As you reflect on the wedding-circuit phase of early adulthood, you certainly remember some storybook occasions with brides and grooms who seemed destined for each other. But no matter how beautiful and memorable the wedding was, not every story ends happily ever after. As we’re all too aware, nearly half of all marriages in America end in divorce. This is a regrettable fact, but one that speaks to the ease with which a partner can now leave an unfulfilling or destructive marriage rather than suffer within it. Just as there are many reasons two people can fall in love, there are many reasons a marriage can fail. Here are some of the most common factors that contribute to divorce.
Lack of Commitment
Relationships are work from beginning to end, and the most common contributing factor in divorce is simply one or both parties failing to put in the work. “Lack of commitment,” of course, is an extremely broad term, and can encompass a number of shortcomings, but without further qualifiers, such as other causes we’ll explore later, it simply means a failure to maintain an active role in a partnership or taking marriage for granted. Issues with poor communication, and the inability or unwillingness to resolve such issues, can also fall under a lack of commitment.
Infidelity, whether physical or emotional, is perhaps the most prominent cause of divorce in the popular imagination, thanks to how well its lurid nature suits itself to our entertainment. Behind the lack of commitment mentioned above, extramarital affairs appear to be the second-most common cause of divorce in the United States. But unlike commitment issues, which tend to be slow-burning problems that fail to resolve over time, the discovery of an affair is often a flashpoint at which a spouse cannot imagine the marriage continuing. Even if a marriage does continue after infidelity, it tends to color the marriage forever, with the affected partner never allowing the adulterer to forget his or her lapse in judgment.
Lack of Intimacy
For some couples, sometimes the fire simply burns out. The passion and ardor in the early stages of a relationship often gives way to deeper love, caring, and understanding. Unfortunately, not every love matures along this trajectory, leaving couples in marriages they find unfulfilling. But a lack of intimacy does not simply have to mean physical encounters. It can also describe the absence of affectionate gestures or emotional unavailability. Couples in such relationships report that they feel more like co-workers or roommates than a true married couple.
Domestic violence in all its forms can lead to a spouse taking steps to end their marriage. Physical outbursts are what most often come to mind when we think of domestic violence, but no less serious than physical abuse is emotional abuse, which can involve socially isolating a spouse, limiting access to money, subtle forms of manipulation, or verbal abuse. No one should have to justify to himself or herself why it’s acceptable to remain in an abusive marriage. If you have been the victim of domestic violence, do not be afraid to contact a family lawyer who can help you resolve your situation, as well as the proper authorities in an emergency.
Challenging financial realities can test a marriage, and often push it past its breaking point. The division of income, expenses, and debt can be highly stressful to couples. One partner may feel that the other is not pulling his or her weight when it comes to earning household income, and that such a discrepancy in income adversely affects the equality of the partnership, making a lesser-earning partner feel controlled or restricted. It could be that a couple’s spending is incommensurate with their income, leading to issues with credit and debt. The expenses of raising a child can be more than a couple expected, which can exacerbate other underlying and unresolved marital issues.
Abuse of alcohol and illegal substances can put irreparable strain upon a marriage. Substance abuse as a contributing factor often coincides with other factors, such as physical or emotional abuse, or financial problems that arise from a dependency on substances. Substance abuse as a cause for divorce usually happens after good-faith efforts to resolve addiction and dependency, whether through recovery programs or inpatient rehabilitation. Unfortunately, addiction is a challenging adversary for many people and fighting these demons can often cost people their marriages.
While there is no strict causality between having divorced parents and one’s own marriage ending in divorce, this does serve as a fairly reliable predictor: children of divorce are twice as likely as children of intact marriages to divorce, with daughters of divorce being even more likely to do so. The tragedy of this is that, unlike issues involving substance abuse, domestic violence, or infidelity, the specter of one’s own divorced parents is a factor that lies outside the hands of the spouses. We don’t get to choose our parents, and the failure of a marriage can leave spouses without a lifelong positive role model and resource for their relationships. This is a disadvantage that can reveal itself in times of minor strife: couples whose parents’ marriages stayed intact may be able to draw on their own parents’ experiences in order to overcome those issues on a level that couples with one or both sets of divorced parents cannot. Of course, while this factor is not to be overlooked, being a child of divorce by no means dooms your own marriage.
To be clear, the emergence of the factors that contribute to divorce do not represent some downfall of society. In fact, they never truly emerged. The same issues that once sent spouses into unhappy, loveless, or abusive marriages still exist as they ever had, but now, with the relaxation of divorce laws on a state-by-state basis, couples need no longer stay in such marriages—a net benefit to spouses themselves, their children, and society. If you’ve tried your best to overcome adversity in your marriage but feel you have exhausted all your options to maintain the partnership, an Illinois family law attorney from the law firm of Schiller DuCanto & Fleck can help you navigate what lies ahead.