25 Common causes of divorce and 5 reasons to file for divorce

Category: Better Endings | Author and Publisher: Elly Prior | First published: 06-12-2010 | Modified: 17-09-2018

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Why is your marriage breaking down?

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.

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.

It may be that you've landed here because you're considering divorcing your spouse, but are still doubtful that you're doing the right thing. In that case you'll find my Comprehensive Relationship Test a really useful aid for making that gut-wrenching decision.

25 Common causes of a marriage breakdown

The only reason for a 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, or could be the cause of your divorce.

What are the reasons for divorce? Why are people getting divorced?

I know that you may be desperate to find out what caused the breakdown of your relationship or marriage.

What are the factors that led to you or your spouse no longer wanting to be married?

You or your spouse may have been questioning your compatibility for some time, perhaps even years.

However, right now I'd rather you don't fret about the cause too much. You really need all your energy to deal with the changes ahead...

I want to be upfront with you - I may earn a commission from Better Help. You pay the same fee, regardless. 

  • 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.

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).

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.

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.

Watch this video for 5 quick tips if you're headed for the divorce courts

If you haven't already watched this video at the start of this article (desktop only), do watch it now...

Potential reasons your marriage ends in divorce

The following are only contributing factors to the breakdown of a relationship or marriage.

They may simply be symptoms of underlying problems. The symptoms of these reasons for divorce are likely to be linked too.

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

Common and specific relationship problems and potential reasons for divorce

  1. Affairs/infidelity/cheating (see: 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. Sexual problems, particularly loss of libido (male and female) and uncertainty about your sexuality (are you bisexual?) 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 and/or life-changing events (see also: Brain Injury Symptoms)
  6. 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. Feeling bored in or with your relationship and growing apart (80%)⧉.
  8. Dealing - and coping - with a jealous partner.
  9. Having blended family issues (see: My Partner's Children Don't Want to Know Me)
  10. 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. Knowing you shouldn't have got married in the first place! (See my relationship or marriage compatibility test: Stay or Walk Away)
  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 particularly difficult times from your partner and people that matter to you
  17. Manipulation of, or over-involvement in, your relationships with family and/or friends (see: Getting the Best Relationship Advice)
  18. Lack of communication about important matters (see: The Complete Guide to (Re)Building a Happy Relationship 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 Partner 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 Prison)
  22. Long-term depression or other mental health issues suffered by one partner - or both (see: Natural Depression Treatments)
  23. Significant differences in opinion on how to discipline or deal with the children (see: How Divorce Affects Children and Children in the Middle)
  24. 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 and Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms)
  25. An unsupportive partner during pregnancy and/or significant problems after the birth of your baby, or lack of support with child-rearing (see: How to Deal with a Birth Trauma)

My guess is that several of these will be familiar to you. But your reasons for divorce are likely to include factors that are very personal to you too.

Distress is multiplied many times by certain unhelpful actions and behaviours.

So I'm glad that you're here now, taking the time to find out about the emotional ramifications of divorce. It hopefully means that you're unlikely to engage in any of these negative 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
  5. Delaying tactics
  6. Arriving unannounced on the doorstep
  7. Visiting, texting, telephoning, emailing, when you know you shouldn't
  8. Talking badly of your partner to friends, family and work colleagues (don't forget that at some point the two of you may decide to give your marriage another chance!)
8 Common factors that increase hurt and anger when your marriage is breaking down

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 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.

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.


Common reasons for and causes of divorce probably don't matter to you personally. It's your personal situation that really does matter.  

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. 

You will get through this! :-)

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Before You Divorce...
Do You Recognise Any of These Stages of Alcoholism?
How to find the Best Divorce Lawyer
Children in the Middle
How to Get through a Bad Breakup

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Image courtesy of: Michal Zacharzewski