Survey: Leading Causes of Divorce

October 12, 2023 K.O. Herston 0 Comments

This article by Christy Bieber in Forbes Advisor should interest my readers.

Leading Causes of Divorce

Even with the best online divorce services, divorce can be a difficult process. That’s why it’s important to understand the signs of divorce and some common causes of divorce.

Understanding why marriages fail can help you to make your own union stronger if you are married, it can guide you in making choices about entering into a marriage and it can help you support the married couples in your life.

Forbes Advisor commissioned a survey of 1,000 Americans who are divorced or who are in the process of divorcing to discover why marriages fail. Based on this data, here are some of the most likely reasons marriages come to an end.

Key Takeaways

  • The majority of divorces are initiated by only one party, with only 27% of respondents indicating the decision to end the marriage was mutual.
  • Most divorces happen between year three and year seven of marriage.
  • Just 4% of couples divorce after 10 years of marriage.
  • Most divorced people—92%—know others who have been divorced.
  • 63% of divorcees believe a better understanding of the commitments of marriage could have helped them to avoid divorce.
  • Lack of compatibility is the top reason for new couples to divorce, with 59% of couples who divorced in their first year citing this cause.

The State of Divorce in 2023

A total of 689,308 divorces occurred in 2021 and approximately half of all first marriages end in divorce, with subsequent marriages failing at higher rates.

When a couple divorces, they must state grounds for divorce in court—this is the reason for ending the marriage and dictates the type of divorce being filed.

Most people choose a no-fault divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. And irreconcilable differences are indeed a common divorce cause, with 31% of couples who ended their marriages reporting that incompatibility was the reason.

However, while simply not getting along is a common reason for divorce, infidelity remains a bigger issue. In total, 34% of marriages among survey respondents ended due to an affair. Adultery is one of the grounds for a fault divorce in court. However, even when an extramarital affair occurs, sometimes the couple pursues a no-fault divorce instead of a fault divorce because it’s simpler.

Other common causes of divorce included:

  • lack of family support,
  • lack of intimacy,
  • too much conflict, and
  • financial stress.

But, while these issues cause marriages to end, couples who divorce don’t always recognize these problems as signs a marriage is in trouble. Just 21% of survey respondents said disapproval of a spouse by family or friends was a sign a marriage was at risk, despite the fact lack of family support was a leading factor in 43% of divorces.

The Most Common Reasons People Get Married

To understand the causes of divorce, it’s helpful to understand the reasons people marry.

Among the divorced couples surveyed, financial security was the most common motivating factor, with 42% of respondents marrying for security.

Women were more likely than men to indicate they married for financial reasons, with 44% of women reporting this led to their union. With a persistent gender pay gap resulting in women being paid 22.2% less than men on average in 2022, it’s unsurprising more women feel the need for a partner to help provide support. Love did come in a close second, though, with 39% of women saying love was their main reason for getting married.

Companionship was also a driving force, with 39% of all survey respondents indicating a desire for a companion led them to marry. This was the top reason for men to marry, with 42% citing it as their motivation. A desire to start a family was the second most common factor for men.

Other reasons couples married included making a commitment, convenience, medical insurance, legal reasons, and societal and family pressures.

The Most Common Reasons for Divorcing

The most common reason for divorce was a surprising one: a lack of family support. However, there were many other reasons for unions to end, with causes of divorce varying based on how long the couple was together.

  • Those who divorced quickly were more likely to end their marriages because they discovered they couldn’t get along. In fact, 59% of people who dissolved their unions within the first year of marriage cited a lack of compatibility.
  • A lack of family support became a bigger issue as time went on. It was the leading reason for divorce among those who ended their marriages within years two through eight.
  • Finally, long-term couples were generally prompted to divorce by very serious issues, with infidelity and a lack of intimacy causing most divorces once a couple had been married for nine or more years.

The Correlation Between the Reasons to Marry and Divorce

When a person is motivated to marry by a specific desire that goes unfulfilled, this increases the chances the union will fail. As a result, it’s unsurprising there is correlation between the reasons to marry and the causes of divorce.

Most couples who married for companionship, financial security, convenience, medical insurance, legal reasons, or a desire to start a family blamed a lack of compatibility for their divorce. It’s not surprising that those who marry because they want a companion are more likely to end a union if they don’t get along. It’s also unsurprising that people who are motivated by factors other than love—such as legal reasons, convenience, or a desire for security—may find they are not compatible with the partner they chose.

Couples who married due to societal or family pressures, on the other hand, were most likely to divorce due to extramarital affairs. These couples who felt pressure into entering into a commitment were less likely to keep it.

And those who married as a formal act of commitment were more likely to end the marriage due to a lack of intimacy. Their desire to cement the relationship via marriage may have been an indicator they felt this close connection lacking even before the nuptials.

Warning Signs a Marriage Is at Risk

Understanding the causes of divorce can show why a marriage ended. But those who are currently married may be interested in the signs of divorce so they can identify when their own marriage may be in trouble.

A lack of interest in each other, poor conflict resolution, and avoiding each other were the most commonly cited signs of an imminent divorce. More than four in 10 survey respondents listed each of these behaviors as worrisome signs a marriage was doomed.

On the other hand, financial stress, marrying too soon after meeting, and marrying too young are the least commonly reported signs of a marriage at risk. This is contrary to popular beliefs that money is a leading cause of divorce and contrary to the popular perception that love at first sight or young love doesn’t lead to lasting relationships.

Most Common Types of Conflict Divorced Couples Experienced

Divorces often follow months or even years of conflict. And there are many reasons for disagreement among the respondents whose marriages ended.

Couples listed career choices as the most common type of conflict they experienced with their spouses, with 46% listing this issue as a cause of marital woes.

Parenting differences, conflicts over division of household labor and relationships with family were also top causes of marital conflict.

Each was cited by more than four in 10 survey respondents as a common reason for fights with their ex.

Less than 5% of Divorcees Say Their Marriage Couldn’t Be Saved

The good news is divorcees generally believe that exhibiting different behaviors could have saved their marriages.

In fact, 63% of people who divorced said having a better understanding of commitment prior to marrying could have stopped their union from collapsing. And 56% said they may not have divorced if they had a better understanding of their spouse’s morals and values. More than four in 10 respondents also indicated their marriages could have been saved by waiting longer to get married and by waiting longer to start a family.

Married couples can learn from these mistakes. And those who have experienced a divorce in the past can also go into their next relationship armed with this valuable information.


Divorce affects the lives of millions of Americans. By better understanding common causes for divorce, as well as common signs of divorce, individuals and couples can make more informed choices within their romantic relationships.

Those who experience divorce should also make certain they understand their legal rights through the process of ending their union and seek assistance from the best divorce lawyers who can help them protect their financial security going forward.

Source: Leading Causes of Divorce (Forbes Advisor, August 15, 2023).

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Survey: Leading Causes of Divorce was last modified: October 1st, 2023 by K.O. Herston

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