Divorce is never an easy decision to come to. Sometimes you might feel like you’re being too emotional, or, on the flip side, that you’re being too pragmatic and ignoring your feelings about your partner. In all honesty, there is no right or wrong, no single or compounded, no practical over emotional, no emotional over practical reason for getting a divorce. Each divorce is unique, and each situation leading up to divorce is unique.
If you’re actively considering divorce or beginning to see the signs that a divorce might be in your future, this post may help you find clarity in a storm of emotions and thoughts. Despite the uniqueness of every relationship, there are some common overarching themes people cite when going into a divorce that cause two people to be unable to move forward in a relationship.
Below are the most common reasons for divorce. We define common or practical reasons for divorce as ones that may not (though sometimes can) affect your emotional attachment to your partner but make the viability of the marriage unlikely.
When you married your partner, money didn’t seem like a big deal. You were probably both broke and young. Practicality comes with age—or, does it? If your partner is in massive debt and that debt is making it impossible for you to do practical things like buying a car, getting a loan on a house, or being approved for credit cards, your relationship may not have a future. If you have a partner willing to take steps to change this—to get an extra job or cut back massively on spending in order to move out of this debt—that’s one thing. But if your partner is completely unwilling to take fiscal responsibility or just won’t grow up and pay their bills, it’s time to find someone more responsible with their money.
2. Sexual incompatibility
Yes, this might seem like it would fit under emotional reasons, but sex is a real physical need and two partners with mismatched libidos or mismatched expectations can lead to an extremely unhappy marriage. When one partner’s idea of normal sexual activity is once a month and the other’s is once a week, that leads to emotional problems like resentment, insecurity, and withdrawal from intimacy. Now this isn’t to say that one partner should be more or less demanding, simply that a mismatch makes for a rocky, and sometimes irreconcilable, marriage.
3. Lack of equality
This isn’t to say that people who follow classic gender roles in their marriage (a stay-at-home mother, for example, and a husband who works) is an unequal situation that will lead to divorce; rather, that one partner in the relationship takes on the brunt of the physical, emotional, or financial burdens with little return so the relationship starts to feel one-sided in one (if not all) of these areas. Are you always planning the dates? Are you the only one paying the bills on time with little to no contribution from your partner? Does your partner ask for emotional support but offers you none? Then you are experiencing a lack of equality, and if things don’t change, a one-sided relationship isn’t one that should continue.
4. Long distance
This one is especially hard because it’s not as if your feelings for your partner have changed, just your proximity. Your partner got a new job. You got a new job. They are on the East Coast and you are on the west, with no chance of reuniting for years down the line. Yes, there are vacations. Yes, you can talk on the phone or Skype together a few times a week. But your partner won’t be there to hold you at night and that matters. For a short period of time with an end in sight, long distance is durable, but when it’s open-ended, it might be better to find a partner who’s in your locale.
5. Physical and emotional abuse
The physical and emotional abuser is, overall, clever with how they treat you. They can break you down but keep your attraction and love for them intact by giving just enough warmth and affection when you are down to make sure your feelings for them never change—or get deeper. Let us be clear here: if your partner is gaslighting and emotionally abusing you, if your partner is physically laying their hands on you, this relationship needs to end. Abuse is abuse, period. This isn’t the easiest thing to do, but take whatever steps necessary to get away from your abuser and find safety before filing for divorce.
6. Mixed religions and little compromise
Some conversations should really happen before marriage, and they don’t. Like whether you will your kids as Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or Protestant in a mixed-religion marriage. And even when those conversations did happen, it could be that one or both partners were simply hearing what they wanted and figured that later, the other partner would convert or give way. Religion is one really hard compromise to make if neither partner is willing to, and that makes sense: your religion and their religion is important. If counseling isn’t working, if neither side can agree, then it might be time to find a partner who does know how to compromise.
We all change over time, but addictions change partners in ways we don’t expect. And this isn’t just addiction to drugs—people can be addicted to video games, work, and even seemingly innocent activities like keeping pets. If one pet turns into five, your partner begs you to start a rescue, and one day you wake up with twenty dogs who are poorly-kept in a house covered in hair, you’re living with an animal hoarder. If your once loving partner gets a new job and works five, ten, twenty, to thirty hours of overtime a week with no sign of cutting back, your partner has just become addicted to working.
This is a fundamental change to the foundation and function of your relationship, and you’re right to question if this relationship should continue if something completely out of the blue comes along and completely changes your way of life with your partner.
8. Trust issues
Early on in your relationship, your partner’s trust issues made sense—their Ex cheated on them, for example. You put up with the text messages while you were hanging out with your friends to check up on you. You were okay with them tagging along to events they weren’t specifically invited to because they didn’t want you going alone. But you’ve proven yourself. You’ve never lied, and you’ve never cheated. You’ve given your partner no reason to distrust you, yet you are under constant surveillance. This relationship isn’t salvageable if there’s no trust at the marriage’s foundation, and you’ve done all you can to prove that you are trustworthy.
9. Mismatched parenting styles
Your partner prefers you be the disciplinarian but won’t back you up on your discipline. Or, maybe you prefer time-outs with a stern explanation of what your child or children did wrong, and your partner prefers taking away toys or access to the TV. Maybe you want your children to work towards an allowance by doing chores, and your partner’s idea of an allowance is that it’s automatic. These are all fairly benign yet varying styles that can lead to multiple fights in child rearing—but there are more extreme examples out there, like one parent not wanting a gun in the home while the other wants their child to go shooting regularly. When it comes to raising kids, if you aren’t on the same page, it can lead to rocky marriages that shouldn’t continue.
10. Family interference
The in-laws were never a dream—you knew that. But what you didn’t realize was that your partner was never going to grow a backbone and stand up to them. So now your mother-in-law rules over all your holidays, constantly pops over and comments on your housekeeping, and generally belittles you with little or no defense from your spouse. It’s not always the in-laws, sometimes it could be your partner’s sibling who’s going through a rough time, is charged with a crime, is an alcoholic or drug addict and just needs a place to stay, and your partner is fully on board with supporting them while you aren’t sure about bringing them into your home. If your partner lets their family get in the way of your relationship and never stands up for you, your wants, and your needs as a couple, it might be time to end this relationship.
Remember, the reasons for divorce listed above are only the most common and by no means the only reasons women seek a divorce. Sometimes the reasons someone seeks a divorce are less pragmatic and tangible, stemming from deep-rooted insecurities or the stark truth that they’ve grown apart from their partner. Whatever your reasons, they can be difficult to come to terms with on your own, and too many women spend far too long feeling stuck somewhere in between—knowing they need to make a change in their life but not what that change should look like for them. At the very least, we hope this list makes you feel seen. You’re not alone, and you deserve to live life on your own terms.
Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For a strategic education and emotional support now, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual divorce support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process. Schedule your 15-minute chat to learn if this education is right for you, where you are in your life, and most importantly, where you want to go.