The 10 most common reasons for divorce

There’s been speculation that divorce rates are going to surge in the United States following the coronavirus pandemic, according to multiple news outlets. Some cities in China reported record-high divorce rates after the stay-at-home orders were lifted, leading experts to believe that there will be an unprecedented number of divorce filings here once we’re able to leave our homes more safely.

Undoubtedly, the added stress from coronavirus is factoring into why some couples are getting divorced. It’s also likely that some people, upon spending so much extra time with their partner, are realizing they were never quite compatible to begin with.

So, what are some of the main reasons behind divorce? To find out, we spoke to Scott C. Trout, managing partner and CEO of Cordell & Cordell, a law firm that specializes in divorce, and Michael Aurit, a professional mediator and co-founder of The Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation. In their experience, here are 10 of the most common reasons that couples get a divorce.

1. Lack of communication
Couples who don’t communicate and end up avoiding the tough issues in their relationship are at a high risk for getting divorced. “Especially during COVID-19, communication issues come front and center while in close quarters,” Trout says. It’s necessary to address any issues you’re having with your partner head-on. Otherwise, a minor problem that could have been easily resolved blows up into a big fight. Couples who constantly have big, nasty fights typically don’t want to remain married. (For tips on how to better communicate with your partner, head here!)

2. Communicating the wrong way.
Some couples communicate by blaming the other person and not taking responsibility for what they may have done wrong. “How a discussion begins often determines how it will end,” explains Aurit. “Starting a conversation with a harsh statement makes it almost impossible for it to end well.” Divorce becomes close to inevitable when “harsh” statements become the norm.

“Harsh starts” are when a partner is aggressive and starts the conversation by blaming the other person. They usually begin with “you” and include extreme words like “always” and “never,” explains Aurit. “They make your spouse feel attacked and they are likely to respond in a defensive way,” he says. (For tips on conflict resolution communication with your partner, head here!)

3. Lack of emotion
Emotions have to do with our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and to what degree of pleasure or displeasure are associated with them, Trout explains. “Emotions establish and sustain connections between spouses,” he says. If you’re not feeling positive emotions towards your partner—no love, gratitude, pleasure, or joy—then something is deeply wrong with the relationship, and there’s a high likelihood your marriage will end in divorce.

4. Sarcasm and disrespect
When our emotions become unpleasurable or simply nonexistent, they turn into the fuel behind the words we speak or the actions and behaviors we display. “But it’s not just the words one spouse uses toward the other, it includes how those words are conveyed,” says Trout. “Bitterness and contempt can lead to insults which then exacerbate negative feelings between a husband and wife.” This is also why it’s never a good idea to be passive-aggressive. Those little jabs at your partner will only make them dislike you more, magnifying any negative feelings you two already have towards one another.

5. Substance abuse
Substance abuse can quickly destroy a marriage. “The physical, mental, and emotional toll on the spouse of an addict can prove to be overwhelming,” says Aurit. “Substance abuse can cause drastic changes in behavior and a recklessness that can lead to financial ruin, physical danger, and abuse.” [Ed: If you or your partner is struggling with substance abuse, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) national helpline for support, treatment referral, and information.]

6. Lack of trust
Trust is one of the primary building blocks of any marriage, Trout explains. Trust is defined by truth and reliability. “If a spouse can’t be honest, upfront, and dependable with the other, no marriage will be able to endure,” he says.

This is why infidelity can be so devastating to a relationship, adds Aurit. “Infidelity is uniquely challenging in the way that it directly impacts the foundation of the marital relationship,” he says. For many couples, it’s simply not possible to rebuild trust following an act of cheating.

8. Control, possessiveness, and manipulation
“While marriage is about ‘two becoming one,’ there are two individuals that bring unique qualities to their partnership,” says Trout. That means one person can’t be making all the rules. They can’t be overly possessive of their partner, inhibiting who their partner talks to. While some people find it “attractive” that their partner gets jealous, and therefore inhibits their behavior, truthfully, it’s a sign of insecurity and abuse. No one, not even your partner, can dictate who your friends are and what you do with your life. Remember, even though you’re married, you’re still an individual.

9. Lack of intimacy
You should love your partner, want to be with your partner, enjoy cuddling them, and having sex with them. Of course, it’s expected that sex between partners will diminish over time, but it shouldn’t disappear entirely. You should still have sex and romantic date nights—something to keep the intimacy alive. “A husband and wife get married because they develop a closeness and familiarity between each other, but when that bond disappears, it can end a marriage,” explains Trout. (Here are some tips if your relationship is lacking intimacy and you feel “bored” with your partner.)

10. Conflict around finances
“Conflicting values about spending and saving money can cause extreme conflict in a marriage,” says Aurit. When one person is a big spender and the other a saver, it can be difficult to see eye-to-eye. Aurit also notes that one spouse having complete control over finances is usually not sustainable. There needs to be some shared finances between the couple, otherwise, it’s too large of a power differential.

A professional family mediator can help you and your spouse come up with creative financial agreements that take into account each of your spending and saving styles, explains Aurit. “Budgeting, setting reasonable boundaries, allowing certain freedoms and improving communication around money issues, can set a couple up for marital success.”

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