10 Most Common Causes of Divorce

A married couple finalizing their divorce with the signing of the papers and return of the rings.

If you’re on the verge of filing for a divorce, or you’re simply worried that your marriage might be heading in this direction, you probably have a very valid reason for this line of thinking. While you shouldn’t panic or lose hope prematurely, we do recommend heeding the warning signs that a divorce might be inevitably coming in the near future.

No one likes to separate from their spouse. The process is never simple and becomes even more complicated when children are involved. However, if you and your spouse have issues that simply can’t be reconciled, it might be time to go your separate ways.

If you’re unsure of whether or not you’re just going through a rough patch or a split is on the horizon, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 most common causes of divorce to watch out for below:

Related: What are the Different Types of Custody Arrangements?

Cause #1: Finances

A couple with financial problems looking at their bills.

Much research has been done to find the number one cause of divorce in America. There are a wide variety of reasons that people get divorced.

Some of the most common causes of divorce include things like abuse, growing apart, and communication problems.

Each study ranks the common causes differently but money almost always comes in somewhere. Money is such a central part of our lives that it can have a lot of impact on a marriage.

Whether you have money or not it connects all married couples. It is also a hot button issue for arguments often leading to divorce. There are a number of different ways in which money can cause arguments.

One spouse can have a spending problem and overspend with credit, secretly creating a large amount of debt affecting both parties. Power and control issues can originate when one spouse makes all of the income or more than the other.

Maybe one spouse is a saver with long-term financial goals but the other is a spender who wants to enjoy their money today. Couples can also vary on priorities. One person might be fine driving any car while the other always need the newest and best models.

Having a lack of money can really squeeze the wallets of a marriage. This can last weeks or even years but worrying about how you will pay your bills causes stress that naturally creates tension.

Money struggles are common and difficult to deal with. The best way to avoid major problems is to maintain constant communication, especially when times are tough. Work together to set goals you both believe in and set a budget.

Cause #2: Your Relationship Lacks Intimacy

A lack of intimacy is common for couples who have been together a long time. You develop a deeper, spiritual love and the physical aspect can fizzle out. This is normal. Sex is an important part of a marriage but intimacy is more than that.

A study from Newsweek magazine said that up to 20% of couples had relationships devoid of sex. Other studies show that of couples under the age of 50, 10% or less hadn’t had sex in the last 12 months. In couples under the age of 40 less than 20% have sex monthly or only a few times a year.

Intimacy is so much more than sex and is a sign of a great marriage. It is about showing attention to your partner. Communicate, ask questions like how they are feeling. Having someone listen can help you feel closer.

When intimacy fades each person can begin to feel rejected or unneeded. This creates other problems and starts to drag down the whole quality of the marriage. Lack of intimacy starts to turn into feeling unloved.

Cause #3: Infidelity

A man having an affair while his wife is calling his phone.

Infidelity is a very obvious reason for divorce as it can easily destroy a marriage. Interestingly, many marriages affected by infidelity actually work things out and manage to stay together.

There are different reasons that people are unfaithful to their partners. They may be looking for passion which has faded. The thrill is gone and to get the feeling back they go outside their marriage.

Affairs can also stem from feelings of resentment and anger caused by their spouse. Another big cause is a lack of self-esteem which goes away when you feel wanted by another person. Infidelity can also be a straightforward issue like a lack of intimacy with a partner or a difference in sexual desires.

Infidelity can also begin with the most innocent of intentions. Sometimes people spend a lot of time together and begin a casual relationship leading to an emotional and then physical relationship.

Divorce statistics show that 22% of men have cheated on a partner at least once while 14% of women have cheated. 36% of men and women had affairs with a coworker. 54% of men and 70% of women had no knowledge of the affairs of their partners.

Cause #4: Physical/Emotional Abuse

Abuse is not only a common reason for divorce but also a very valid one. Abuse comes in many forms and doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. Other types of abuse include emotional, verbal, and financial. Some early signs of abuse such as neglect, withholding money, and yelling are also very damaging.

Spouses are not the only targets for abuse. Abusers will direct their anger at kids, the elderly, and other family members. This abuse is as much of an issue as spousal abuse.

When you experience abuse of any kind it is time to leave, especially if you have children living with you. Abuse can escalate quickly and your priority at this point should be leaving, not fixing the relationship. You alone cannot “fix” an abuser but you can keep you and your family safe.

Help is available whether from family, law enforcement, or social services. You can always call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 800-799-7233.

Cause #5: You’re Just Not Compatible

A couple arguing while in a couple's therapy session.

Lack of compatibility is one of the saddest reasons for divorce because it is very hard to “fix” or change. You may have had the perfect relationship early on and had a lot in common. Unfortunately, time changes people and sometimes not in the same way.

