The Non-Existent Forever: Why Do Couples Divorce?
Wed, April 21, 2021

The Non-Existent Forever: Why Do Couples Divorce?


When celebrity couples like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and Anna Farris and Chris Patt separate, we are left wondering why such breakups occur. Unfortunately, the road to divorce is common.

The US’ leading public institute the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 22% of couples experience some form of “marital disruption” in the first five years of marriage, which refers to separation, divorce, or death. 53% of marriages are disrupted after two decades of marriage.

Ester Perel, psychotherapist and bestselling author of “The State of Affairs,” noted that both happy and miserable couples experience the same problems. She added that it is how a couple “comes together and relates to each other” that defines whether the relationship will last or end.

Reasons for Divorce and Recollections of Premarital Intervention (2014)

Shelby B. Scott and colleagues of biomedical and life sciences journal portal PMC collected data from 52 divorced individuals who received PREP (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program) pre-maritally. The study aimed to examine the participants’ reasons for divorce, including the “final straw” to understand if the program covered the topics effectively.

Analyses were presented at the individual level by using data from 52 participants, including at the couple level by using data from the 18 couples in which both parties completed interviews. Of those couples, 70.6% agreed that lack of commitment was the top reason for divorce, followed by too much conflict and arguing (53.8%), financial problems (50%), domestic violence (40%), infidelity (31.3%), and substance abuse (33.3%).

Meanwhile, lack of commitment (94.4%), infidelity (88.8%), too much conflict and arguing (72.2%), getting married too young (61.1%), and financial problems (55%) were cited as reasons for divorce among couples that had at least one partner reporting the aforementioned reasons. At the individual level, these reasons were at 75%, 59.6%, 57.7%, 45.1%, and 36.7%, respectively.

Scott and colleagues concluded that the study sheds new light on the reasons for divorce and possible improvements to relationship education programs based on the feedback given by the PREP participants.

Reasons for Breakdown of Marriage and Cohabitation In Britain (2017)

Published in PMC, Kirsten Graviningen and colleagues used descriptive analyses of data from Britain’s third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) for their study. They also performed a probability sample survey involving 15,162 people aged 16-74 years old from 2012-2012 using computer-assisted personal interviewing. The authors studied the participants’ reported reasons for live-in partnership breakdown in the last five years and how these varied between gender and cohabited versus married couples.

The reasons for marriage breakdown among married men and women were growing apart (41.7% and 41%, respectively), arguments (26.1% of men versus 27.4% of women), and unfaithfulness/adultery (24.5% versus 30.2%). Both men and women also cited lack of respecting/appreciation (22% versus 32.4%), different interests/nothing in common (17.6% versus 20.5%), move because of changes in circumstances (2.2% versus 2.4%), and money problems (11% versus 16.3%).

Both also mentioned not sharing enough housework (8.1% versus 21.2%), other reasons (7.2% versus 6.8%), difficulty with sex (9.4% versus 11.6%), domestic violence (5.7% versus 16%), and not having a child (1.7% versus 0.9%).  

Meanwhile, the reasons behind the breakdown of live-in partnership among men and women were growing apart (38.5% versus 33.2%), arguments (27.5% versus 31.7%), unfaithfulness/adultery (15.5% versus 20.5%), and lack of respect/appreciation (15.2% versus (21.2%)

Graviningen and colleagues found that communication, relationship quality, and adultery were prevalent among marriages and cohabitations. Future research has to be done to assess how partnership characteristics and life course events prior to the breakdown relate to the above-mentioned reasons, the researchers said. 

Why Do Couples Divorce?

1.      Infidelity

Consistent with the above-mentioned studies, infidelity is one of the main drivers of divorce. As we live in an interconnected world, emotional and physical affairs alike are more likely to occur. Nowadays, it’s easier to privately reconnect with someone in real life or online. 

For some couples, the marriage will end in divorce because of a one-night stand or multiple offenses for others, Perel said. The destruction of trust as the “grim reaper” that brings death to an already weak relationship.

2.      Finances and Money

Living in poverty is stressful and financial stressors can cause couples to fight, resulting in divorce. Differences in how each individual spends or saves money can be difficult to navigate in a marriage.

If both parties belong in the polar opposites of the financial department, they may be more at risk of divorce. For example, one adheres to a present-oriented approach in money while the other is future-oriented, said YourTango, a contributor at American news and opinions website HuffPost. However, “money in and of itself doesn’t cause divorce,” stated Bela Gandhi of the Today news program. It is the lack of financial compatibility. Over time, financial conflicts may escalate, making divorce a more logical solution.

3.      Addictions

Addictions can range from sex and alcohol to drugs and work. Addictions can even jeopardize entire families. When a spouse says “enough is enough,” then the marriage would likely lead to divorce. However, addiction can help strengthen a couple’s relationship if they are willing to exert effort to work and rebuild trust.

4.      Incompatibility

Friction is inevitable when couples are not aligned with religion, core values, where they want to live, how they want to live, etc. It is not easy to deal with incompatibility, especially if the spouse has changed over time. Consulting a therapist, counselor, or a friend who has experienced a similar situation can help couples navigate around incompatibility.

 It is also important to try to discuss and understand why a partner is acting that way, albeit with kindness. Couples should also have shared interests and priorities to ensure a successful marriage. “Me time” is also important, but couples can grow even farther apart if they can’t find common passions and ways to experience them together.

5.      Lack of Individuality

It’s not bad to have shared interests but when couples don’t have their own interests or the opportunity to express themselves outside of coupledom, it becomes unhealthy.

If a partner does not know what kind of music or food they used to like, they are probably “in deep.” Possibly, they may not even know why they feel that way. The same goes for a partner who is uncomfortable in doing things without their spouse.   

6.      Extraordinary Situations

Even the best of marriages deteriorate due to cancer diagnoses, deaths of children, and other circumstances. Extraordinary stressors also test the relationship. Perel said healthy couples can withstand and grow from these traumas when they can “honor their partner’s needs and method of grieving.”  

Marriage is complex as couples need to work together to reconcile differences and overcome trials. Divorce is doomed to happen when both partners are incompatible when it comes to finances, core values, etc. Infidelity and substance abuse can be a catalyst for marriage breakdown. Overall, it is how the couples navigate hardships that will determine whether the marriage will thrive or not.