Six Surprising Reasons People Divorce – And How To Avoid Them
The three reasons most frequently cited for divorce are infidelity, financial problems and marrying too young. However, during my years as a family law attorney, I found that there are several other reasons why marriages fail that couples can avoid. If one of these issues is affecting you or your marriage, be proactive and take steps to fix the problem as soon as possible. Once divorce is under consideration, it’s usually too late to save the marriage.
1) Traveling for Work or Working Too Much – You’d be surprised by how many divorces are caused by careers that require frequent travel or long hours. Based on anecdotal evidence, I would say this is the second most common cause of divorce behind infidelity. Spending significant time away from a spouse and family creates a rift in a relationship. Couples drift apart because they no longer feel connected; they no longer share common experiences and no longer act like a team. The non-traveling spouse often feels abandoned in the home and solely responsible for the care of children. For the spouse who travels frequently or works long hours, loneliness often pushes them into relationships with others they meet while away.
My unequivocal advice for married couples is to do everything they can to avoid careers that require frequent travel or regular long hours. The extra money will never be worth it if costs you your family.
2) One Spouse Is A Spendthrift or Tightwad – Financial problems are frequently cited as one of the primary cause of divorce, with the implication being that a lack of money is the problem. From my experience, however, marriages don’t usually fail due to a lack of money. They fail because one spouse has an unhealthy relationship with money. Frequently these cases involve parties with significant incomes. In the case of a spendthrift spouse, usually one spouse will be earning a significant income and the other spouse will be spending it as fast (or faster) as it comes in. Any negative change in the parties’ financial situation can trigger financial problems and divorce because the spendthrift spouse will refuse to accept the realities of the situation.
In the case of a tightwad spouse, frequently such couples will have accumulated significant assets due to the spouse’ thrift. At some point, however, the spouse’s thrift will become extreme and he or she will refuse to allow the other spouse to make even reasonable purchases given the parties’ overall financial situation. That refusal will trigger a divorce.
In both situations, the spouses’ psychological relationship towards money becomes exaggerated over time until the marriage reaches the breaking point. If this issue is affecting you, you might try talk things out with your spouse to try to set budgets or expectations. This is a problem that can be easily solved if caught early.
3) Treating Your Spouse Like a Roommate – When I lived with a roommate, we would keep separate bank accounts and split the rent and bills each month. When I married, my wife and I combined our finances and acted like a team, working towards the same goals. It never ceases to amaze me how many divorcing couples had the “roommate” model of finances. Frequently they are surprised when I explain to them that the court won’t view their money as separate. They have been acting as a financial unit all along; they just didn’t know it and their relationship didn’t get the psychological benefit of it.
My advice is that if you are married you should combine your finances. While each spouse should be able to spend some money as they see fit, you have to realize that if you are married, you are a team – both emotionally and financially.
4) Leading Separate Lives – Infidelity is typically cited as a top cause of divorce. Infidelity, however, is usually a symptom of an already troubled marriage. For most couples, it’s also the tipping point that signals the end of their relationship.
Couples who do manage to move past one partner’s infidelity usually take the time to understand why it happened. Cheating is frequently the result of one partner feeling unnoticed, unappreciated or unloved. Loving couples make both social and physical intimacy a priority – even with work, children and chores filling their busy schedules.
When a couple spends less and less time together, they literally grow apart. Spouses can also grow apart when they take on entirely separate roles in the family, such as the traditional breadwinner/homemaker arrangement. Often, when one spouse exclusively stays at home caring for the house and raising the children, that becomes the primary focus of his or her life. The other spouse is often neglected and their relationship suffers. Similarly, when one spouse spends little time at home and takes little responsibility for housework and caring for the children, the stay-at-home spouse’s resentment builds. In both cases, a disconnect grows between the couple
We’re not advocating that you and your partner be together 24/7. Rather, we’re just saying “Make time for the two of you. Just the two of you – without children, pets, or friends.”
5) A Controlling Spouse – A significant amount of the cases we handle involve spouses that I would call “control freaks”. Verbal, physical and emotional abuse often arises out of one partner’s need to control the other. Judith Orloff, MD identifies control freaks as “people obsessively trying to dictate how you’re supposed to be and feel. Their comments can range from irritating to abusive.”
Many of these people have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
To successfully deal with a controller, Dr. Orloff recommends picking your battles and asserting your needs. Don’t sweat the small stuff and focus on “high priority issues that you really care about rather than bickering about putting the cap on the toothpaste.” Again, it comes down to open communication in a caring, direct manner.
However, if your case involves a spouse whose behavior has crossed the line to abuse (mental or physical), my advice would be to get out of the relationship as soon as possible.
6) Depression or Other Psychological Issues – Psychological issues are not frequently cited as a primary driver of divorce. However, my gut tells me that undiagnosed psychological problems are a major factor in divorce. While I am not a psychologist, it’s apparent to me that many people involved in the divorces have an underlying mental illness or psychological problems.
Depression for example, is known to cause marital strife. “Depression that affects one partner has an effect on the other partner, the relationship and ultimately the entire family. Nearly 15 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older, is affected with a major depression in a given year,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. “Depression can lead to other problems,” agrees Constance Ahrons, PhD, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. “Affairs aren’t the only problems. Often, one partner may get so depressed he stops working, and that can lead to a cascade of other problems.” The unaffected partner often has to pick up the slack for the depressed one. That leads to feelings of frustration, anger and ultimately, resentment.
The good news is that most depression and other psychological problems are treatable. People beginning to have problems in their marriage need to seriously consider whether depression or some other potential mental illness is the cause. If that’s a possibility, they need to push their partner to see a therapist.
Bottom line? There are many reasons to get divorced. And one major reason not to: love. If you are committed to making your marriage work, keep trying. Be positive. Have fun.Talk openly to each other. Add a little romance to your everyday life.