Top Causes of Divorce & Why Marriages End

Written by Jonathan Breeden

April 25, 2022

In 2019, there were over 2 million marriages in the United States, according to the most recent available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That same year, 746,971 divorces were finalized.

Two recent surveys reveal why “I do” becomes “I don’t.” While they don’t always agree on the order, there are striking similarities.

Read on to learn the top six causes of divorce and what you should consider if you’re thinking about making a change in your relationship status.

Abuse & Addiction

In a University of Denver research survey published in Insider, 33% of divorced couples said that substance abuse – drugs, alcohol, or both – was a factor in getting divorced. For 12% of the respondents, drug addiction was the “final straw” that broke a crumbling marriage.

Your Marriage Comes in 2nd

According to Psychology Today, substance abuse was a leading cause of divorce but so were other forms of addiction, such as gambling or compulsive use of pornography. The relationship addicts have with their drug of choice takes priority over everything else, including their marriage.

When one spouse prefers drinking or using drugs over being with another person, divorce is inevitable.

Financial Struggles

Even if money can’t buy love, it still pays for the necessities. Having to struggle to pay the rent, buy groceries, and pay the power bill are tremendous strains on married couples.

Over 36% of those polled in the University of Denver study admitted that while money directly was not a cause for their marriage to fail, it heavily contributed to the “stress and tension.”

Scrooge vs. Big Spender

Individuals have different ideas on spending and saving. When they get married, their partner might be the opposite. Unless both spouses are willing to discuss and compromise their attitudes about money, financial incompatibility will continue to be a significant cause of divorce.

Married Too Young

According to Psychology Today, people who married young say that they did it for reasons other than love or being ready for a long-term commitment. For some couples, it was an unexpected pregnancy. It was a chance to leave an unhappy family home life for others.

The University of Denver study found that 45% of divorced couples married at 23 and admitted they were not prepared to spend the rest of their lives with the other person.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age of an American bride in 1920 was 21; the average groom was about 24. In 2018, the average age for brides was 27 years. Men averaged about two years older.

Conflict & Lack of Communication

Constant arguing, tension, and stress happen for many reasons. Some married couples lack a sense of equality or balance in their relationship. Whatever the reason, 58% of survey respondents cited conflict as the reason for their marriage’s demise.

Inability to Articulate

Disagreements are often caused by a lack of communication or an inability (or unwillingness) to articulate the real dispute. That’s why many couples repeat the same argument without finding a resolution. Failing to communicate the root cause of one or both parties’ dissatisfaction is a leading cause of divorce.


According to a study conducted by the University of Utah, 20% to 25% of married men admitted to cheating on their wives. About 10% to 15% of wives said that they had an affair.

According to the University of Denver study, infidelity was a “critical factor” in 60% of divorces. Having an affair was also the final deciding factor in filing for divorce.

Forgive and Forget?

Psychology Today calls forgiveness a releasing of resentment and anger. While it is possible to forgive a cheating spouse, marriages that survive unfaithfulness seem to be rare. According to, infidelity is the number one reason for divorce.

Lack of Commitment

The University of Denver study revealed that overwhelmingly, a lack of commitment in making the marriage work was the number one reason for splitting up. Three-quarters or 75% of respondents said that one or both spouses weren’t willing to commit.

No Common Interests

A lack of commitment is often the sign of a stagnated relationship. The longer people are married, the greater the tendency to take the other person for granted. Or one person grows and enriches themselves while the other remains the same.

Psychology Today found that a lack of compatibility, differing goals, and simple boredom contributes to many divorces.

When It’s Over, Talk to a Divorce Attorney

No matter the reason for a marriage’s failure, working with an experienced divorce attorney can make things easier.

The Breeden Law Office has helped countless individuals in North Carolina achieve favorable outcomes for the division of marital property, custody, and child support. We understand the emotional and financial effects of divorce on couples and their children. A divorce attorney protects your rights and ensures a smooth transition from marriage to dissolution.

Call the Breeden Law Office

Attorney Jonathan Breeden dedicates his career to helping individuals and families facing family law issues. He serves clients in Johnston, Harnett, and Wake Counties.

If you have questions or need help from a North Carolina divorce lawyer, call 919-374-8652 today.


Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden