No one ever enters into a marriage thinking it will end in divorce. However, it’s a sad reality that many couples face, and the rate is getting uncomfortably high.
So, what are the factors behind this increasing trend?
According to experts, here are several reasons why the divorce rate is so high:
Australian Online Counsellor | Psychotherapist, Unveiled Stories
Leaving abusive relationships
I’ve worked with many couples who initially presented with issues that can’t be resolved in couples counseling. Namely one person being subjected to abusive and controlling behavior.
Often this behavior isn’t obvious (e.g., subtle gaslighting), or it makes someone who already experiences self-loathing feel worse about themselves.
Related: How to Respond to Gaslighting
However, in our modern society, people are more exposed to what abusive behaviors look like, and they know something isn’t right. They move past questioning themselves and begin questioning the abusive partner.
Unfortunately, this can escalate the behavior of an abusive person, but instead of accepting abuse, they research their legal rights and support options.
They might talk about it with a trusted friend or a counselor. Then they take steps to keep themselves/their family safe and leave.
Wanting to be treated with love and respect
I’ve also worked with couples where one person is not genuinely committed to changing an unhappy status quo in particular things like regarding the other’s requirement for deeper connection in conversation or a more fair distribution of household tasks.
In straight relationships, this person is usually the woman.
A lot of “empty-nesters” realize they want something more from life than solely caring for others, especially caring for someone who takes them for granted.
This might lead to many attempts to discuss the issues, but if that doesn’t go anywhere, the marriage may very well end in divorce. There’s a lesson here in appreciating someone’s worth as a human being.
In general, people expect more from their partners these days. Sometimes that more is too much (we want our partners to be everything when in reality, one person cannot be everything to another), but often it’s reasonable.
Knowing that what you want is not unreasonable — from a partner and, more importantly, for yourself — might be a recipe for divorce but divorce from a place of self-love isn’t usually a bad thing.
Failure to communicate
The number one cause of divorce is simply a failure to communicate. We get married because we’re in love and truly like each other.
So here’s what happens: Most of my couples say they are on the brink of divorce. This is their last effort to see if their marriage can be saved.
Every couple who agrees to learn new communication skills end up significantly happier with each other and their marriage. Divorce is now off the table.
The key is to learn and practice very simple, respectful methods that were not modeled in our childhood homes, not taught in school, and not found on the playground or in television programs or video games.
As adults, it’s difficult to retrain our brains to speak in more respectful ways, but it absolutely can be done. And has been done by thousands of couples when they simply learn new communication skills.
The more determined a couple is to be happily married and fight-free, the quicker the transformation takes place.
Our culture has made a change around the issue of marriage and divorce
Another reason why the divorce rate is so high is that our culture has made a sea change around the issue of marriage and divorce. What used to be difficult and unacceptable has become normalized by our no-fault divorce laws.
Those laws began a social revolution without any projection of the long-term effects, like:
- More mothers and children needing state financial help
- Higher instances of domestic violence from exes and boyfriends
- More and greater health problems for adults and children
- Less involvement of fathers with their children
- Lower school performance in children
- Lower income potential for everyone (adults and their children, when they get into the workforce)
This is not to say that every marriage needs to endure. Indeed, marriages, where abuse is regularly experienced by the adult or child, must be abandoned. But research has clearly shown that unhappy marriages are frequently happy within five years, even without intervention.
And nearly all marriages can be improved by learning and practicing better communication and conflict management skills.
Multiple research outcomes cited by:
“Healthy Marriages, Healthy Lives,” Responsible Fatherhood, “Healthy Children: Research studies on the Alignment of Marital Outcomes” published by Healthy Relationships California, University of Chicago sociologist Linda J. Waite, Institute for American Values.
I concur; in twenty-five-plus years of coaching, there have been less than a handful of situations where I encouraged divorce.
Divorce culture has been imprinted into our subconscious
Another cause for dismal divorce statistics is that the divorce culture has been imprinted into our subconscious. A peripheral unintended consequence of the divorce culture is the skepticism many children have adopted regarding their ability to have a loving, happy marriage.
