What are good reasons for a divorce?

In order to legally separate, a couple needs to claim reasons for a divorce, also know as “grounds for divorce.” Each state has a differently worded list of claims and slightly different laws, but there is considerable overlap. Adultery, sexual misconduct, alcoholism, mental Illness, withholding sex or carnal abandonment, drug addiction are examples of legally available reasons for a divorce in most states.

Because of no-fault divorce, couples no longer have to prove the “fault” (such as evidence of adultery, etc) of one spouse in order to divorce, and can simply agree to separate by claiming “irreconcilable differences.” Since this popular reason for divorce is vaguely worded, it is difficult to measure exactly why divorces occur. According to an independent 17-year study from Pennsylvania State University published in 2003, the two leading self-reported reasons for divorce among separating couples are:

  1. Infidelity
  2. Incompatibility

The following made up much smaller but still significant portions:

  1. Drinking or Drug use
  2. Grew Apart
  3. Personality Problems
  4. Lack of Communication
  5. Physical or Mental abuse
  6. Loss of love

There are certainly many cases where divorce is the best option for the health, happiness and safety of all involved (read our article on abusive relationships or blog post Should I get a divorce? for more on this). At the same time, many of the common reasons for a divorce are actually fixable problems. Your marriage can recover, grow and prosper by learning the marriage skills needed to improve intimacy, communication and positivity. Let’s look at some common complaints of divorcing couples:

  1. We just don’t communicate very well and can’t seem to resolve our conflicts. This is one of the most universal complaints when couples discuss their reasons for a divorce.  Fortunately, married individuals can learn collaborative communication and decision-making skills for increasing positive collaboration and resolving conflict. Plus, learning these skills will help you in all your relationships, from personal to business.
  2. I just don’t love him anymore. George Bernard Shaw hit the problem with this spot-on: “When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.” The first, wild, passionate stage of love called infatuation and, according to some researchers, it lasts a maximum of 2 years. It can be tempting to take its disappearance as a sign that you didn’t marry “the one” and that your marriage must be over. In fact, love changes over time, sometimes spicy and vibrant, and other times a cooler. Simple habits and activities, though, can re-ignite the spark when you need it.  Sex and intimacy can be improved instead of being reasons for divorce!
  3. He/she’s just not the same person I married. If you are planning to be together for the rest of your lives, prepare for the fact that both of you will change. True, sometimes we do grow into people who are fundamentally incompatible. But many times what’s important in marriage is knowing how to be each other’s cheerleader on your individual journeys. It’s ok to have different interests and beliefs.  Power of Two can teach you how to reconcile your differences instead of having them lead to separation or divorce.
  4. I don’t trust him/her anymore. He lied and made a bad decision, she gambled or cheated… people do make mistakes, and sometimes they are irreparable.  At the same time, many mistakes are learning opportunities that, with the right approach, will never be repeated. Get the skills to analyze your errors and prevent future repeats rather than giving up on yourself or your spouse.

Power of Two’s skills-based approach to marriage counseling has been scientifically proven to help couples rebuild their marriages, even if only one spouse does the program. Sign up for a FREE 3-day trial and start messaging your personal coach right away!

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Funding for this project was provided by the United States Department of Health Services, Administration for Children and Families, Grant 90-FE-0123. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Department of Health and Human Servies, Administration for Children and Families.