Top 5 Reasons Couples Divorce

By Lisa Magloff

Couples divorce for many reasons. Sometimes, there is more than one reason why a marriage doesn't work, so that it is difficult to determine what the underlying reason is for the divorce. The use of the no-fault divorce, where couples can cite “irreconcilable differences” as the primary grounds for divorce, can also make it difficult to determine the main reason for a divorce. However, there are some reasons that stand out as particularly common.


According to researcher Jan Andersen, an associate professor at California State University, Sacramento, the major reason for divorce is incompatibility. He speculates that people grow apart over time and have a difficult time agreeing about important areas of their lives, such as money and how to live their lives, and this causes tension which eventually drives couples apart. This can be exacerbated when one spouse undergoes a major life change, such as changing religion, a death in the family or losing a job. Anderson also cites an inability to compromise and come to an agreement on key areas of life as a major factor in divorce.


Adultery is frequently cited as a reason for divorce. Although adultery can also be a symptom of other problems in the marriage, it may be the final straw for a spouse. Adultery may also be an even more common cause for divorce than cited, because it can be difficult to use adultery as legal grounds for divorce unless there is evidence that can be cited in court. Where there is no concrete evidence, couples may use "irreconcilible differences" as grounds for divorce in court.

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More and more spouses are citing boredom as a reason for getting divorced. This may occur more often in older couples or as part of a "mid-life" crisis. In a 2010 New York TImes article, writer Deidre Bair surveyed divorce lawyers and was told that divorce among the middle-aged and elderly was the fastest-growing segment of their business. Bair interviewed hundreds of couples for a book on divorce and found that in late middle-age many women and men initiated divorce after realizing they had grown bored of being with their spouse and wanted another chance to have some excitement and someone new in their lives.


Abuse is another top reason why couples divorce. Abuse can be physical, emotional or psychological and constitutes clear grounds for divorce. Physical abuse includes bullying or intimidation, as well as causing injury. Psychological abuse does not need to be obvious in order to be damaging. It can consist of insults, humiliation, intimidation and negative attitudes. In some cases, psychological abuse can build up over years, to the point where one partner decides to leave.

Marrying Young

According to studies conducted by the Pew Research Center, states where couples marry at a young age have a higher divorce rate than states where couples marry at an older age. For example, divorce rates in Arkansas and Oklahoma, where the average age of a first-time spouse was 24 or younger, are higher than in Massachusetts and New York, where half of people marrying for the first time are 30 or older. This may be because older people are financially more secure and emotionally more mature and are better able to handle the stresses and strains of marriage.

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