The Top 3 Reasons Couples Get Divorced, According To Experts

by Eva Taylor Grant
Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock

Getting divorced can be a completely devastating, life-changing decision. It can, however, also be the most healthy choice for a couple that can no longer maintain their bond. Although each experience with divorce is unique, there are, according to experts, certain common causes of divorce that come up again and again over the years.

The problems that cause divorce are a lot more similar, and a lot less tangible, than you may think. Each couple experiences a different series of events before they eventually decided to break up, but the themes that underly these issues tend to similarly get to the root of the human psyche. "There are common threads mainly because human relationships, and what impacts them, are pretty consistent — despite individual differences," David Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert, tells Bustle. While this may be overwhelming to wrap your head around, it is also a good thing; some of these issues are actually things you can get ahead of early in a relationship.

Marriage, however, is a two-way street. "You have the power to create and cultivate the relationship which you desire," certified sex therapist, licensed mental health counselor and couples counselor Chasity Chandler, tells Bustle. "If you can make it work, do the work and make it work. [However,] when things are super unhealthy and irrevocably broken, learn how to navigate the divorce in a way that yields a healthier outcome for all involved." If you can't get past certain common issues with your partner, then divorce isn't a failure on your part.

Here are the top three reasons couples get divorced, according to experts.


Inability To Repair After Arguments

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"Repair" is a buzzword in divorce research, but an important one. A couple who can "repair" after a disagreement actively works to make things better. This, according to famed relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman, is a key to successful marriage.

The inability to repair after arguments, on the other hand, is a common thread in divorce. "While couples may all be fighting about different things, their inability to repair after those arguments leaves them feeling distant and unheard," licensed psychotherapist and owner of The Collaborative Counseling Center, Whitney Hawkins, LMFT, tells Bustle. If a couple can't overcome this issue, then they may not be able to last over the years.


Growing Apart


Growing apart is a very vague concept, but this commonly-cited cause of divorce can often be boiled down to two partners who can no longer, or no longer want to, invest in one another as the years go by.

One major study found "growing apart" as the most commonly-cited cause of divorce among couples. "If a couple doesn't nurture the relationship, then it will stagnate, and the partners will grow apart," Bennett says. "This shows that in many cases divorce isn't about a particular 'last straw' incident or bad behavior, but simply the relationship fizzles." Predicting things fizzling may be difficult, but it is definitely still worth being aware of as an issue many couples face.


Emotional Flooding


Emotional flooding is another relationship problem that Dr. John Gottman pinpointed in his research as a very serious issue that can often lead to divorce.

"Emotional flooding often happens when partners are in a disagreement or talking about something particularly charged," Hawkins says. "Psychologist John Gottman explains that emotional hijacking is our nervous system in overdrive. Something happens during your interaction with your partner that sets off your internal threat-detection system." This incredibly physical response can be stopped in its tracks, but can become a chronic issue in a relationship when every disagreement ends with this sort of emotional response. Many couples who get divorced may not have been able to get past the moment of emotional flooding during conflict.

While no two divorced couples share the exact same story, there are certain variables that experts have noticed tend to lead to the demise of a relationship more than others. Communication issues such as emotional flooding and inability to repair after arguments, plus more intangible issues like individuals simply growing apart, are common threads in many divorces.