The 6 Most Common Reasons Why Couples Get Divorced

25 Nov 2023 | Hannah Goldstein
most common reasons why couples get divorced

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What are the most common reasons that couples get divorced?

Following the UK’s transition to a no-fault divorce system, couples no longer need to identify a particular wrongdoing as a ground to legally end their marriage.

But while the legal divorce process may be simpler, the decision to actually go through with it, and the subsequent impact on couples, is as difficult and complex as ever. Couples may decide to end their marriage for a multitude of reasons, whether they’ve experienced a one-time major betrayal like an affair or a gradual erosion of the relationship over time. Often, it’s a combination of factors that cause couples to drift apart.

Here are six of the most commonly cited reasons why people separate.

1: Infidelity

Unfaithfulness is a leading cause of divorce, whether through physical or emotional betrayal. When one partner discovers that their spouse has engaged in an emotional or sexual relationship with someone else, trust and respect can be irrevocably damaged.

Even if the straying partner apologises and begs for forgiveness, the betrayed partner may not be able to move past the act. That’s why adultery used to be the second most cited ground for divorce (after unreasonable behaviour) that you could use to show that your marriage had irretrievably broken down.

2: Lack of connection and commitment

While a thousand romantic comedies are built on the idea that opposites attract, in reality, couples need to feel they have something in common with their partner and are truly committed to have a happy, healthy marriage. There needs to be a “meeting of minds” in order for couples to stay together and put effort into the relationship.

Differences that are easy to overlook in the first flush of romantic passion can become more pronounced over time. If couples don’t do the work and find ways to bridge their differences, the bond between them can quickly deteriorate. One large-scale U.S. survey found that a staggering 73.2% of divorcing couples identified a lack of commitment as the main cause of their marital breakdown.

3: Money trouble

Around one in 10 couples split due to rows about money. But it’s not money trouble as such that pushes couples towards the divorce courts – it’s that couples have different ideas about how to manage the family’s finances. For example, one partner may be irresponsible with money and spend beyond their means, while the other prefers to save for a rainy day. Or one partner may be trying to control their spouse’s spending habits.

Different perspectives on finance aren’t usually a problem when a couple has financial stability. But if they face financial difficulties, the difference in values can become more apparent. Financial incompatibilities can also complicate the process of negotiating financial settlements in divorce, making it crucial for couples to seek expert legal advice.

4: Poor communication

Poor communication comes in all shapes and sizes from constant arguing to sweeping problems under the rug to flat-out lying. But it all has the same result: couples who don’t talk to each other will find their relationship deteriorating quickly.

Communication is one of those issues that has cascading consequences. It can give rise to feelings of incompatibility, neglect, bitterness and resentment that can become overwhelming if left unchecked. In some cases, couples are able to work on their communication problems and develop a healthy relationship once again. In others, the lack of communication can be so severe that divorce becomes the only solution.

Where communication has deteriorated to a point of no return, couples may find mediation a useful tool in divorce negotiations.

5: Growing apart

Couples who have been together for many years can find themselves becoming more like strangers as they drift apart from each other. People change, and the activities and interests they once shared no longer hold a place in their lives, leaving them feeling lonely, sad or disconnected.

The process of children growing up and leaving the family home can often act as a catalyst for couples to assess the state of their relationship. This stage of life, commonly referred to as ’empty nest syndrome,’ leaves couples with an abundance of free time and a reduced set of parental obligations. Some couples embrace this time and reconnect on a deeper level. For others, it can amplify pre-existing issues that previously were ignored, leading many to realise that their relationship is not as strong as it once was.

6: Abuse

Abuse can take many forms and may include:

  • Domestic violence where one partner physically harms the other.
  • Emotional abuse where one partner belittles or criticises the other with hurtful words and actions.
  • Coercive control where one partner seeks to control the other by manipulating or restricting their behaviour. This can include financial control.

These types of abuse can cause long-term psychological trauma, leaving the victim feeling scared, isolated and unable to trust their partner. In such cases, divorce could be the only way for victims to regain control of their lives and find safety and security. If you have been a victim of domestic abuse, you might also be able to obtain an injunction through the family court.

Whatever the reason for getting divorced, you might also need to deal with splitting your finances on divorce and arrangements for the children. If you are considering getting divorced, or at the receiving end of a divorce, and need advice, we are here to help.

At Osbornes Law, our family lawyers can provide support through this difficult time.

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