When you first fall in love all of the idiosyncrasies of your partner are minor. You don’t let them bother you because all of the good things are so much more important. Any differences of opinions you let go because you can always work on them later.

Change happens. It is inevitable and an important part of life. We all grow over time and change but at some point, your spouse is no longer recognizable as who you fell in love with. They probably feel the same way about you.

Change is celebrated and welcomed in a healthy relationship. If your relationship already has other issues than change can cause strain and grow apart. Maybe your interests have changed or even your long term life goals.

As a relationship grows older the desire to spend every minute together turns into looking for time alone. This idea has fueled the concepts of man caves and she sheds. It is also the reason most homes have two TVs and many people nowadays sleep in separate rooms.

Incompatibility can easily go from a small issue to a divorce. You will begin to be bothered by small things and even look for a way out. Couples start to spend more and more time apart until someone is unfaithful and a new set of problems arises.

Cause #6: Changes in Physical Appearance/Loss of Attraction

Sadly some marriages can grow apart due to changes in one or the other’s physical appearance. While this is superficial and unfair it does happen and it does cause divorce.

Everyone wants to be with someone they find attractive. When someone gets comfortable in a relationship (has a baby, grows older) they gain weight which turns off their partner.

This issue can actually go the other way too. If one person suddenly loses a lot of weight or even had substantial plastic surgery the relationship can change. They may start getting more attention from others and not be used to it.

Changes in physical appearance can cause self-esteem issues, problems with intimacy, and more.

Cause #7: Addictions

While drugs and alcohol are the most common culprits, addiction can take many forms. All forms of addiction can be damaging to marriages.

As people grow apart or become less compatible as discussed earlier, they start looking for entertainment, thrill, and excitement. This can come in the form of gambling, sex, or shopping and in many cases leads to addiction.

Addiction can quickly take over someone’s life. It leads to lying, stealing, and betrayal. These behaviors can destroy any trust built into a marriage.

Treatment can address addictions and with hard work and commitment can be overcome. This takes time though and both partners have to agree they want to work through the problem.

Cause #8: You Were Married at a Young Age

It is common knowledge that many divorces are caused by couples simply not being ready for the challenge.

Almost 50% of divorces happen in the first ten years of marriage. Couples in their 20s are credited with the highest divorce rates.

Young married couples often face more money issues. They haven’t established a career, finished school, or figured out how to be an adult. It is hard as a young adult to know how to build a lasting relationship with effective communication. They don’t have the maturity or experience to handle issues that might come up.

Having children young can exacerbate any issues in a marriage. Parenting requires a huge amount of money and energy that young people are not prepared for. Couples in their early 20s are in some ways still children and therefore the burden of parenting can be too strenuous for a marriage to survive.

Cause #9: Married For The Wrong Reasons

Marriage is hard and requires constant attention and effort. If people have the wrong motivations they may have unrealistic expectations and end up disappointed. The reality is almost never what you imagine it to be.

Working on marriage requires equal effort by both parties. When tension arises it can illuminate other small problems and blow them up into a rocky marriage.

All relationships have a natural flow of ups and downs beginning with the high of courtship. The flow should be easily predicted and understood, however. Don’t expect it to always feel as exciting as in the first few months. Also, don’t assume that you will never have lows. A good marriage can handle a few lows now and then.

There are a few examples of marrying for the wrong reason including having a child (if you aren’t in love), wanting to save someone (from an addiction), or simply physical attraction and lust. Once in awhile a marriage like this might work out but the majority of the time it is a fairy tale idea.

One day you might suddenly realize (or overtime) that you made a mistake. If you know you cannot fix the problem and that neither of you will be happy it is time to move on. There is no point in wasting your time or leading on your spouse pretending that you are happy. No one wants to recommend divorce but sometimes it is best.

Cause #10: Lack of Communication

A couple on the couch not talking to each other.

Communication is by far the most important piece of any relationship. If you can’t effectively communicate with your partner in a constructive way, you are in trouble.

Unfortunately, communication can also be the first thing that disappears when life takes over. You don’t realize until it is too late that things like parenting, work, family, and hobbies have become priorities and sucked the life out of your marriage.

Don’t let life whiz by you, it moves so fast! Take the occasional time out. Stop and think about what you want from life and the health of your relationship. The next step is to make time to communicate with your partner in a healthy way. Be civil but open.

Scheduling a good talk with your spouse takes some consideration. You want to make sure you are both in a good space to talk with each other. Don’t attempt a serious conversation when they walk in the door from work.

It is important to wait for the right time and setting for important communication with your partner. It is also important to talk about issues before they fester. This can lead to feelings of betrayal and make them bigger.

Marriage counselors are a wonderful option when trying to communicate. They can help you set and follow rules. This also makes it easier to stick to the issue at hand without letting your emotions take over.

Scroll to Top