Marriage Lie: The primary causes of divorce are …

Ever heard someone say, “more divorces are caused by ______ than anything else” or “the top causes of divorce are _____, _____ and _____”? I did a quick Google search and here are the “top causes of divorce” from the first five “experts” I could find.

Couple at opposite ends of couch |

Note these are in descending order:

Wrong expectations
Mid-life crisis
Little things
Society (makes it easy and “normal”)

Sexual Dysfunction/Lack of Sexual Relationships
Major life change
Adultery; Extramarital sex; Infidelity 
Domestic violence
Midlife crisis
Addictions, e.g. alcoholism and gambling

Poor communication
Financial problems 
A lack of commitment to the marriage 
A dramatic change in priorities 
Failed expectations or unmet needs 
Addictions and substance abuse 
Physical, sexual or emotional abuse 
Lack of conflict resolution skills

Communication Problems
Financial Issues
Forms of Abuse
Marital Infidelity
Sexual Problems

Lack of commitment to the marriage
Lack of communication between spouses
Alcohol Addiction
Substance Abuse
Physical Abuse
Sexual Abuse
Emotional Abuse
Inability to manage or resolve conflict
Personality Differences or ‘irreconcilable differences’
Differences in personal and career goals
Financial problems

See any constancy there? The #1 cause is communication, lack of commitment, or financial issues. Money is first on one list, second on three lists, and 13th on the last list. Three lists make communication the number one cause, while the fifth list does not include it at all. Adultery is rated as 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 4th and 5th. (I did not cherry pick these lists, they were the first five I found with more than three reasons given.)

In truth, there is no way to create a list giving the most common reasons for divorce. Very few divorces are for a single reason; most are more a straw that breaks the camel’s back kind of thing. The last issue may be mentioned to others, or the biggest issue might be mentioned. I suspect many share the reason that makes them look like a victim and their ex look like the villain.

My list of the primary cause of divorce is one word: selfishness. My bride’s one word list is much the same: sin.

Divorce happens because one or both spouses are not willing to do what it takes to have a good marriage. It is rarely all one person’s fault, but more often than not one spouse is far more destructive to the marriage than the other. The one who files for divorce may or may not be the one who is “most at fault”. The wife who files to protect her children from abuse and the husband who files due to on-going adultery are not the ones to “blame for the divorce”.

The real lie here is that divorce is a simple matter, like a disease with a clear cause and set course of infection. The death of a marriage is like dying from blood loss – it can be fast or slow, from one wound or many. If there are multiple wounds, fixing one helps, but may only prolong the process. Additionally, the blood loss can be external/visible or internal/unseen.

Fighting divorce starts with you and your bride. Be on the lookout for things hurting or draining your marriage. Deal with small things before they get big, and deal with big things as if your marriage depends on it – because it may.

Please also keep an eye on the marriages of your friends. Do not ignore clear signs of trouble; you could be part of saving a marriage. Maybe they will blow you off, but if they hear the same thing from several people they respect they may decide to act before it is too late. Do not stay silent out of fear or fear of anger – do something! If you do not speak up and they divorce, how will you feel then?

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10 Comments on “Marriage Lie: The primary causes of divorce are …

  1. My impending divorce is a modern American tragedy. The details are so shocking, I cringe when telling my tale. She and I had a beautiful and passionate relationship that grew into a traditional home schooling family with 7 children and lasted just over 17 years.

    Now? She is 41 and I am 49, she has the children, 60% of the net pay and a 1000 miles of distance between us… I have a room with a buddy, the job, a kind and respectful girlfriend, and peace.

    I did NOT leave my children. I left a disrespectful wife. I did not leave her because of her multiple infidelities (4 men in 16 years), her impulsive and unending wants, her unwillingness to be a consistently ordered home maker or home schooler. I did not leave her because of her physical abuse toward me or her increasing physical and emotional neglect toward me… these were merely the “last straw”. I left her because of her unwillingness to STOP being openly hostile, combative, argumentative, dismissive and ultimately disrespectful toward me. She simply would not stop dominating me. I just couldn’t take it any more.

    I begged her as peacefully as I could saying “Honey, you can say anything to me that you need to say as long as you say it in love. I can handle any thought or disagreement you may have, but lets talk peacefully and negotiate behind closed doors. But after all you have been forgiven, and all the emotional trauma and pain I am still trying to heal from… I need you to be kind and gentle with me. I don’t need you to respect me… just STOP disrespecting me.” She couldn’t do it.

