Why do couples get divorced?
What’s the number one reason couples get divorced? This is a question I’m often asked by both couples I’m working with and acquaintances who find out I’m a marriage counselor. Infidelity? Fighting about finances? A drinking problem? It’s as if they are trying to gage whether or not their marriage is at a higher risk of failing. It can give a false sense of security that as long as there aren’t these “big” problems in their marriage, they’ll be fine. This isn’t necessarily true though and the answer to that question isn’t so black and white. In my experience, the root reason couples get divorced is because there is no connection, or no secure connection. Couples may come to counseling because there’s been infidelity, fighting about finances, or a drinking problem, but these are merely symptoms of a larger problem - a connecting problem.
What do I mean by no connection or insecure connection? You’ve heard me talk about the importance of bonding in my previous posts - that’s what I’m talking about. Connection is related to the bond you have with your partner. When couples are securely bonded, they feel close, safe, and emotionally and physically connected. This is what makes a relationship great and what we all strive for with our lover. Unfortunately, not all couples have a secure bond with their partner for various different reasons.
When people feel distant and disconnected in their relationship, they typically respond in one of two ways - they either pursue or withdraw. For example, a partner may feel anxious when their partner isn’t around or when they don’t feel close. These partners will do different things in response to feeling this anxiety and insecure connection - seeking connection in ways that can come across as angry, critical, or blaming. Other partners might respond to a distant connection by avoiding. These partners both avoid what’s going on inside of them, pushing their feelings aside, as well as avoiding their partner by withdrawing (emotionally and/or physically). Both of these responses - anxious pursuit and avoidant withdrawal create a cycle that many couples find themselves stuck in. When this pursue-withdraw cycle becomes rigid and inflexible, it becomes a barrier to connection. The longer this dynamic is present and the more entrenched the couple becomes in it, the more at risk this couple is of divorcing. In fact, research shows that these couples have an 80% chance of divorcing within 5 years. Sure, big problems certainly play a role in the relationship, but they are often part of the cycle (I.e., affairs and drinking are often withdrawal/avoidant responses, “picking fights” about finances often pursuit responses). It’s also important to acknowledge the cycle as the problem so we don’t fall into the trap that one person alone is to blame for the relationship failing.
Addressing the cycle, addressing the root of the problem, is addressing the connection and this is what’s important! This is what makes or breaks a marriage. So the short and simple answer to “What’s the number one reason couples get divorced?” is an insecure or lack of connection. If your relationship has been hurting for a while, don’t wait until it’s too late. Seeking counseling can help reestablish or strengthen your connection and leave you both feeling happier and more secure in your marriage.