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The ideas surrounding marriage in America are variant and complex, and the statistics surrounding this sacred union can sound shocking. Divorce rates for first time marriages are at around 40-50%, while second and third marriage divorce rates are at 67%. As of 2014, there were 2.1 million marriages out of 309 million Americans. This number shows a decrease in over 100,000 unions over 14 years. These statistics may be a contributing factor toward more Millennials choosing to cohabitate over getting married. Regardless of the reasons, statistics show and fewer people are getting married, yet many are still getting divorced. Such shocking evidence poses the question: Why?
Related: Divorce in California
Why do so many marriages end in divorce?
While every marriage is unique, there are a variety of common issues divorced couples have cited as reasons prompting their decision to part ways. When researching these reasons, there are over 20 issues that come up frequently. We’ve narrowed these down to 10 top reasons combining the most reputable sources, and common trends we see in working with clients who are going through a divorce today. The top 10 reasons marriages end in divorce are:
- Conflict and communication issues
- A lack of commitment
- Lack of autonomy
- Being unprepared for marriage
- Unrealistic expectations
- Getting married too young, or too soon
- Financial issues
Conflict and Communication Issues
Many couples who’ve divorced state that conflict and communication issues led to their decision to end a marriage. According to the National Survey on Marriage in America (NSMA), 56% of couples reported conflict as a reason for getting divorced. This was the second most common issue among divorced couples surveyed. Communication issues and conflict often go hand in hand. Breakdowns in communication can contribute to recurring conflicts that are difficult to resolve.
Marriages that suffer from infidelity were responsible for 55% of respondent’s reasons for getting divorced, according to the NSMA. While it’s not always the intention of a person who cheats to engage in an extramarital affair, it’s possible for one to develop out of an innocent friendship, or an emotional affair that grows physical over time.
Lack of Commitment
According to the NSMA, a lack of commitment was the most reported reason for choosing to divorce. In fact, 73% of respondents attributed their divorce to a lack of commitment. A lack of commitment encompasses more than simply being unfaithful, it also entails a couple’s willingness to make the marriage a top priority and work as a team. It also entails a couple’s commitment toward taking time to connect with one another on a regular basis to keep the spark alive.
When a couple feels like each half isn’t pulling the same amount of weight, feelings of inequality can arise. This contributed to 44% of NSMA respondents deciding to get a divorce. Other issues that could contribute to feelings of inequality arise when one partner makes more than the other, or when issues of sexism, gender roles, and beyond arise in a couple’s marriage.
Related: Divorce Finances and Property in CA
Lack of Autonomy
Autonomy is an important factor that plays a role in becoming a successful adult. Many marriages can become enmeshed to the point that one or both partners feels a loss of their own autonomy. Research conducted by Leslie Baxter and Eric Simon show that 24% of men feel a lack of autonomy in their relationships, while 44% of women feel a lack of autonomy. The research was taken in 1993, so this may have changed over time, but it is interesting to note the differences between genders here, and how this may contribute to inequalities in gender roles as well.
Being Unprepared for Marriage
Those who entered marriage unprepared accounted for 41% of respondents who decided to divorce. Experts suggest that couples engage in pre-marital counseling before getting married, to become more prepared before taking vows. Other ways to prepare include engaging in a pre-marital couple’s retreat, or talking with trusted married friends whose relationships a couple would most like to emulate.
When a couple gets married, they may hold some unrealistic expectations concerning the reality of marriage. 51% of those surveyed by the NSMA reported these unrealistic expectations contributed to their decision to divorce. Sometimes couples go into a marriage expecting things to be picture perfect afterward, or expecting the romance and excitement they felt surrounding their engagement and wedding to be sustained with little effort throughout the years that follow. The truth is that marriage takes a great deal of work and compromise, and it isn’t always going to feel romantic. It can take a great deal of effort to keep things as fresh, exciting, and romantic as they were when a couple was newlywed.
Getting Married Too Young, or Too Soon
Couples who get married when they are young, or get married too soon after meeting often say this was the reason their marriage ended in divorce. At least 35% of those who participated in the NSMA say that their marriage ended from getting married too young. Young marriages encompass both teen marriages, and marriages among those who are in their mid to early twenties. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that teens who married were more likely to get divorced after 15 years (at a rate of 50%), while 35% of marriages among those in their mid-twenties ended in divorce after 15 years. Couples who are older, but get married shortly after meeting face similar obstacles, as they may not be giving themselves enough time to get to know each other before dedicating their lives to one another.
Money is often the most common cause of conflict in marriages and relationships. A study conducted by the APA (American Psychological Association) showed that nearly ¾ of Americans experience stress surrounding finances, and 25% experience extreme financial stress. SunTrust Bank also surveyed people in relationships or partnerships, and found that 35% of couples attributed money as the main cause for their relationship stress and friction. Among those surveyed in the 44-54 age group, 44% said money was a primary cause for stressful relationship discourse.
According to the NSMA, 29% of couples who divorced stated abuse was the causing factor. This is nearly one third of marriages in America. Abuse comes in many forms, and may present physically, sexually, emotionally, or verbally. While it’s difficult to determine the types of abuse most common amongst these participants, this is a serious, and shocking reality that deserves attention and concern. Safety is an important concern to consider when announcing a divorce, as a person will want to ensure they, and any children involved are safe from all threats before announcing a decision to separate. For those who are involved in an abusive relationship, help is available, and one should never suffer alone in the dark.