Several young adults are afraid of marriage because of the unhappy marriage they observed firsthand in their parents and sometimes grandparents.
Consequently, many are waiting longer and longer before marrying. For some, the added maturity is beneficial, but waiting can adversely affect the marriage relationship in some ways.
Placing education, careers, finances, and owning a home as obstacles to overcome before marriage is putting these material things above the marriage relationship. And once married, priorities don’t shift toward focusing on the relationship.
The relationship can become a dutiful working relationship, lacking romance, intimacy, sharing of feelings, and even having fun as a couple. Compare that to the days before divorce was an easy out when people married young and built their lives together with their relationship as their highest priority.
It may sound like the fifties revisited, but many who have built their lives together have successfully enjoyed happy, lasting relationships for decades. Young marriage success is still possible in our current society.
My grandson and his wife married in 2006 when they were 19 and 21. They had a plan. Both worked while getting their BAs, became homeowners, and rented a room to a friend for several years while she worked full time, and he went to law school.
Once he became a lawyer, they started their family. They have given me two well-adjusted great-grandchildren. Both still work: He ‘full-time’, she ‘part-time’ while raising kids. They go on weekly couples’ dates and have been happily married for 16 years.
My two stepdaughters both married young. One married at 19, and hubby was 18, still married 39 years. My other stepdaughter was 20 when they married and just celebrated their 42nd anniversary.
Perhaps there is much we can learn about going back to the priority of the marriage relationship as a priority and building careers and livelihoods together.
Postponing marriage until education or professional goals are reached may create issues that far outweigh whatever advantages the extra maturity may bring. Waiting to marry can bring multiple personal relationship failures, which add “baggage” to the marriage.
Sexually active adults with multiple partners before marriage can be difficult for the lifelong partner
In addition, many young adults are sexually active with multiple partners making a sexual adjustment to one lifelong partner more difficult. They add additional stress to the relationship if sexually transmitted diseases are brought into the marriage.
More respectful behaviors equal more loving feelings
We used to think that love and commitment were all necessary to have a happy, lasting marriage. But I’ve found that respect is the medium in which love is nurtured for a lifetime. More respectful behaviors equal more loving feelings.
And respectful ways of speaking, listening, and resolving conflict are learnable skills. When practiced, these skills deliver the happy, lasting, loving marriage they hoped they were getting the day they said, “I do.”
I’m re-imagining a world with a much lower divorce rate, loving families, and happy, thriving children. I know it is possible.
James Paul Joseph
Managing Partner, Joseph Law Group P.C
There are a wide variety of reasons as to why a couple’s marriage dissolves, and we have found the following factors prevalent.
The pandemic increased mental health problems
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been far-reaching, resulting in a significant increase in mental health problems.
Remote schooling, remote work, financial insecurity, and insecurities about one’s future have not only greatly increased anxiety and stress but have also led to many people reevaluating their lives and their priorities.
The combination of these stressors has contributed to the breakdown of countless marriages.
Lack of effective communication
This has always been one of the leading factors behind the divorce. Effectively navigating life is exceedingly difficult in current times. Without effective communication skills, our struggles as individuals are exasperated in an intimate relationship.
Unexpressed expectations go unmet; anger, hurt, and resentment grow. We are often blind to our own faults and instead place blame on those closest to us, viewing them as responsible for our happiness. This can easily cripple a marriage.
Finances, both good and bad, can be stressors in a marriage that can lead to a divorce.
Certainly, an inability to meet needs, basic or perceived, whether it be a home in the right neighborhood, a certain lifestyle, or vacations, stresses a marriage. With financial success, additional stressors often arise, as couples struggle with balancing lifestyle choices against future security.
When couples have obtained generational wealth, additional stressors arise, including significant issues surrounding how to raise their children under such circumstances.
Unfortunately, without alignment and effective communication, financial issues can lead to the breakup of a marriage.
