What causes divorce?

Broken Heart © Arsgera | Dreamstime.com

I’m going to spend a few days talking about why divorce happens. The more we know about why it happens, the better we can avoid it. Note that this is not about what are and are not acceptable reasons for divorce, but rather about the reasons divorces happen. Being divorced for an unbiblical reason is not really any better or less painful than being divorced for a biblically sound reason.

Finding a definitive list of causes of divorce seems impossible. One “study” lists abuse as the number one reason women divorce, while the next gives ten reasons for divorce and does not include a listing that includes abuse in any way. Asking people why they divorce is problematic – the husband and the wife will often give very different answers, and for reasons of shame and pride, it’s likely one or both will lie – or at least “spin” the truth in a way that obscures the truth.

Money has long been cited as a primary cause of divorce, but the MSN article Money isn’t the culprit in most divorces strongly challenges this idea. Jan Andersen wrote his doctoral dissertation on this issue, and fully expected to find that money problems were a major factor in divorces. Instead, the only strong link he could find between divorce and money came from a study done in 1948! Certainly money problems cause stress, and that stress is sometimes enough to kill a marriage that would otherwise survive; but it seems money alone is rarely the cause, or a primary cause, of divorce.

One article I found made the excellent point that most divorce is caused by “Lack Of”. A lack of trust, a lack of respect, a lack of sex, and so on.

In my mind divorce is the cumulative result of failing to act quickly and decisively as problems arise. While something like an affair can cause a sudden desire for a divorce, most divorces are a result of many things over months and years. Most divorce is the death of a marriage by 1000 cuts. Failure to deal with things results in ever-increasing resentment, frustration, anger and/or despair. Left unchecked, this is a divorce in slow motion.

One very good way to avoid divorce, or never even get close to it, is to stay current with problems. Keep working on a problem until it is resolved to the satisfaction of both of you. If you can’t resolve something alone, get help. Don’t let fear or pride kill your marriage!

Image Credit: © Arsgera | Dreamstime.com

11 Comments on “What causes divorce?

  1. All it takes is for one who said “I do” before God and the collected witnesses to say “I don’t” anymore, and pretty soon, you’ll be divorced.

    The one who chooses to divorce their spouse, especially when the go about it by having an affair, or just walking out without ever having said they were thinking something was wrong, or said things were fine when the abandoned spouse asked years before the wayward walks, or some combination. Anyway this is just like the Prodigal Son when he said he wanted his share of the inheritance. Effectively, they are saying, “I wish you were dead.” They want the resources, but don’t want the burden or responsibility of being a spouse to the one they’ve left.

  2. The best thing my wife and I ever did, and the advice I give to any friend or family getting married, is to make a promise before the wedding that divorce was not a word in our vocabulary. It doesn’t exist, it’s not an option.

    There have been one or two rough patches where that would have been the easy choice, but because it’s wasn’t a choice, we persevered and made it through together.

    • That has to be about the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Not that you came up with it. Platitudes like this have been floating around for years and have given us a divorce rate of around 50%. Way to go Ross.

      Why don’t we try this out with Hell, and see how that works. We can all just believe it doesn’t exist, so then we don’t have to worry about it. Or better yet, let’s apply this to marriages. Why don’t you ignore divorce when your wife cheats on you, or sexually abuses the kids. Or maybe she just ignores you and walks out of the marriage altogehter.

      I think we should keep divorce an option because God gave us divorce in the Bible as an option. If you have anything that trumps that, let me know.

    • Ross I am really glad that this worked for you. Keep on telling people about it because you never know when you will connect with someone for whom it will also work.
      But, realize that for the most part (75%) people will realize that if you are willing to break your vow to God you are certainly willing to break your vow to your spouse.
      Some people will think your suggestion a dumb idea. Some people will be angry that you even say something so preposterous (I tend to be in this group) but I say keep on testifying to what worked for you. It is the most productive thing you can do.
      Good luck

    • I don’t know if not making it a word in your vocabulary is realistic. However, saying you will not use the thread of divorce as a hot-button is a laudable goal.

