25 Common reasons for divorce and 5 valid reasons to file for divorce

Category: Better Endings | Author and Publisher: Elly Prior | First published: 06-12-2010 | Modified: 06-05-2019

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What are the top reasons for divorce?

There are many - perceived - reasons for divorce. Here, I've listed the most common reasons that contribute to marital breakdown or why people get divorced. The list is based on my 24 years of experience as a couple counsellor.

I've found that there's usually a combination of factors that lead to a divorce. Your situation, however, will be personal to you and therefore different to everybody else's. So, it shouldn't matter to you what the top reasons for divorce really are.

As a couple, you don't live in a vacuum. You're part of - and contribute to - everything and everyone around you. Changes in society, gender roles, community integration, values, beliefs and the law all have an impact.

Still doubting divorce is the best way forward for you?

In that case you'll find my Relationship Compatibility Test a really useful aid for making that gut-wrenching decision.

The only reason to file for divorce - UK law

In the UK, the court will want to know that your marriage has 'irretrievably broken down'. This you need to prove with one or more of the following facts:

  1. Adultery (see: Dealing with Infidelity) and intolerability;
  2. Unreasonable behaviour;
  3. Desertion for at least two years;
  4. Separation for at least two years - with your partner's agreement;
  5. You and your wife or husband have lived apart for at least five years.

Stay here with me to find out what I think might have contributed to any of these facts and what you personally might consider a valid reason for divorce.

25 Common causes of a marriage breakdownWhy people divorce

What are the top or most common reasons for divorce?

You may be desperate to find out what caused the breakdown of your relationship or marriage when you're searching for the top reasons for divorce.

You may want to know what the factors are that led to you or your spouse no longer wanting to be married.

However, right now I'd rather you don't fret about the cause too much - it might already be too late for that. You really need all your energy to deal with the changes ahead...

  • how and where you live
  • your finances
  • how you engage with your children
  • how you cope with your friends and family

All these factors contribute to, or detract from, your mental and emotional well-being - and that of your spouse and your children. 

Knowing what caused your divorce doesn't necessarily lead to a better recovery - I know this from my professional experience as a couple counsellor. (See also: How to survive divorce after 25 years of marriage)

I believe you first need to get through the emotional roller-coaster of the early stages. Only after that should you reflect more deeply about what caused your marriage or relationship to break down (if you want to, of course).

Nevertheless, I do appreciate that you may really want to know what went wrong now. Especially if you're struggling to make sense of it all.

Therefore, I've listed what - in my view - are some of the factors that contribute to a marriage failing and ultimately ending in divorce.

If you're still trying to save your marriage, I would of course suggest couple or relationship counselling. However, I do understand that that comes with a cost, and of course your partner might not want to go.

So if counselling isn't for you, get my Loving Communication Kit for Couples now - if there's still time to turn things around.

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Common reasons for divorce

The following are only contributing factors to the breakdown of a relationship or marriage. They may simply be symptoms of underlying problems.

I've listed these causes of divorce in no particular order...

Top reasons for divorce

Common and specific relationship problems and top reasons for divorce

Why people divorce:

1. Affairs/infidelity/cheating
See: How to survive infidelity, The complete guide to surviving infidelity and Signs your partner is cheating. This includes emotional infidelity, one-night stands, internet relationships (including sexting), long- and short-term affairs and financial infidelity.

2. Problematic physical relationship
Sexual problems, particularly loss of libido (male and female) and uncertainty about your sexuality or your partner's sexuality - could he or she be bisexual?

3. Significant differences
in core values and beliefs (see: Relationship Compatibility Questions).

4. Life stages
- you've outgrown each other or have changed significantly for whatever reason.

5. Traumatic events
Traumatic and/or life-changing events (see also: Brain injury symptoms).

6. Prolonged stress
Responses to prolonged periods of stress, such as work-related stress, long-term illness, mental health issues, financial problems, problems with the children, infertility... the list could go on!

7. Boredom
Feeling bored in or with your relationship and growing apart (80%)⧉.

8. Jealousy
Dealing - and coping - with a jealous partner.

9. Blended family issues
See: My partner's children don't want to know me and Your adult children are rejecting your new partner.

10. Abuse
Domestic violence, which includes verbal as well as physical abuse: THE most serious relationship problem (see: Signs of an abusive relationship and Signs of emotional abuse) See also: My husband doesn't find me attractive anymore.

11. You shouldn't have married
Knowing you shouldn't have got married in the first place! (See my relationship or marriage compatibility test).

12. Lack of responsibility from one partner
- regarding finances, children, health and many other issues (see: Children in the middle).