    Willard Harleys work (His Needs-Her Needs & Love Busters) helped me to see how important it is to 1) CARE for your spouses most important emotional needs, and 2) PROTECT your spouse from your self! Unfortunately, my ex abandoned her committment to our marital recovery in favor of a more scripture/”unconditional love” based ideology. I was lectured by her to “love… as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for the Church”, with no admission or acquiescence to the scriptures admonishing wives to have a “quiet, gentle spirit”, or any other godly attribute God lays out for wives.

    This scripturally based, “unconditional” approach does not work in a marriage that is in crisis, any more than the “Co-dependency”, psycho-babble- “lets unravel your childhood” approach would.

    Willard Harleys methodology was our last hope for marital recovery. Ironically, his material was brought to me by my ex when I was leaving her after having just caught her in her last affair in late 2009. I have since thoroughly read and come to understand Harleys method while she simply became “churchy” and increasingly self-righteous. What a shame.

    • Wow more husbands should be as gentle and kind as you
      she was lucky

      I wish my husband was at least half of what you were
      but he had bad anger issues was very unstable

  2. That was fascinating, Paul, because when I first read the question “more divorces are caused by ___”, in my head I heard, “selfishness, selfishness, and selfishness.” (Great minds?) Yep, one or both of the spouses are selfish, want what they want, and won’t humble themselves to do what’s best for the marriage. Great lists, though. Very enlightening.

  3. I don’t understand these lists. Not one of these experts puts withholding sex by, especially, the woman as a top issue. I can only guess it’s because withholding of that important bonding experience causes other flaws in your mate to be magnified and it’s these other issues the marriage counselors focus on.

    A man in our church teaches a 13-wk course that he put together called “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage”. He goes into great detail about the covenant nature of marriage and what that means. He goes into the basis for scriptural divorce (pornea). Then he defines it and interprets in such a convoluted way as to negate it as something that can ever be determined with certainty. He then goes on about selfishness as the root cause of divorce.

    He never once mentions problems with one partner withholding sex from the other as part of the “selfishness syndrome”. As far as I remember, he never mentions “Husbands, love your wives” or “Wives, respect your husbands.” He certainly never mentioned Heb 13:4a which is God’s view of marriage and sex in marriage; nor did he ever mention 1Cor 7:5 where God’s word plainly calls withholding sex from your partner “defrauding” them.This is an interesting twist: What is a virtue before marriage is fraud after the wedding. And who wants to live in a situation where you are defrauded every day, day after day – for the next 50 years with no light at the end of the tunnel? Cruel and unusual punishment!

    If I were a premarital counselor, the first thing I would do when a new couple came to me for counseling would be to turn to the woman and say to her, “You do know that he’s going to want to make love to you lots of times for a long time – as many years as he is able. If you are not eager to satisfy him in this way, break it off today. There is no need in wasting our time.” I truly believe that there are many young women out there who think the whole purpose of getting married is to have a wedding. They never stop to think that tomorrow they are going to wake up next to a real flesh-and-blood man who is going to expect certain things from his bride – and not just for that day only, but for many days to come. When they deny him that expectation and he is just as deprived as he was when he was single, is it any wonder that marital conflict grows?

    My deceased first wife made the comment once in front of a former pastor (he recently reminded me of this), “If you want a happy marriage, sleep naked!” I can tell you from personal experience that she was “spot on”.

  4. From someone that has dealt with infidelity and saw how God healed the issues due to a mind set of work, I am a witness that if you become selfishless, the marriage will be blessed! Thanks for this post.

  5. To the man who is praddling on about sex, firstly not all women are like your wife who is withholding sex from you and secondly have you ever talked to her about this in a decent manner or are you just coming online and telling everyone else? Have you tried marriage counseling? Just going to church and sitting through sermons waiting for answers is not the only way to go about things – you need to actually talk to someone and bring your wife along.

    I’d think if you were eager enough to have sexual relations with your wife it wouldn’t have taken 50 years for you to see that simple answer.


  6. Jeff, you LEFT a woman with 7 kids? Am correct to assume they are yours? And now you have a girlfriend? This site is for men to explore how their generosity, Biblical love, edification, encouragement and Christ-like sacrifice can bring wholeness to our brides, washing them white as snow, enriching our marriage, which is for better OR worse, until DEATH. Your “tale” was pretty one-sided, filled with criticism and or her bad behavior. Have you looked at whether you have been the loving Christ for your bride, living only to serve God by serving her selflessly, placing her good even before your own, being her greatest supporter, cherishing her by placing her second only to God in your life, and leading your family through a mission to serve and worship God and do His will and now your own? When you are willing to lom at your actions and your role in the tragic breakup of your marriage, you will find GREAT wisdom here.

  7. Pingback: An Honest Look at Divorce - Marriage Missions International : Marriage Missions International

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