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What Leads to Divorce?

Monday, April 18th, 2022

by Douglas L. Anderson, PsyD



Let's start with the good news.  Over 50% of marriages remain intact “‘til death do us part.”  It can be a challenge to remain committed to another person and to discover the personal and relational growth that leads to a good relationship that lasts a lifetime.  But few situations are better at helping us grow as persons than a committed relationship to another human being!  Broadly speaking, the value of a committed relationship far outweighs the risk.

However, there are risks in any relationship, and sometimes marriages don’t last.  In fact, just under 50% of all marriages in the US end in divorce.  That includes second and third marriages.  First marriages have a divorce rate of just over 40% currently.

What happens that leads to someone’s decision or a couple’s decision to end a marriage?  One website that checked out as being legitimate and as using good research came up with the following list of the top 13 reasons people get divorced.  Their research involved looking at numerous surveys that had been conducted with people who had divorced, and they set the bar at those responses that at least 20% of divorced individuals noted as a contributing factor to their divorce.  Here they are:

  1. Conflict, arguing, irretrievable breakdown in the relationship

  2. Lack of commitment
  3. Infidelity / extramarital affairs
  4. Distance in the relationship / lack of physical intimacy
  5. Communication problems between partners
  6. Domestic violence, verbal, physical, or emotional abuse by a partner
  7. Realization that one’s spouse has different values / morals
  8. Substance abuse / alcohol addiction
  9. Absence of romantic intimacy / love
  10. One partner not carrying their weight in the marriage
  11. Financial problems / debt
  12. Marrying too young
  13. Lack of shared interests / incompatibility between partners


Chances are that your marriage may show evidence of some of these relationship problems, and that is quite normal.  Some of these issues have a more normal feel to them.  For example, what marriage doesn’t have some arguing and conflict?  But when the conflict is so severe that one or both partners begin to see the situation as unrecoverable, then conflict and arguing can lead to divorce.


It is also common for marriages to face financial strain at times.  Although financial problems and debt are not generally the main issue leading to divorce, we commonly see some aspects of financial issues in those situations where divorce results.


Both of those issues - arguing and conflict, and financial strain - can be readily worked on and improved with the right help.  Other issues are more threatening to marital stability.  Infidelity, abusive behavior, and various addictions tend to more commonly lead to divorce because of their severity.  We see couples fight their way through even these tough issues and discover ways to keep their marriage intact at times, but that is not an easy journey.  If couples do the work to restore a marriage, the end result is often quite amazing.


But make no mistake, marriage is challenging.  It requires two people who understand that marriage is a commitment, and a partner is not a mere commodity.  When two people commit themselves to each other with a “come hell or high water” mindset, then the benefit of remaining in the relationship starts showing up.  The things that once irritated you about your partner turn into your partner’s idiosyncrasies that get you to smile and say, “that’s my guy!”  In a healthy marriage you discover that you become better persons because of your relationship.


Take a good look at the list of things that tend to lead to divorce, assess your own relationship, and if you see some of these things happening in your relationship, consider seeking out the help of a therapist who can walk with you as you seek to strengthen and grow your marriage.  


At River Counseling Services and Sioux Falls Psychological Services we meet you where you are, offering hope.  We can help you rebuild a marriage when that is needed, or help you tweak a few things to help your relationship grow stronger.  You may schedule an appointment with the Platte office at 605-337-3444, or meet with one of our Sioux Falls Psychological Services therapists from your own computer or smartphone.  To schedule an appointment please call 605-334-2696.