      However, since such vows are as easily broken as the marriage vow before God and the gathered witnesses in the congregation, I don’t see what value it has.

      My ex-wife and I largely agreed to the same thing. Promises to be faithful one to another, promises not to divorce.

      Didn’t really stop her from having an affair or filing for divorce. So don’t put your faith in such promises. It may turn out to be misplaced faith.

  3. Good point about money. No one ever improves financially because of divorce.

    • Actually it can. That was the ONE good thing about my divorce. Not only was my ex-wife unfaithful, but paying child support each month is far cheaper than what she spent.

      So for me, even paying the child support, and it’s a 4 figure child support, is cheaper than having remained married to my ex-wife.

      For her, not so much. Since she makes about 20% of what I make, it’s quite a step down for her.

      But don’t assume it’s always bad financially for both. If you have a high earning saver married to a low earning or stay-at-home spouse who can outspend your earnings, the divorce may be a good thing financially.

      Of course I had my ducks in order and the assets I had before we married came off the table during the property split. So she got a percentage of the debt largely she rung up.

      I completed the divorce with ZERO debt except the mortgage. She got her percentage of the debt based on the date she walked out. I paid off 75% of the debt during the divorce proceedings since she was sponging off her affair partner, and kept the other 25% out of her share of the equity of the marital home that I kept.

      That was the ONLY good thing about my divorce, financial freedom and a far better state the day the divorce was final compared to the date she walked out.

  4. I’ve yet to read how to stop the divorce once a spouse wants one. So let’s say we have a guy who is here facing the situation I faced years ago. The guy’s wife walks out, maybe she’s having an emotional or even physical affair. She refuses to go along with the professional help suggested and basically believes that he’s the problem, and the solution to her problems is anyone other than him. His church will not get involved, will not confront his wife using the guidelines of Matthew 18 where the church is to confront a member openly sinning.

    So what does that guy do to prevent the divorce he neither asked for, nor even knew was coming, let along he didn’t want?

    • Unfortunately, there is nothing he can do, to stop her from legally filing for divorce.

      This was my situation 4 years ago. I read lots of books on the subject, and was blessed enough to have couple of great counselors to walk me through this. There are 2 things he can do to “hopefully” get through to her. 1) disconnect from her totally (cut all communication and use a mediator to talk about kids, etc), hoping that it might shock her into “coming to her senses” (Luke 15), or 2) continue to be kind to her (like Christ loving me, a sinner), hoping it will lead her to “repentance”. There is no guarantee that any of these will work, but which ever is chosen, he has to be consistent at it for a extended period of time. He cannot go back and forth.

      Which one to choose? Since the key to the whole thing is consistency , and it is extremely hard to do, he has to choose the one that fits who he is.

      In the mean time, he should focus on becoming emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially healthy as a child of God, who is deeply loved by God.

  5. @Tony – The short answer is it’s very difficult. It happens, but not often. I’ve also seen a couple get back together after the divorce.

    If the one how was left did much to contribute, there is some hope that he or she can get another chance by working very, very hard to change. Occasionally leaving for good is a wake-up call, but too often the person chooses denial and loses any chance they might have had.

    If the fault is primarily that of the one who left, the chance to reconcile are even lower. If he or she left for reasons their spouse did not contribute to, then their spouse can do nothing to change the situation.

    I am fully aware that some (many?) churches won’t get involved. To some degree I would say that lack of willingness to get involved is a factor in the divorce in the first place – why didn’t the church see and intervene?

    There are ministries devoted to this. Search for “Stand for your marriage” and you will find a number of groups. Some are very good, some I find scary – but I say that as someone who has never walked that path, so what do I know?

  6. “Most divorce is the death of a marriage by 1000 cuts.” Agreed. That and by an unwillingness by one partner to share their feelings and to work as a team to correct those things that bother one partner or the other. Whatever the reason, separation (and divorce – I’m just separated – no papers filed yet) is a miserable state of being, and every day requires all the strength I can muster just to get from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night.

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