Do you feel like your marriage is at risk for divorce?
The key is to understand what causes most marriages to struggle and fail.
This guide explains the most common reasons for divorce and why they happen.
Red Flag #1: Infidelity
Some couples can survive the upheaval of infidelity. However, that only comes with a lot of tears, hard work, and honesty. Trust takes a long time to earn and very little time to lose.
Intimacy grows when couples share a deep trust. Each partner can bare their vulnerabilities in a safe and protective environment. Marriage is unique because it’s unlike any other relationship in a person’s life, or at least it should be. When a person cheats on their spouse, they severely damage the trust that holds their marriage together. Not all marriages survive this.
People give many reasons for cheating on their spouses. However, infidelity is always a choice. The stated excuse is often a legitimate problem that could be managed with emotional support and clear communication. Instead, infidelity creates an immediate marital crisis that often dwarfs the rest of the couple’s issues.
Infidelity can be a quick end to a marriage. Some people draw a hard line and refuse to stay with a cheating spouse. Other couples may try to work things out over time, but not all stay together. Ultimately, it comes down to the couple’s willingness to rebuild trust and cope with emotional turbulence.
Red Flag #2: Money problems
Money touches nearly every part of a person’s daily life. It secures shelter, food, and other necessities. People also use money to experience pleasure, gain power, and maintain status. These attachments to money are a normal part of being human. But because of this complexity, financial issues are among the top reasons people get divorced.
Each marital partner has personal beliefs and emotional attachments to money. Some of the most uncomfortable conversations can help couples move past emotional hang-ups. But when one or both partners avoid talking about money, conflict can erupt over anything.
When communication becomes strained, feelings of isolation can set in. Bills need to be paid and food needs to be bought. However, neither partner feels safe talking about the emotional undercurrent. As a couple’s trust erodes, money is sometimes used as a weapon.
A wife who feels like she’s being ignored by her husband uses shopping sprees to cheer herself up. The extra spending causes her husband to feel stressed about their debt. In turn, he is especially rude to his wife when talking about money.
The husband and wife both use money as an excuse for hurting the other. Harmful behaviors like these destroy trust and can eventually tear a marriage apart.
Red Flag #3: Lack of intimacy
Marriage is a trusting connection, meant to last a lifetime. For most married couples, monogamous sex is part of the package. This combination makes marriage unique. In this setting, intimacy can be meaningful and loving.
Sexual activity and interest changes over the lifespan of a marriage. One partner is often more interested than the other at any given time. Physical or mental health issues can put intimacy on hold for months or years.
These ups and downs are all normal to any long-term relationship. However, intimacy problems become critical when the couple stops talking. When time goes by with little to no intimate activity, both partners make assumptions. Resentment grows and trust withers.
Without an active open communication, emotional intimacy begins to die. When the spark between a couple goes out, a divorce may be the last step in a long journey.
Red Flag #4: Marrying for the wrong reasons
Some people ignore a lot of red flags at the beginning of a relationship. They are willing to overlook problem areas to avoid stepping out of their comfort zone. Breaking up can be scary and stressful, so they swallow their concerns and keep going forward. They choose to look away instead of making a tough decision.
Take a young college girl like Jenna, for example.
She recently married her college boyfriend, mostly out of comfort and familiarity. He is kind to her and they have been together for many years. She isn’t sure they are as good of a match now that they are older. However, she fears throwing away a sure thing. Starting over with someone new feels too risky.
Jacob’s family has a lot of influence over major decisions in his life. They strongly approve of his wife because she is from a well-known and respected family in town. He fears that if they ever broke up, his family would be very disappointed in him. Jacob’s wife is a kind woman with social status, but they mostly have superficial things in common. He hopes they might learn to love each other more over time.
Both of these situations demonstrate how a tenuous relationship can still lead to marriage. Things look good enough on the outside to keep going, and no one questions the decision. But if red flags are ignored from the beginning, it won’t take long before a weak marriage unravels.
Red Flag #5: Addiction
Addiction can become a harmful third wheel in a relationship. A successful marriage keeps going because both partners respect and care for each other. With addiction, a person’s focus becomes self-serving and self-destructive. A person struggling with addiction cannot have healthy relationships without treatment and support.
Untreated addiction consumes a person’s life in several ways. Heavy substance use lowers a person’s inhibitions and interferes with clear thinking. Risky behaviors start making daily life difficult. Poor financial decisions, driving under the influence, criminal activity, and abusive behavior happen more often. All of these issues erode trust and communication with a spouse.
Addiction is more than just drinking or drug use. It is a destructive way of living that tears a person away from everything positive in their life. Getting a marriage back on track requires treatment and extra support for the entire family.
Some marriages cannot endure the upheaval of addiction, even with treatment and support. The non-addicted spouse faces enormous stress while dealing with an unpredictable partner. Sometimes divorce allows both individuals to live a safer and more stable life.
The 7 Year Inch’s Effect on Failing Marriages: Fact or Fiction?
As newlyweds get used to married life, they enjoy the stability and closeness of new marriage. As with most good things, the novelty eventually wears off. After a few years, real life settles in and the shine comes off. For some couples, this triggers a period of doubt and dissatisfaction.
This time of adjustment is healthy and doesn’t necessarily cause significant problems. People grow and change, jobs come and go, and children often enter the picture in the first few years. However, some people start to wonder if their marriage is a mistake.
The 7-year itch isn’t a proven phenomenon. However, it does seem to exist for many couples after the first several years. Depending on the situation, the itch could come at seven, ten, or even twelve years. Ultimately, couples going through this adjustment can either struggle together or in isolation.
Roughly half couples end in divorce. Those who successfully get through the first major adjustment period will do better with the ones that follow. For some couples, the itch starts and never goes away. Infidelity and other distractions pull spouses apart, making divorce more likely.
Divorce after Having a Baby
Many marriages have two distinct periods in the early years, Before Kids and After Kids. Few things change the dynamic between two partners more than adding children into the mix. While many parents are happy to grow their family over the years, parenthood takes a toll on marriage. Raising children takes energy, time, enormous patience, and makes couple time more challenging.
Before kids, parents have the freedom to spend time how they wish, either together or apart. They cater only to themselves. A baby has round-the-clock needs, causing even the most energetic parent to feel drained at times.
The problems often begin with unmet or unrealistic expectations. Parenting and marriage needs must be rebalanced frequently. Communication, emotional stability, trust, and stress management skills will be tested during this time.
Why Marriages Fail Explained: A Real Life Example With First-time Parents
Joe works full time and is a first-time father with his wife, Megan. As a first-time mother, she is very focused on doing things the right way as a mother. This concern stems from growing up in a strict household where her mother managed many details of family life. Megan feels pressured to live up to this standard but is uneasy talking about it. She gets short with Joe when he interrupts the schedule or does things differently.
Joe wants to take part in caring for their baby and is frustrated when Megan won’t let him. In return, he often spends extra time at work or out with friends to avoid being snapped at. He misses how relaxed Megan was before the baby and wishes they could resume sex. Megan gets consumed by everything she does for their baby, but also feels lonely because Joe isn’t around much. She wishes she could feel more relaxed and comforted.
If Megan and Joe start sharing their concerns with each other, they have an excellent chance of making it through this rough patch. If they continue to isolate themselves, the gap can widen over time. At some point, it may be too late to save the marriage.
The Choice of Divorce
Marriage isn’t easy, and many marriages don’t make it. Communication, empathy, and a willingness to listen can help troubled marriages get back on course. However, divorce is sometimes the only choice left on the table.