Infidelity due to unmet desires
While we find it is more common that infidelity is a symptom rather than the cause of the breakdown of a marriage, it is often part of a snowball effect — leading to a downward spiral in marriage as blame gets placed and people attempt to justify their actions.
We see infidelity with individuals who:
- Do not value the marriage commitment to exclusivity
- Place their desires ahead of their partner’s needs
- Act on anger or revenge
- Have commitment issues
- Have unmet desires
- Low self-esteem
Related: How to Improve Your Self-Esteem
Often, relationships break down years or even decades before a couple decides to pursue a divorce, during which time relationships outside the marriage may develop.
Divorce can be a critical component to a happy and healthy life
While it’s a challenge for any family to go through, divorce can be a necessary step towards achieving long-term health and happiness, both for oneself and one’s children.
When it becomes clear that divorce is the path a couple will take (whenever appropriate, we encourage counseling, both marital and individual), it’s essential to remain rational rather than be guided by hurt, anger, and the desire for revenge and “justice.”
The divorce rate often stated in the media is actually a forecast and never true
Statistics like the divorce rate change constantly and are problematical to deal with as a sound byte.
For example, researcher Shaunti Feldhahn analyzed the data a few years ago and discovered that the 50% divorce rate often stated in the media was actually a forecast and never true.
The numbers can also usually lower if a couple is religious, was raised by two biological parents, and did premarital education. The more we say the divorce rate is high, the more people question the value of marriage.
How to lower the divorce rate
Continually raise the capacity of people to be successful through relationship and marriage education.
The vital question is: “How do we reduce the divorce rate and have happier marriages?”
Here are some ideas to consider:
- Incorporate relationship skills into high school and college education.
- Train parents in how to raise children to have great relationship skills.
- Include character education in schools and other social and religious entities.
- Make premarital education required before issuing marriage licenses.
- Have ongoing marriage education available and promote participation in it to become a societal norm.
- Read the many science-based relationship and marriage books available.
- Stop promoting movies and other media that foster instant relationships based only on lust and attraction.
- Look at the downsides of cohabitation, such as lack of commitment and increased infidelity.
- Publicize the science about marriage that includes it being a way to be happier, healthier, and wealthier.
The more the focus is on the divorce rate, the more fear there is in single people when they yearn for a life partner. If they have seen their parents divorce, the fear is greater.
What is vital is that we continually raise the capacity of people to be successful through relationship and marriage education.
Leah Marie Mazur
Certified Divorce Recovery Coach, Mindfully Ready, LLC
People get married when they’re young and in love
The average age for couples going through their first divorce is 30 years old.
Here’s why: We’ve seen all of the movies, we’ve read all the books, and we even look back at the generations before us, and they all have something in common: Getting married when you’re young.
As a society, we’ve been taught that when you grow up, you get a job and find a spouse. Those are the goals. We’re not taught how to create a fulfilling life of our own first.
We put so much pressure on ourselves to find a partner that we completely overlook the fact that in order to create a healthy relationship with someone else, you need first to have a healthy relationship with yourself.
When you are in a place where you feel confident about who you are, have high standards, can set healthy boundaries, know your own values and beliefs, and don’t feel like you need a relationship to be happy; that is the best place to be in to start a new relationship.
Let’s be honest: How much do you really know about yourself or relationships in your 20s? What kinds of questions are you asking your potential partners at that age? Are you thinking about their credit score or how much debt they’re in?
Do you know what their parenting style is or what your own parenting style would be? Do you know their love language? Have you talked about whether or not they have unresolved trauma? Probably not. Yet, these are the types of issues that end up causing marriages to fail.
When we marry young, we are usually marrying for the wrong reasons. We’re doing it because:
- We see all of our friends doing it.
- Our parents are telling us to do it.
- We’ve been with someone for a long time, and it just feels like the next natural step to take.
We’re forgetting that creating our identity first is crucial to having a healthy, balanced, successful marriage.
Founder and Chief Editor, Divorce Help For Parents
It is safe to assume that divorce is highly widespread in the United States, with about 50% of marriages ending in divorce or permanent separation. But why is there such a high divorce rate? The choice of a couple to end their relationship can be influenced by a myriad of factors.
