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The foundation of marriage is a topic of much debate in modern society. More, and more Millennials are choosing not to enter the sacred union of marriage, while divorce rates are around 40-50% for first marriages, and 67% for second and third unions. If one were to look at the statistics surrounding marriage in society today, one would see that of 309 million Americans in 2014, there were 2.1 million marriages. This is a decline in the number of unions in 2000 by over 100,000. Statistics also show that 85% of people marry by the age of 46, and 42% also divorce by the age of 46. That’s a significant number of marriages leading to divorce in the U.S. Perhaps it is our society that makes marriage a difficult lifestyle choice, or perhaps it’s more individual between couples who simply have a difficult time keeping the spark alive. Whatever one’s cause for choosing to divorce, it likely didn’t happen without reason, or underlying issues left unresolved. So, just exactly what issues are commonplace for leading to divorce?
While every couple is different and unique, there are certainly some common themes as to why many couples divorce. The top 8 reasons for divorce today, as determined by the National Survey on Marriage in America are:
- Lack of Commitment
- Married Too Young
- Unrealistic Expectations
- Feeling Unprepared
Lack of Commitment
Couples who have divorced reported a lack of commitment as the main reason for splitting up. In fact, a lack of commitment was reported as the main reason for divorcing more than any other issue in the survey, at 73%. Lack of commitment extends beyond one’s sexual behavior. It also encompasses one’s willingness to work as a team, and to make the marriage a priority. Making marriage a priority means making the time to connect. There are often a variety of excuses as to why couples don’t have time to go on dates, or have time to connect on a more regular basis. Regardless of excuses, everything we do in life comes down to priorities.
The second most common issue leading to divorce in married couples is conflict. This doesn’t mean minor disagreements, rather, continuous arguing and fighting without avail or resolution. It can be exhausting to keep having the same arguments, or for there to be continuous tension in a union. Couples who have called it quits from conflict made a choice that they could not fight anymore. This was reported as an issue prompting divorce in 56% of those surveyed.
Having an extramarital affair, or cheating on a spouse accounted for 55% of divorces surveyed. It’s not always a person’s intention to engage in an affair. Most affairs begin as innocent friendships, or emotional affairs that later become physical over time. This leads us to ponder if it’s the issue with a lack of commitment mentioned above that led to the act of cheating, as by not making time to nurture a connection, we are opening ourselves up to have those needs met by others in our lives. While not every act of infidelity begins in such a manner, it’s a common and natural sequence of events.
Married Too Young
Couples who were married at a young age often have an uphill battle to climb with half of all teen marriages ending in 15 years, as well as 35% for those married in their mid-twenties, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Couples who marry young often report feeling like they missed a part of their youth, and may be prone to temptations such as extramarital affairs, and reckless behaviors to sooth this feeling; making up for lost time, so to speak.
44% of those surveyed from a failed marriage report that inequality was to blame as a factor for dissolving their marriages. Inequality comes in many forms. It may be present when one partner feels responsible for a greater number of duties in the home and family, or it may present out of feelings of sexism, and gender roles that no longer serve modern societal needs. Feelings of inequality may also arise if one couple earns significantly more than the other; causing one half of the couple to feel less than. There are a variety of reasons a couple could feel unequal in a marriage, and the following examples are simply scraping the surface.
A total 51% of survey participants stated unrealistic expectations as cause for the end of their marriages. When couples are married, they often think that the commitment marriage will make all relationship issues disappear, and their relationship will magically become better. This couldn’t be less true. Marriage takes a lot of work, compromise, and effort to keep the sparks in the place they are when a couple first fell in love or got engaged and married. These are obvious times of romance and excitement, but the years to come may not be as easy in terms of feeling the same things felt in the beginning. Love and relationships change over the years as they grow, and behavior patterns and habits can drive wedges between lovers if they do not work to keep things going. There are likely several unrealistic expectations couples go into marriage with, and these can cause unnecessary issues in the long-run.
Many who marry young may not be truly prepared to handle a lifelong commitment to another person. 41% of couples surveyed agree, and report this as an issue that helped dissolve their unions. To help couples planning to wed feel better prepared, experts recommend pre-marital counseling. Another way to prepare is by discussing the issue of marriage with trusted friends and family who have been married for a long period of time, and whose marriages a couple would most like to emulate.
Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse was reported to be the cause of divorce by 29% of divorced survey participants. This is a bit of a shocking statistic, and an issue that deserves more attention. This is a situation that is far more complicated than a divorce without any instances of abuse. For those who are involved in an abusive marriage, and know it’s time to get out, ensuring one’s safety (and that of any children involved) is essential before announcing one’s decision to divorce. It may also help to have friends and family in the know who can be there for support, and who are aware of the issue, in the event that things become unsafe. Help is available, and while reaching out for support may feel scary, but there is nothing to fear. A therapist or advocate will do everything they can to help without judgement, and with safety at the forefront of all goals.
If you or someone you know is going through some of these issues above and is contemplating a divorce, there are many professionals available to help. Don’t feel afraid to reach out and feel supported. You are never alone in your struggle.