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- While the divorce rate is declining, it is still relatively common.
- With the help of INSIDER’s Data team and a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), we’ve ranked the most common causes of divorce.
- Cheating, fighting, and a lack of commitment were all top reasons.
Even though the divorce rate might be decreasing, it’s interesting to learn about the factors that contribute to divorce, whether it’s a lack of support from family and friends or an extramarital affair.
We worked with the INSIDER Data team to help parse the leading causes of divorce, with the help of a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
The study polled 52 people (31 women and 21 men), who had been involved with PREP, a “prevention and relationship enhancement program” that focused on teaching couples communication and conflict resolution skills.
The course took place before the couples wed, but the study surveyed individuals that ended up divorced, 14 years after PREP took place. It aimed to glean information on why their marriage had failed, and whether it had been a combination of factors, or due to a “final straw.”
Here are their results, based on individuals’ responses.
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11. Little or no premarital education and religious differences – 13.3%
Even though all those surveyed had participated in PREP, an educational course, a significant amount thought that it still wasn’t enough. “I probably wish that we would have had more premarital counseling and had somebody tell us we should not be getting married,” one participant said. Another explained that, while the course was helpful in communication, it wasn’t realistic about the growth of marriage. “Premarital counseling teaches you how to get along, and that you should communicate, but it doesn’t really talk about the phases of a marriage over time.”
As for religious differences, currently 69% of married people say that their spouse shares their religion, according to a Pew Center survey. And on average, per Fox News and according to the book “Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America,” couples in interfaith marriages are less happy than those in same-faith marriages.
9. Lack of support from family – 17.3%
Per the Huffington Post, according to a 26-year longitudinal study that looked at 373 couples, a husband having a close relationship with his wife’s family decreased the risk of divorce by 20%.
However, a wife having a close relationship with her husband’s family increased the risk of divorce. According the the study’s researcher, psychologist and professor Terri Orbuch, “Wives should maintain boundaries with their in-laws, and husbands should remember to take care of their in-laws and treat them as important.”
8. Health problems – 18.2%
According to Elizabeth Ochoa, a marriage counselor and chief psychologist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, illnesses can be detrimental to a marriage. “Illnesses create debt and pain and loss of self. It can mean one partner isn’t able to maintain his or her part of the deal, which requires the other partner to step it up. Some couples will be better at dealing with that than others,” she told Health.com.
7. Domestic violence – 23.5%
Almost a quarter of NCBI survey participants cited both physical and emotional abuse in their marriages as a major contributor to their divorce. Many respondents explained that the abuse developed over time, with more intense cycles of abuse followed by strong remorse. “There were times that I felt very physically threatened. There was a time that there was a bit of shoving. I got an elbow to my nose … We’d work on it. It would happen again,” one said.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) found that 50,000 women who were intentionally killed in 2017 were killed by a romantic partner or family member.
6. Substance abuse – 34.6%
At least one partner in 50% of the former couples surveyed by the NCBI cited substance abuse as an issue: 34.6% of individuals overall did, but in only 33.3% of cases did both partners agree that substance abuse was to blame for their divorce. “He never admitted that he even drank. It wasn’t me against him. It was me against him and the disease,” explained one participant.
Of those who indicated their marriage had a”final straw,” 12.1% reported it was because of substance abuse.
5. Financial problems – 36.1%
Some participants in the study said that while financial problems were a big contributing factor, they were not “the most pertinent reason for divorce.” The money problems “contribute[d] to increased stress and tension within the relationship.”
According to Forbes, having conflicting “money styles” can be detrimental to couples. If one person is a spender, and another a saver, tensions can arise when trying to decide where your paychecks go. It’s important to find a way to use differing habits to complement each other. For instance, the saver can be in charge of retirement planning, while the spender is responsible for short-term spending.
4. Getting married too young – 45.1%
In the study, those that cited their age as a problem were an average age of 23.3 years old at the time of marriage. According to the Pew Research Center, marriage age has changed drastically over the past 50 years. In 1960, 59% of those aged 18-29 were married. Fifty years later in 2010, that number dropped to 20%. And in 2011, the median age for a first marriage for a man was 28.7, and 26.5 for a woman. Fifty years prior, both were in their early 20s.
3. Too much conflict and arguing – 57.7%
Survey participants revealed that, generally speaking, their conflicts were not resolved calmly or effectively – and it only got worse over time. They reported that “communication problems increased in frequency and intensity throughout their marriages, which at times seemed to coincide with lost feelings of positive connections and mutual support.”
One participant boiled it down by saying, “I got frustrated of arguing too much.”
2. Infidelity or extramarital affairs – 59.6%
According to the study, “infidelity was often cited as a critical turning point in a deteriorating relationship.” In fact, it was the most common “final straw” cited by participants.
Some common reasons for cheating, as reported by INSIDER, are feeling neglected, insecurity issues, or a fear of abandonment.
1. Lack of commitment – 75%
Even though some would say that marriage is the ultimate commitment, 75% of the people surveyed said a lack of commitment played a part in the demise of their marriage.
“I realized it was the lack of commitment on my part because I didn’t really feel romantic towards him. I always had felt more still like he was a friend to me,” explained one participant.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
- Read more:
- There’s a strong link between abuse and addiction – here’s why people get stuck in toxic cycles
- More than 2.1 million affairs occurred in the US last winter. Here are the cities where cold-weather cheating is most likely to happen.
- 10 questions you should ask someone before marrying them
- It’s possible to forgive your partner for cheating on you. Here’s what a therapist says needs to happen.