has gone stale.

Specifically, though, we looked at the top reasons for divorce. More importantly, we talked about key steps you can take to avoid it if your marriage isn’t all that it could be.

If your marriage is struggling to get past this challenging time, then check out this quick video on how to Mend Your Marriage that will help get yours back on track.

Has your spouse mentioned divorce?

Jeff Campbell Middle Class Dad bio top reasons for divorce statistics

Photo credits (that aren’t mine or which require attribution:
Divorce by Billie Grace Ward is licensed under CC BY 2.0
why would you wanna break a perfectly good heart? by suez92 is licensed under CC BY 2.0
I hear in my mind; all these voices. (213) by Meg Willis is licensed under CC BY 2.0



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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

4 thoughts on “Top Reasons for Divorce & How You Can Avoid Them

  1. A good sexual relationship, love, affection and mutual respect are critical to a healthy, long-lasting relationship.

    1. Thanks for commenting!

      I definitely agree with you! Thanks for taking the time to comment and for being here.

      Jeff

  2. I want to to thank you for this excellent read!! I certainly enjoyed every bit of it.
    I have you saved as a favorite to check out new things you post…

    1. Thanks Clint!

      I appreciate your being here and your taking the time to leave a comment! If I can ever answer any questions or if there’s a topic you’d like to see covered, please let me know!

      Thanks

      Jeff

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