13. Unrealistic expectations
- still thinking your partner/spouse is the princess or the knight, and not seeing the real human being.

14. Addictions
- substance abuse, gambling, sex/porn... anything that's become an unhealthy preoccupation (see: Alcoholism stages and Living with an alcoholic).

15. Excessive reliance on social media
- to the detriment of the relationship (see: Facebook problems).

16. Lack of support during difficult times
- from your partner and people that matter to you.

17. Manipulation of, or over-involvement
in your relationship from family and/or friends (see How to get the best relationship advice).

18. Lack of communication
about important matters (see: Loving Communication Kit for Couples and Dealing with the silent treatment).

19. Poor division of or one-sided lack of responsibility
for chores and tasks. It's not only women who complain about this relationship problem! (See: Relationship communication).

20. Perceived lack of concern, care and consideration/attentiveness
... feeling like the relationship is one-sided is a big one! (see: How to deal with a narcissistic husband or wife or How to 'make' your partner fall in love with you again).

21. Significant personal disappointments and traumas
that lead to a change in relationship dynamics (see: Your partner in jail).

22. Long-term depression or other mental health issues
suffered by one partner - or both (see: Treating depression without medication)

23. Significant differences with regards to raising the children
See: How divorce affects children and Children in the middle.

24. Lack of progress in addressing problems
Long-term stress, particularly when not taking responsibility for doing something positive to address the cause, or learning how to deal with it if it can't be changed (see: Stress and your relationship).

25. Lack of support during pregnancy
An unsupportive partner during pregnancy and/or significant problems after the birth of your baby, or lack of support with child-rearing (discover how to deal with a birth trauma).

These were the most common reasons for divorce. My guess is that several of these will be familiar to you, so what might be your reason for divorce? Your top reasons for divorce (assuming there are more than one reason) are likely to include factors that are very personal to you too.

Top reasons for divorce.
8 Common factors that increase hurt and anger when your marriage is breaking downWhy couples divorce and how they manage to increase the associated hurt and anger

Distress is multiplied many times by certain unhelpful actions and behaviours

The following behaviours are contributing factors to the above causes of divorce. Not only do they create more distress for people around you, but they also make things more difficult for both you and your partner too:

8 common factors that increase hurt and anger when your marriage is breaking down

  1. Blaming your partner, your lawyer, your in-laws, the other man or woman, etc. 
  2. Treating your partner with contempt.
  3. Revenge - wanting to hurt your soon-to-be ex.
  4. Setting your children up against your partner (see my article How divorce affects children).
  5. Delaying tactics.
  6. Arriving unannounced on the doorstep if you have already moved out of the family home.
  7. Visiting, texting, telephoning, emailing, when you know you shouldn't.
  8. Talking badly of your partner to friends, family and work colleagues (many couples stay together afterall or get married again years later!)

See also my article Divorce tips, The complete guide to breaking up with someone and The complete guide to getting over a breakup.

How to limit your distress during all stages of divorce

It's tempting to blame your partner, yourself, someone else or the situation itself.

However, blaming just increases your sense of helplessness. It also creates more conflict, and can potentially damage your children. And ultimately, it'll just fatten your solicitor's wallet! (See: How to choose a divorce lawyer.)

To help divert your thoughts from blame, I really recommend hypnosis. One particular hypnosis download - Soothing the Bitterness of Divorce - will help you get through without thinking that you're going mad.

You can also connect with a professional, licensed therapist. It's now very easy to set up an online session, regardless of the device you're using. For further information, see my page on online relationship breakup advice and counselling.

For more tips and advice, see my articles: How to get through divorce and Divorce advice for men.

Once you begin to calm down

I know this is unlikely to happen early on, but over time try to take responsibility for the role you played in your marriage - without judgement. Even if only for the fact that you chose and married your partner!

Dare to own up, graciously if you can, to your contribution - at least to yourself if not to your partner. That'll help you to feel a little more in control and move on a little quicker.

Finally

How common or not other people's reasons for divorce may, or may not, interest you. It's your personal situation and your particular relationship problems that concern you.  

It's important that you and your family get through this difficult time relatively unscathed, if only to speed up your recovery. That will help you all to move onwards and upwards, to happier times.

Answer the following questions:

  • What is the reason you want to get through this with the least amount of damage to everybody involved?  
  • What will cause you to keep strong when the going gets tough?
  • How can you come through all this with your head held high?  

These are the most important questions when you are going through the process of separation and divorce.

Fretting about the reasons for your divorce isn't going to help you right now - that is for later, when the dust has settled. In the meantime, do ensure that you get the right relationship advice!

You will get through this! :-)

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