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Most Common Reasons for Divorce

Most Common Reasons for Divorce

Not all marriages fail for the same reason.

Factors are endless, and even studies published by major universities disagree on what causes divorce. Nevertheless, some things show up, again and again, that can lead to the legal termination of a marriage. What are these commonalities? Infidelity, finances, age, incompatibility, lack of communication, unhappiness, and abuse.

We’ll discuss these common causes for divorce below in no particular order.


According to several surveys and reports, including this report published by the AARP, infidelity is one of the common reasons people file for divorce. A marriage is supposed to be based on mutually agreed rules or boundaries that a couple assumes in their relationship.

Infidelity is a violation of these rules and boundaries and causes trust and faith to diminish. This is why whenever a partner is unfaithful, it causes pain and suffering to the other partner. Few marriages can survive infidelity, which is why it often becomes one of the leading factors behind the dissolution of marriage.

The workplace and the Internet have caused a different type of infidelity to emerge--the emotional affair. This happens when people who never intended to be unfaithful cross the line from platonic friendships into romantic relationships. Emotional affairs are different from friendships due to their emotional intimacy, sexual chemistry and secrecy from the other spouse in the marriage.

Affairs conducted through social media, texting or emails--even if there is no physical contact--are the prime example of emotional affairs. However, combined affairs--which include extramarital sex as well as an emotional attachment--still have the most disruptive impact on a marriage.

The causes of infidelity are complex and varied. Affairs can occur in seemingly happy marriages as well as in troubled ones. Cheating doesn’t happen in a vacuum, however. Like other issues in divorce, there is often an underlying reason that causes one or both spouses to cheat on each other. Reasons for infidelity can include relationship deficits, resentment, major lifestyle changes or growing apart.


divorce financesMaking it through financial ups and downs can be difficult for some couples. Money and arguing often go hand in hand during the marriage, whether couples are fighting over what costs to cut during a tough financial time or how to spend a year-end bonus.

Married couples that have different views on spending habits or are in relationships where one spouse makes the money and has complete control over the finances are often subject to divorce-causing marital strain.

Financial decisions require open and honest communication between partners. In a true partnership, both partners will agree on how money is spent. They might have to negotiate some expenses but eventually will find a working agreement on what finances take priority, where to spend money and how much to spend.

Knowing you can communicate with your partner through every financial situation is important for a successful marriage.

Finances aren’t hard to figure out if a couple can properly communicate. But disagreeing on how to handle finances isn’t the only factor when it comes to financial issues and divorce.

Couples facing financial difficulties are often under a great amount of stress, which often develops into them arguing or not communicating at all. According to the study from the National Marriage Project, fighting about money just once per week increases divorce risk by 30 percent.

When a couple accumulates or comes into the relationship with significant debt, their marriage is more likely to fail. Poverty, suggests Jeffrey Dew of the National Marriage Project, is also one of the foremost indicators of high divorce risk. The more assets a couple can bring into a marriage the less likely they are to divorce in the future.


Marrying your high school sweetheart may make a good plot for a romance novel, but waiting until your mid-to-late twenties to marry will improve your chances of staying together.

This is because when it comes to marriage, age does matter. According to studies conducted by the Pew Research Center, states, where couples marry at a young age, have a higher divorce rate than states where couples marry at an older age.

For example, divorce rates in Arkansas and Oklahoma, where the average age of a first-time spouse was 24 or younger, are higher than in New York and Massachusetts, where half of the people marrying for the first time are 30 years of age or older.

This is likely because older people are financially more secure and emotionally more mature and therefore are better equipped to handle the stresses of marriage. Couples who get married when they are younger often lack the maturity to deal with issues like finances, communication and growing apart as they get older.


Many states have what are known as “no-fault” divorce or divorces that are recorded as being due to incompatibility or irreconcilable differences. This makes the actual number of divorces caused by incompatibility to pin down, but attorneys and others that work with those contemplating or getting a divorce.

Counselors and financial advisors for example. Still site incompatibility between spouses as a common reason for people to end their relationships.

IncompatibilityNo two people are the same, we all have different personalities and interests. Differences aren't so problematic in the early stages of relationships, so couples don't pay that much attention to them.

In the beginning stages of relationships, couples focus on similarities as part of getting to know each other. As a relationship continues, similarities become less novel.

When a couple starts settling down and moves into practical relationship tasks like starting and raising children, managing finances and advancing their careers, differences often become more apparent and prominent. It’s easy to forget that when you married your partner, you also chose to accept their background, temperament, beliefs, habits and family situation.

We all develop, grow and change over time as well. This can cause couples to stop agreeing about certain issues such as money, how to spend their time or how to raise their children. Sometimes couples have interests, lifestyles or dreams that are no longer compatible with each other at a stage in their life.