Here are some of the most common ones that I see:
Divorce is socially acceptable
Divorce was not a socially acceptable option in previous decades. Even in the face of problems like adultery or domestic violence, society expected married couples to remain together until the very end.
However, divorce no longer carries as much negative social stigma as it formerly did.
According to statistics, money is one of the most common causes of serious conflicts and fights in marriages. Money is also one of the most frequent causes of divorce in the United States.
Money disputes may have been more frequent in recent decades as a result of:
- Greater pressure on families to generate income
- Gender pay disparities
- Economic downturn
According to research, financially secure, well-educated spouses in the United States are more likely to remain married.
Due to misguided ideas of what a marriage should be like, it is simpler than ever to get a divorce and tougher for some modern marriages to last. Many people have incredibly high expectations for a partner or marriage that they can never meet.
When expectations are not met, it can cause dissatisfaction within marriage and even lead to divorce.
If a marriage is unprepared to handle the realities of life together, these factors might result in divorce:
- Busy schedules
Laws that required claimants to demonstrate their spouses’ guilt for the breakup were once enforced in many jurisdictions.
A person could not obtain a divorce if they could not demonstrate that their spouse’s actions — such as adultery or criminal activity — were the direct cause of the divorce. Today, however, no-fault divorces are permitted in every state.
Internet and online divorce resources
Many people can now file a divorce petition online without hiring a lawyer or appearing in court because of the internet.
Self-help divorce websites with step-by-step instructions are available in most states. While retaining legal counsel may be beneficial in complex divorce situations, many couples successfully navigate the divorce process independently with the support of reliable online resources.
Women have more power now
Due to their dependency on their husband, women had a harder time starting a divorce in the past.
Divorce would frequently entail having:
- No money
- No way to find employment
- No right to raise children
But today, women no longer have to worry about ending up homeless if they leave an unhappy or abusive marriage.
Women are protected by laws, including various state and federal programs explicitly designed to assist women after divorce. Laws governing alimony and child support have also aided women in divorcing and keeping their independence.
Love Life and Dating Expert | Teacher
People are hyper-focused on chemistry rather than compatibility when selecting a mate
The reason the divorce rate is so high is that historically, people have been hyper–focused on chemistry rather than compatibility when selecting a mate — and the most important factor of compatibility is emotional maturity.
Luckily, things seem to be shifting in the right direction. According to a 2021 study by Match, emotional maturity is what people are most looking for in a partner, even over physical attractiveness.
What this means is that people who are in a committed relationship are far less willing to tolerate dysfunctional behavior that doesn’t lend to their happiness.
Due to pandemic lockdowns, 2020 was when many of us took the opportunity to go within, reassess our lives, and do the work to grow and become a better, more evolved person.
There can be a huge divide that forms in relationships when both partners are not on the same path of personal development.
Eventually, the person who has done the work to become more emotionally stable and less reactive develops a higher standard for what they allow themselves to put up with in a relationship.
People have partners who resort to criticism or contempt whenever conflict arises
Divorce can feel like the next logical step if they have been in a long-suffering relationship with a partner who, for instance:
- Plays the victim
- Lacks empathy
- Resorts to criticism, defensiveness, or contempt whenever conflict arises
Once we heal and develop ourselves emotionally, we begin to see our relationships through a clearer lens and become empowered to decide to separate.
Hasmik Karapetyan, PMHNP, MSN, RN
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Gloria Detox and Rehab Center
Young couples pressure themselves about what they see in their environment
The divorce rate is getting higher because couples nowadays, especially the younger generation, are always in a rush and pressure themselves about what they see in their environment: They marry the wrong person, or they are not ready for the obstacles that couples face.
There are so many problems that a married couple needs to face in their life.
Some of these are:
- Money matters or financial problems.
- Relationship issues like incompatibility and misunderstanding of each other’s behavior.
One of the most common reasons for divorce is money problems. This can be anything from debt to a lack of financial stability in their lives.
