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8 causes of and reasons for divorce

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There are countless reasons couples divorce, but some common themes emerge: money, parenting, lack of passion or compatibility.

Perhaps you are considering leaving an unhappy union, or you are worried that your spouse is showing signs they are ready for divorce. Maybe you fear you are missing signs that you SHOULD get divorced.

Here are common causes for divorce, according to studies and polls, including those published in a 2020 edition of Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, as well as Journal of Divorce & Remarriage and a 2019 edition of Journal of Divorce & Remarriage

And while you're thinking about it, educate yourself about what you should ask for in divorce should you part ways.

Top reason for divorce: Money

Money is often cited by experts as the top reason for and cause of divorce. Dave Ramsey's parent company found that financial issues came in No. 2 for causes for divorce, behind infidelity, in a survey of 1,000 couples. Money differences can include:

  • Different spending, saving and investing habits, which reflect different values and priorities. Learn more about paying off debt.
  • Financial infidelity, in which one spouse secretly spends, gambles or accrues debt.
  • Feeling that one partner is not earning his or her share. Earn six-figures with career-level work-at-home jobs.

2. Lack of respect

You are ready for divorce if you no longer respect him as a person, and have not for a while. Signs of a toxic marriage or unhappy marriage.

3. No sex, bad sex, or lack of sexual compatibility

You are likely ready for divorce if there is no more sex or sexual attraction, and you are not OK with that. Couples navigate this issue in all kinds of ways, including acceptance and agreed-upon open relationships. You may find peace in one of these solutions, or you may be ready for divorce.

Some couples may find that one partner develops new sexual interests, such as seeking an open relationship, threeesoms, SMBD or other kinks — and their longtime spouse is not interested, or is threatened by these interests.

An estimated 15% of married couples have not had sex in the last year according to numbers from the General Social Survey Sample — a period that qualifies the union as a “sexless marriage.” Reasons can include health issues, sexual disfunction including vaginal dryness and impotence, reduced sexual desire related to aging — as well as overall lack of interest. Sleeping in separate rooms because of snoring, sleep issues or other health problems can also contribute to a lack of sex.

That said, married people are far more likely to have sex than unmarried, divorced or widowed people, according to the same data set. Just saying.

Best dating sites after divorce for 2024

4. You grew apart

You may be ready for divorce if you changed and he didn’t, or vice versa, or — most likely — you both changed in different directions, and no longer fit.

You’ve fallen out of love. Physical chemistry dried up, you don’t feel any romantic affection towards this person. Those feelings may return — or they may not. Those feelings may be very important to you, or not. Libidos change as we age and relationships mature. These are very personal decisions.

You’re ready for divorce because you just want to be divorced. Maybe your husband is a really nice guy and you feel guilty about it. Maybe he is a decent person but really, really annoying. Perhaps you are in love with someone else and want to pursue that relationship — or be alone or date or otherwise be free. Maybe he is harmless but still an asshole. No matter what: You’re over it, and that is OK.

One study of divorcing parents found that the most common reasons for divorce from a list of choices were growing apart (55%), not being able to talk together (53%), and how one’s spouse handled money (40%).

Is your friend or loved one getting divorced? How to comfort someone: 9 things to text or say

5. Cheating

A statewide survey in Oklahoma found that the most commonly checked reasons for divorce were lack of commitment (85%), too much conflict or arguing (61%), and/or infidelity or extramarital affairs (58%).

Learn more in How to catch a cheater.

6. Parenting disagreements

Discipline, diet, bedtimes, homework, exercise and whose career takes precedence over childcare drive many couples apart. Parenthood has been correlated with divorce by multiple studies, drilling into the age, school performance and health of the children as co-factors in marital dissolution.

Keep in mind that even if you divorce, you still have to co-parent indefinitely.

Here is our guide to 31 tips for successful co-parenting after divorce. Also, here is one article on why equally shared parenting schedules are best for children — and parents.

Need help with a shared parenting calendar, tracking expenses and better communication? Check out our roundup of best co-parenting apps for 2023.

7. Alcoholism or other addictions

Addictive behaviors are common and vary widely in their extremes. Some people who drink too much or become addicted to prescription drugs, porn, gambling, video games or other habits can overcome them easily, while others may struggle to stay clean with support, and yet others may face a lifetime of relapses.

Many people with addictions can and do maintain relationships, but others see their marriages end because of the addiction.

University of Michigan researchers found that nearly half of the more than 17,000 study participants with a history of alcoholism divorced at some point in their lives, while only 30% of the participants who were not affected by serious alcohol problems got a divorce.

8. Irreconcilable differences

Before no-fault and uncontested divorce became the norm, irreconcilable differences was just one of many reasons a spouse could use to argue rights to be granted a divorce. Today, spouses do not have to prove reason for divorce, though irreconcilable differences is still used in some states’ divorce decrees.

In short, the definition of irreconcilable differences is that the spouses just can’t get along enough to make the marriage work.

The husband(s) and wife/wives are incompatible because of interests, character, lifestyle, personalities or beliefs.

If you are ready to consider divorce seriously, here are our guides for asking for a divorce and filing for divorce. Ideally, you can file your own divorce, without an attorney, amicably. Learn more about the best online divorce services, or check to see if you qualify for a DIY divorce in your state:

District of ColumbiaFlorida
NevadaNew Hampshire
New JerseyNew Mexico
New YorkNorth Carolina
North DakotaOhio
PennsylvaniaRhode Island
South CarolinaSouth Dakota
West VirginiaWisconsin

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