These differences can be exacerbated when one spouse undergoes a major life event like a death in the family or a change in employment status. For many, these issues are all reasons for divorce.

In any marriage, physical intimacy is important. Sexual incompatibility can be caused by factors as diverse as reproductive incapability, sexual boredom or low desire. Problems in this area often cause stress that ultimately causes a divorce. Many incompatibility issues are simply inevitable developments in a relationship’s evolution.

Knowing this can help you appreciate your relationship in a different way. Any couple that feels that a sexual incompatibility issue is affecting their relationship can benefit from professional help to resolve the problem.

Lack of Communication

One of the phrases you hear often when discussing a successful relationship is that "communication is key." For the survival and success of any relationship, proper communication is a must. There is no way to find out what another person is thinking without coming out and asking them. 

Open communication is an essential component in a couple’s relationship to ensure that both partners understand each other. Whenever there is a problem in a marriage, no matter how small, it becomes important for the partners to communicate properly.

Communication does not necessarily mean agreeing with each other, it means discussing an issue and working to resolve it. When the lines of communication fail, both you and your partner will stop discussing your mutual or personal issues. Lack of communication or negative communication can diminish feelings of love and romance. Once partners stop communicating effectively, marital troubles typically aren't too far behind.

The University of Washington Professor emeritus John Gottman, who's researched couple behavior for 40 years, has suggested that there are four types of communication problems that lead to divorce. Gottman calls them The Four Horsemen: criticism of partners’ personality, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling--the refusal to communicate at all.

Good communication consists of many factors--listening without interrupting, fighting fairly, taking time to see things from your partner’s perspective, showing appreciation for each other, and taking time to explore different beliefs. These habits will profit the relationship and deepen closeness. Good communication and a good marriage take work.


unhappinessUnhappiness is a rather general term and is usually tied into one of the many other causes for divorce, the most common being lack of communication and/or incompatibility.

People in unhappy marriages often have low self-esteem, struggle with depression and anxiety, and have a higher rate of illness than those who don't. Although many children who were born during the relationship need to be taken into consideration, you need to also remember that when you stay in an unfulfilling or unhappy marriage, children only learn that relationships are negative experiences that are mostly made up of pain and struggle.

You’re not happy, your spouse is not happy and, in turn, your kids are not happy.

When a marriage has reached a point where the most a couple can get out of a relationship is guaranteed misery and unhappiness all around, the pain of divorce is sometimes the appropriate solution to safeguard the possibility of improved well-being down the road.

Everyone feels sadness and grief when letting go, but people who divorce will recover after enough time has passed.


Unfortunately, abuse is still a reason that couples get divorced. Abuse can be physical, mental or emotional. Staying in any type of abusive relationship is neither healthy nor safe.

In some marriages, physical violence starts with shoving or pushing. Sometimes both partners slap or shove each other when they get angry.

Couples often think that once the current stressful situation is over, the violent behavior will be as well. Violent acts can escalate over time, however, which can lead to criminal charges, injuries and have lasting negative effects on children who witness it. Emotional and mental abuse—controlling behavior, verbal threats, degrading remarks, and purposeful humiliation—is even more common.

If you have been abused by your partner or are afraid for your safety, your first response needs to be to protect yourself and any children you may have. The police can be your first line of defense. You can also call a local community crisis line or community mental health agency to find out what services are available. Most communities have victim support services, offender treatment programs and access to a shelter where you and your children can go.

Attorney-client consistent fighting of any type--physical or verbal--is not healthy for either party. Most people involved in volatile relationships end up reaching a breaking point and decide to legally end their marriage.

If your physical or emotional safety depends on being separated from your spouse, you must make that your priority.

What Does This Mean for Me?

The causes for a divorce are myriad, and remaining married or leaving your relationship is a very personal choice. Ending your marriage may be the biggest challenge you will ever face.

Except in abusive situations, it is important to contemplate divorce only when all other alternatives have been considered and exhausted. But if you truly feel your marriage is over and that you have done all you could to save the relationship, it is more of a disservice to yourself and those around you to stay.

Before you consider divorce or separation, speak to an experienced family law and divorce attorney to discuss your case as well as your options. A divorce lawyer can act as both a counselor and a sounding board for you during this stressful life event. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Jack’s Law at (740) 369-7567.

Jack W. Carney-DeBord is licensed and admitted to the practice law in the State of Ohio-ONLY. Jack has no intention of soliciting clients in any state other than Ohio and nothing posted on this website should be viewed as an attempt to solicit or do business in ANY state other than the State of Ohio.

The content on this website is provided as general information only and is not legal advice. You should not act or refrain from acting based upon information provided on this site without first consulting legal counsel.

Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Jack's Law Office

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