When one person in a marriage has more debt than the other, or when one spouse doesn’t have a job, this could lead to arguments and eventually divorce. They will divorce because stress has developed from pressure.
Another common reason for divorce is relationship issues such as:
- Lack of communication
- Emotional abuse and neglect
- Physical abuse and neglect
If there’s no emotional or physical intimacy being maintained between two people, then romantic love is not present. This will lead to infidelity because one of the couples will seek love and attention that their partner can’t provide because of a lack of attention and affection.
Related: How to Get over Infidelity Pain
Divorce and Family Law Attorney, Divorce Attorney Naples Florida
The same people keep getting divorced
The divorce rate appears to be high because the same people keep getting divorced. I am a divorce lawyer in Naples, Florida, and divorcing someone after one year is not uncommon, and then divorcing them the next year (from another person).
These “repeat offenders” distort the rate because it increases the numerator (divorces) over the denominator (marriages). Also, the people that keep getting divorced find other people to marry and then divorce, thereby turning them into divorcees. Again, this increases the rate of divorced people.
The total number of marriages is larger than the total number of people divided by two.
A hundred people could exist in America. Fifty of them could be married and stay married. But if the other 50 got divorced twice, that would be 100 divorces. So, the divorce rate will always be higher than it appears if remarriage and divorce are allowed.
The perception of divorce is simply more memorable
Finally, the perception of divorce is simply more memorable. No one remembers a happily married couple. People remember the raucous and juicy details of a divorce. No one remembers a plane trip, but they always remember the crash.
Legal Specialist, Adamson Ahdoot LLP
Family history of divorce
If one person in a marriage grew up in two households as a result of their parents divorcing, that person is twice as likely to get a divorce after they get married, according to studies.
Moreover, if both spouses in a marriage have experienced their parents divorcing, then it triples the likelihood of a divorce.
Those who have lived through a divorce during their childhoods aren’t necessarily more inclined to file for divorce while adults, but they do have different perspectives than those who have never been directly affected by divorce.
Those who grew up shuffling between two homes see it more as a less-than-ideal-but-survivable situation. That translates to them not working as hard to salvage a marriage if they are faced with the prospect of divorce. Any experienced divorce attorney would confirm that.
If you’re a parent who experienced divorce as a child, you understand the hardships associated with it — but you also may think to yourself, “I turned out fine, so my kids will turn out fine.”
Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Ed.S., LMFT
Marriage and Family Psychotherapist | Author, “A Short Guide to a Happy Divorce“
Marriage takes work
Over many years, I have worked with all kinds of couples. I have come to the conclusion that the divorce rate would not have to be so high if couples could really take on the “work” of making their marriages better, which also means the work of understanding themselves better.
When people move on to second marriages (with even higher divorce rates), they continue on with the same issues, dissatisfaction, and misunderstandings. It is a vicious cycle in one’s life and many children’s lives.
Monica Miner, LMHC
Lead Therapist, Future Now Detox
In the past, people had to get married for economic reasons. Nowadays, people are more aware of their needs and want to be able to live their life on their own terms.
The high divorce rate is not a problem in itself, but it does show that marriage is not as stable as it used to be. People are now less likely to stay together in a relationship that they know will be difficult or unhappy.
There are many other factors that contribute to the increase in divorce rates, such as:
- The changing role of women
- Social media
- The rise in mental health issues
The changing role of women
The changing role of women has been a huge factor in the increase in divorce rates. According to The National Center for Health Statistics, women have become more independent and are now in more powerful positions than they were before.
Women are now able to support themselves and their families while being involved in the workforce. Men have a harder time adjusting to this change because they’re used to being the primary breadwinner.
The other factor that contributes to the divorce rate is social media.
Social media makes it easier for people to find their significant others and eventually leads to a breakup.
Social media can lead to couples feeling like they’re not compatible
This is because people can see what their significant other does on social media, like if they spend a lot of time with friends, have a new job, get a tattoo, etc. A lot of these changes can lead to couples feeling like they’re not compatible and ultimately lead to a divorce.
