Most Common Reasons for Divorce According to the Studies

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Is there a pattern that the divorcing couples follow?

You’ve got your own vision for the most common reasons for divorce, I know. But what does the science say about divorce and is it applicable to you and your ending marriage?

This article is based on a study case by Paul R. Amato and Denise Previti – People’s Reasons for Divorcing, 2003. The study is based on finding the most common reasons for divorce according to the gender, social class, the life course and the adjustment. For the article, I will summarise the facts from the study and will give you shortest version of it.

Please be aware that the conclusions in this article are based on a single study. That means that just like any other study, not everything applies to everyone. There are always exceptions that more or less prove the rules. However, the conclusions in the text are mine.

Men and Women – Who Sees What and When

It is not a very big surprise that women usually pay more attention to the problems in the relationship, they spot them earlier and are more willing to work on communication. At the same time though, women initiate divorce more often than men.

Photo by Asdrubal luna on Unsplash

As most common reasons for divorce women report infidelity as the top reason, which doesn’t mean that men cheat more often. It says that either they’re more likely to be caught or it’s harder for women to forgive a cheating spouse.

Ladies are more emotional, so it sounds normal when we say that women’s reasons for divorce come from the sensitive part of the marriage – betrayal (when been cheated on), lack of love, unhappiness, incompatibility. Of course, we should mention the negative behaviour of the partner – drinking, physical or mental abuse, using drugs, etc.


When we jump to the gents’ world, we can see some surprising facts.

For example, men are usually the once that report they’re not sure why their marriage ended. At this point I ask myself the question:

If wives are so eager to recognise and work on the problems how come the husbands end up not knowing why everything failed?

In favour of the men is the conclusion that they are more likely to blame themselves for the divorce (10%) while the ladies don’t accept blame so easy (1.5%).

Following the statement above, 40% of the women blame the men for the end of the marriage, and 21% of the men blame the women.


To conclude and sum up everything:


– women are fast in spotting the problems in the marriage at a very early stage;

– most of the time women’s most common reasons for divorce are connected to emotional unhappiness, incompatibility, betrayal, disrespect, lack of showing love;

– Women blame men for the end twice more than the men blame women;

– Men are more likely to have no idea why they got to the divorce stage;

– However, after the divorce men are the once that accept easier their fault for the end, not the women.

Your income and education affect your chances for divorce

We know that money is a very common reason for divorce, but it’s much more complicated than you think.

A good education and higher income benefit the marriage, and we don’t need any study to tell us that. The reason behind this is that a better education improves the communication skills hence the communication between the partners is efficient.

High education includes more analytical abilities which help couples to resolve their problems easier. It’s straightforward – higher education ergo more ways to solve one problem.

At the same time, the everyday stress coming from lower income (which usually follows after lower education) is an often reason for conflicts and increases disagreements. So, we can say that money is one of the most common reasons for divorce because the lack of finances simply stresses us too much to enjoy the married life. After all, a successful marriage occurs when both of the partners work together towards better future. Incompatibility in the financial values is an obvious struggle to live with.


Rich’s and poor’s most common reasons for divorce

It’s so uncool to separate the reasons for divorce like that, but the above study points few interesting points about the most common reasons for divorce among the people with higher or lower education and income.

The couples with higher income and education usually point out more relationship connected reasons for divorce:

– Lack of communication;

– Changes in interests;

– Changes in values;

– Incompatibility;

– Grew apart;

– Personality issues.

At the same time most of the external reasons for divorce come from divorced couples with lower income and education:

– Physical abuse;

– Going out with boys/girls;

– Gambling;

– Criminal activities;

– Financial problems;

– Employment problems.

Something that’s not in favour of the people with higher income and better education is that they are more likely to think of divorce when problems occur.

Can we say that smart people give up easier? I’m not so sure about that.

Percentage list of the most common reasons for divorce

Let’s list the most common reasons for divorce according to that study.

Infidelity – 21.6%

Even if we check other scientists’ studies, we will see that usually infidelity is on the top of every list.

Cheating on spouses is like a secret act that everyone is against, but somehow it happens all the time. 

The feel of betrayal after been cheated on is hard to live with. The reasons for the cheat are always different but never good enough. That makes infidelity the most painful one among the most common reasons for divorce.

Incompatibility – 19.2%

I guess it’s very easy to mistake the passion in a relationship with compatibility, even though it sounds impossible. However, finding out that you and your partner are not as compatible as you thought at the beginning says exactly that. All of the emotions, the passion, the big sparkles and dreams of future together very often push away the logical thinking and the obvious hardships.

