Divorce rates have dropped consistently after peaking around 1980. Experts have proposed many theories about why this has happened. But the most persuasive theory relates to the drop in marriage rates. Many couples choose not to marry, and those who do seem to have a greater commitment to each other.
But this does not mean all new marriages will succeed. In Pennsylvania, roughly 7.4 out of every 1,000 marriages will fail each year. Marriages end for many reasons, but many fail due to a few common risk factors.
Risk Factors for Divorce
A successful marriage requires a lot to go right. Love, mutual respect, and compatibility only take you so far. You must also have common values, goals, and commitments so you can jointly manage your children, finances, and work.
Some risk factors that might suggest differences too wide to bridge in a marriage include:
1. Views on Marriage
Spouses with different views on married life will often have differing levels of commitment to the marriage. This might seem like a minor issue. But according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Denver, over 94% of divorced couples cited a lack of commitment as a factor in the breakdowns of their marriages.
To take a few simple examples:
- A spouse who likes spending time with their friends will clash with a spouse who expects more time together
- A spouse who shares everything could resent a selfish spouse
- A spouse with traditional views on gender roles might fight with a spouse who expects a more equitable sharing of household responsibilities
A person’s views can grow and evolve during a marriage. But often, the easiest way to avoid these conflicts is to discuss them before getting married.
Age comes into play in many ways in a marriage. People who marry young have a higher divorce rate than those who wait to marry. According to the University of Denver study, over 61% of couples stated their divorce stemmed from marrying too young.
In many cases, those who married young have a higher risk of falling out of love or growing out of their marriages.
People who marry young can also experience a fear that they missed out on single life. As they grow older, they may look to divorce as a way to have the experiences they missed by getting married.
Age difference also plays a role. Couples with wide age differences are more likely to have different values. These value differences may appear as they deal with many issues married couples face, including finances, children, and health problems.
Differing views on religion can boil over and cause constant tension between spouses. Even if you believed you could bridge these differences when you married, living in a household with mixed religions can prove too much for a harmonious marriage.
One-third of couples blamed religious differences as a factor in their divorces in the University of Denver study. Importantly, religious differences do not necessarily create tension due to differences in spiritual beliefs. Instead, different religions often come with different value systems. These differences in values can often drive couples apart.
4. Economic Status
Economic status comes into play in a few ways. First, financial difficulties in a marriage can create tension that ultimately leads to divorce. According to the University of Denver study, over 55% of couples reported that financial difficulties led to their divorces.
Differences in economic status can also cause tension in a marriage. Suppose one spouse set aside their goals and dreams to work so the other could attend college and build a career. The working spouse might resent the career spouse. And the career spouse might feel they have outgrown the working spouse.
Better-educated spouses have a better chance of avoiding divorce. Spouses with little or no education tend to divorce more frequently. Experts have suggested a few reasons this might happen.
Educational level tends to predict a person’s ability to put themselves into someone else’s shoes. The ability to empathize can make a spouse less likely to argue or hold a grudge.
Education also tends to lead to better job opportunities. Although money does not buy love, it can make a couple comfortable so they can avoid the money problems that can rip a marriage apart.
You might believe a health challenge would bring a couple together. For example, if you suffer a personal injury, you probably expect your spouse to stay by your side as you recover. But nearly 28% of couples in the University of Denver study said that health problems led to their divorces.
Health problems often lead directly to financial problems. Health problems can also burden the healthy spouse as they struggle to care for the ill or injured spouse. And health problems can amplify pre-existing problems in the marriage, including beliefs about religion, death, and the role of each spouse in the marriage.
Couples can divorce over differences in:
- Wanting to have children
- The ability to conceive children
- Raising children
You might think that couples would iron out any differences about children before marrying. But children require a significant commitment of time, money, and effort, and not every person is willing or able to make that investment.
8. Substance Abuse
Drugs and alcohol can affect everything in a marriage, including:
- Division of household tasks
- Child rearing
A spouse who uses drugs or alcohol can commit domestic violence or even abandon the family. Half of the couples polled in the University of Denver study named substance abuse as the reason for their divorces.
9. Prior Divorce
A spouse is more likely to divorce if they previously divorced. This phenomenon can happen for many reasons. A previously-divorced spouse might have high standards that their new spouse cannot meet. The prior experience might eliminate any fear of divorce. And someone who has divorced might approach marriage with less commitment.
Infidelity is one of the top reasons for divorce. Nearly 89% of the couples in the University of Denver study named infidelity as a reason for divorcing.
Approaching Marriage and Divorce
Many of the risk factors for divorce are present when spouses marry. Understanding these risk factors can help a couple decide whether they can stay together over the long term.