The rise in mental health issues
The rise in mental health issues is also a major factor in the increase in divorce rates. Mental health issues can cause people to lose interest in their marriage or start having doubts and problems with trust, which results in divorce.
Couples may be under more financial strain than in the past
There is no single answer to the question of why the divorce rate is so high. Instead, it is likely that a variety of factors contribute to the high rate of divorce.
For example, couples may be under more financial strain than in the past, leading to increased stress and conflict.
Couples may be less satisfied with their relationships
In addition, couples may be less satisfied with their relationships and more willing to consider divorce as an option. And finally, couples may simply be more aware of their options when it comes to divorce, thanks to the ubiquity of divorce in popular culture.
Whatever the reasons for the high divorce rate, it is clear that divorce is a reality for many couples.
While some marriages do last a lifetime, others end in divorce. And while there is no easy answer as to why this is the case, it is clear that divorce is a complex and often difficult decision.
Addiction Treatment Specialist, 4 Seasons Detox and Recovery House
People are not happy in their marriages
The divorce rate is high because people are not happy in their marriages. Some of the common reasons for divorce are infidelity, lack of communication, and financial problems.
Infidelity is a common reason for divorce
Infidelity is a common reason for divorce. A study has shown that infidelity usually leads to divorce.
Some of the reasons for cheating are:
- Sexual intimacy
- Emotional intimacy
- Professional satisfaction that their partner cannot provide
Lack of communication
Another is lack of communication. It is a common reason for divorce and can lead to stress and discontentment, ultimately resulting in divorce.
Financial problems are also one of the common reasons for divorce, and it can lead to stress and depression, which also leads to divorce.
Some couples are unaware of the value of strong attachment
But there is one thing in common for all those reasons: the strong attachment and value that some couples are unaware of. If married couples are aware of their responsibility for each other, they will work their marriage out.
The divorce rate will continue to increase soon because the economy is unstable, inflations are everywhere, and temptations are everywhere.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can society reduce the divorce rate?
There is no simple solution to lower the divorce rate because it is influenced by many different factors. However, there are some steps society can take to promote healthy relationships and reduce the likelihood of divorce.
One important step is to educate and support couples who want to get married or are already married. This may include classes or workshops that teach communication and conflict resolution skills and resources to address common issues such as financial problems or infidelity.
Another key is to promote family-friendly policies such as paid parental leave, affordable child care, and flexible work arrangements. When families have access to these resources, they can better balance their work and family responsibilities, reducing stress and conflict in the relationship.
Finally, it’s important for society to reduce the stigma around divorce and support people and families going through this process. This includes access to mental health services, legal resources, and other forms of support.
How can divorce impact friendships?
Divorce can significantly impact friendships, especially if the couple is part of a social circle or has mutual friends. Friends may feel torn between the two parties or may feel uncomfortable or unsure of how to navigate the new dynamics of the relationship.
In some cases, friends may take sides or distance themselves from one or both parties. This can be painful and isolating, especially if the friendship is a close one.
However, divorce can also be an opportunity for individuals to cultivate new friendships and connections. It offers a chance to focus on one’s interests and goals and meet with others who share their passions and values.
For people going through a divorce, it’s important to be patient and understanding with their friends and be willing to be open and honest about their feelings and concerns. It’s also essential to prioritize self-care and seek the support of a therapist or counselor if needed.
Can divorce be a positive experience?
While divorce can be a difficult and painful experience, it is possible for it to be positive. Divorce can provide individuals the opportunity to grow and learn from their experience and to create a new, fulfilling life for themselves.
Divorce can also be positive for children in some cases, particularly if it allows them to escape an unhealthy or abusive home environment. Suppose parents can co-parent effectively and maintain a positive relationship with their children. In that case, divorce can also give children the opportunity to develop stronger and more meaningful relationships with both parents.
It’s important to note that a positive divorce experience requires work and effort on both sides. This may include seeking the help of a therapist or counselor, developing effective communication and parenting skills, and being willing to let go of resentment and bitterness.
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