It is currently estimated that in the UK around 35-40% of all first marriages end in divorce or permanent separation. However, the cause of divorce itself is not often obvious from the divorce petition
As the law stands, virtually all divorces are required to cite either adultery or the other spouse’s unreasonable behaviour in order to progress – which doesn’t actually tell us what the real cause of divorce might have been. Unreasonable behaviour or even adultery is often more likely to be the symptom of a failing marriage rather than the primary cause. We set out below the top 7 causes of divorce (based on a wide-ranging survey of surveys).
Struggling to make ends meet can put a huge pressure on a couple, particularly if there are children also to care for. Being in poverty is a huge potential cause for relationship breakdown. At the other end of the spectrum, it turns out that having a lot of money does not necessarily solve all problems – different values over money can cause friction between a husband and wife, particularly if one likes to spend freely and the other prefers saving.
The intimacy ebbs away
At the start of most relationships, couples feel close to one another and are likely to be physically intimate. Over the years, the humdrum demands of normal life can gradually become more demanding or simply wear one or other spouse down; an off day, one spouse not feeling well, a misunderstanding – all the small things can lead to a downward spiral in their feelings of intimacy towards one another. If gone unnoticed and unchecked, without even realising it, a couple can find themselves becoming intimately estranged (while still getting on), which can deteriorate even further toward one or both halves of a couple starting to feel unloved or unappreciated.
Different expectations can put a lot of strain on a marriage. Not everyone has the same shared vision of success. One spouse’s goal might be the accumulation of substantial savings and undisputed financial security; a different spouse’s goal might be to live life to the hilt, with frequent trips abroad and other exciting outings. There is no right or wrong, but if both partners are pulling in the opposite direction, difficulties can arise.
Lack of communication
If one spouse tends to share all of his or her thoughts but the other does not, this can cause problems (either way). Good communication is a keystone for any strong marriage, but the way that each spouse communicates with the other is also important; constant bickering, yelling, revisiting of the same arguments are all things likely to cause a problem as much as not talking in the first place. Poor communication is one of the biggest causes of divorce eventually.
Lost in the roles
It is not unusual for many couples, to varying extents, to gradually leave behind their single friends and single ways after they get married. In the same way, after children are added to the family, parents can neglect (or simply not find time) for the things they used to do as a couple. As children then grow up and need less attention, husbands and wives can find that they are grown apart and that it is difficult to rediscover why they married in the first place. Having things in common (other than just being parents) is important for a strong marriage.
Differences in how to resolve conflicts
Some people have grown up in families where arguing is very common; others are used to family dynamics where problems are rarely discussed. Everyone has a different outlook on how to deal with difficulties, and even the best marriages will experience arguments at some point. Establishing a way of dealing with those arguments that works for both spouses is key.
Perhaps a more modern problem is the differing views that a person can have over what should be kept private within the relationship and what can be shared amongst friends, family and beyond. If one half of the marriage shares all of its intimate details with friends, or widely on social media, that can be a difficult thing for the more private spouse to live with. Again, as with almost all things, finding a balance and common ground is important.
Last but not least: being unfaithful… Infidelity can come in all kinds of shapes and forms (see our article on adultery versus ‘inappropriate relationships here), and can be emotional or physical, or both. The bottom line is that if you feel that your husband or wife has committed themselves to someone other than you, unless you two are able to get through that, perhaps with the help of counselling, a divorce might well be sadly on the cards.