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Why Do People Get Divorced?

Rachel Alexander Feb. 1, 2017

{6:12 minutes to read} First, it should be said, no one divorces lightly. No one has ever walked into my office and declared: “We heard there was a special on divorce. We weren’t considering it, but this deal is too incredible to pass up!

No one comes in because they’ve just had a bad day or are bored. Couples thinking about divorce are despairing. Divorce is an action of last resort.

Many people come to divorce after years, even decades, of bearing their situations. Some clients (and friends) have shared that they knew they had made a mistake on their wedding day, thirty years ago.

Overall, in spite of all the social, economic and inherent incentives to remain married, one or both people are up against something that supersedes all of that. The scales have tipped. Usually the relationship has turned toxic so as to erode its own integrity.

Friends, let us make no mistake, divorce is in no way the best, only or even appropriate option in every instance. Relationships are trying and require attention, commitment and patience. No one should be encouraged to abandon them at first disappointment. Our expectations of marriage and one another are often flawed. But, when a relationship—a marriage—no longer serves the two it is intended to support, staying together may not be the healthy, responsible choice. This article addresses that.


Some relationships contain a low-grade abusiveness, where parties put the other down, use sarcasm, withhold contact or communication. While no one is walloping the other or setting things on fire, nasty remarks and undermining behaviors can have the same deleterious effect over time.


Just as Mark Twain once asserted that “the coldest winter he’d ever spent was a summer in San Francisco;” the deepest loneliness can be found in a marriage that’s failing. When loneliness seems greater with a person then without, people divorce. Marriages that no longer provide connection, or physical intimacy, lose ground.


It’s usually not one incident of infidelity or the infidelity itself, but what underlies, such as chronic disrespect, emotional abandonment (on the part of one or both parties), self-centered behaviors, dishonesty, loss of trust, and so on. Often infidelities are symptoms of marital or individual issues that have gone unaddressed.

Financial Challenges

As with infidelity, it is usually not just encountering financial challenges that result in a divorce, but the way the parties are able or unable to communicate or work together and problem-solve around money issues. No one is at his best under constant stress, and the strain of ongoing money worries can erode a relationship.

Loss of Authenticity

When one can no longer be who he is and remain in the marriage. When the relationship offends someone’s sense of self in one’s life. When one feels her very life force is losing its air to the marriage, she may need to leave.

Unattended Problems

…Do not go away, and few people can let things roll off their backs easily. and few people have backs off which things easily roll. It’s usually good to find a way to address things that bother us if we are not able to dismiss them as meritless or meaningless and give them no more thought. If we get a bodily sense about something, it requires our attention.

One bad fight, or some dramatic event that is an aberration, normally does not end a marriage. However, when the same problems need addressing repeatedly, two people could be up against a significant difference that is there to stay.

I remember someone saying, “Mediation. Why would you want people to get divorced? You should be encouraging them to stay together [for the children]. Why would you want to make divorce easier?”

Because access to all care should be easier. Because there is no moral imperative compelling divorcing people to be put through a punishing process. All people who are in pain and need should be able to access a remedy without undue cost or impediment.

Divorce emerges as an option after things have unraveled, often over many years. The relationship typically is in death throes; spouses feel they have no other choice.

When there are other choices, we explore them in mediation.

Sometimes spouses adhere to the marriage based on their bonds to things other than one another. Even if the relationship is floundering or lacking, when both people have a strong investment in the system of marriage, they may well remain together. It is their way of life; there are grandchildren.

Perhaps unhappiness is the real reason that people divorce. When the relationship is identified as the cause of unhappiness or an inhibitor to happiness, people are moved to action. As well they should be.

I believe relationships are meant to support one another’s wholeness, not diminish it. I’d like to see us all move toward holding one another, and our connections to one another, in highest regard. That, in fact, might be the antidote to divorce.