Compatibility is not only about mutual feelings, but about sharing the same plans for the future, similar financial culture, quality conflict resolutions,  sexual compatibility, strong connection and much more.

Drinking or drugs – 10.6%

Dealing with a partner with alcohol or drug problems is very hard as the threat of financial, physical or mental abuse is always there, in the corner, waiting for an opportunity. 

Using substances to cover, hide, forget a problem is very often a reason for divorce. When one of the partners start falling and doesn’t accept help, doesn’t admit the problem and doesn’t want to make an effort to change, the divorce is the most reasonable decision. Moreover, when there are children involved it’s “the sooner, the better”.


Growing apart – 9.6%

That is one of the most common reasons for divorce among couples that got into the marriage at a young age. Barely finished the high school/college and jumping into the responsibilities of the household, finding the suitable career path, getting to know yourself as an adult and the other as such, is very difficult.

And I am far away from saying that it doesn’t work as I know many people that made it work. However, many times takes years before each one of the personalities in the marriage fully understands their needs in life. Sometimes that doesn’t end well for the marriage.


Personality problems – 9.1%

I guess when it comes to personality problems part of it is the “growing apart” section. However, personality problems might indicate for selfishness in the relationship, change of the behaviour, lack of help and lack of support. 

Lack of communication – 8.7%

I always point out the communication as a key to successful marriage.

Maybe half of the problems above wouldn’t occur if there is proper communication between the partners in a marriage. 

The lack of communication is the first step to resolving problems. Less communication means less support between the partners, which is painful as the support of the spouse is always crucial. No communication says “I am closing my mouth and eyes, I refuse to see, to recognise, identify and think about the aspects of a successful marriage.”. No communication means no relationship ergo no marriage.

Physical or mental abuse – 4.3%

There’s no need for explanation why when there’s an abuse marriage cannot exist. Recognising the early stages of abuse comes with noticing the lack of respect and spotting the manipulation tactics that always come with the abuse.


Loss of love – 4.3%

Sometimes love just doesn’t exist anymore. Well, either it was love or something else, is a matter of another discussion, but the point is that when there’s no love, there’s no marriage. It’s always a good decision for both of the partners to try to find someone to share the real love with.


Not meeting family obligations – 3.4%

You got married, then one day woke up and realised family is not the game you or your partner want to play in life. Unfortunately, it happens quite often.

Marriage is not only lovely family photos on Christmas Eve, but it’s financial obligation, household duties, dirty dishes and screaming kids.

Is it hard? You can bet it is.

Is it for everyone? I am sure it’s not!

Many people are just not good at being married! There’s no better way to say it!

Some of them decide to fight these feelings and hope they’ll go away like a flue. They try to help, try to fit into the picture. There’s always a chance the miracle to happen.

Others just order the divorce papers because the hustle is too much and they can’t be bothered.

Employment problems – 3.4%

Employment problems are very often the lack of permanent job which would provide financial stability for the family. Dealing with a spouse that’s never happy with the choice of career is a pain. 

However, very often the “love for the work” is the reason for families to separate. 89 hours of work weekly could bring financial stability, but it definitely wouldn’t replace the warmth of the other’s body in the bed or the family dinners with the children.

Don’t know – 3.4%

As I said earlier, sometimes people just don’t know where the problem came from. Divorce happens for many reasons, and very often the cause is more than a few factors. 

Unhappy in marriage – 2.9%

Being unhappy in the marriage is a very good reason to divorce. But I guess somehow each one of the reasons above and bellow are causing unhappiness. However, maybe here the study shows that sometimes everything may be normal, but the people are just not happy with themselves and that affects their marriage.

Other reasons for divorce

As the participants in the study usually point out more than just one reason for divorce, there are few more reasons, but I wouldn’t put them into the “most common reasons for divorce” category. 


It was exciting to explore the scientistic part of the marriage. I cannot be convinced that one study could give us a pattern of the divorce. We live in a world that changes us so fast. 

However, for years and years, some of the most common reasons for divorce stay the same. 

Maybe there’s something crucial that the psychologists cannot identify yet. 

Maybe we cannot be changed. 

Maybe we don’t want to change.

Love and marriage are still considered a blessing, but are they as sacred for our spouse as it is for us? Is it the other’s fault or we’ve been blind for ages and finally see the truth?

Every case is individual, and its differences are probably the ones that give us the secrets behind the statistic.

My question is – does someone pays attention to those differences? 

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