Whether you’ve been married for 30 days or 30 years, even the best marriages can reach the point of no return. It’s not always a gradual “falling out of love,” either. Unexpected circumstances can take you from marital bliss on Monday to an attorney’s office on Friday with little warning. After all, almost 50% of first marriages, 60% of second marriages, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.
While there are countless divorce studies with conflicting statistics, the data points to two periods during a marriage when divorces are most common: years 1 – 2 and years 5 – 8. Of those two high-risk periods, there are two years in particular that stand out as the most common years for divorce — years 7 and 8.
The factors behind a divorce vary widely during these high-risk years, but the data seems to corroborate the notion of the “seven year itch.” Popularized by the 1955 movie with Marilyn Monroe, the idea is that men and women experience a declining interest in a monogamous relationship after seven years of marriage.
The validity of the seven year itch is certainly up for debate, but it’s an interesting psychological theory backed by real data. The median duration of first marriages that end in divorce is just under 8 years, while the median duration of second marriages that end in divorce is around 7 years.
What years of marriage is divorce the least common?
Interestingly, couples who make it past the seven year itch enjoy a period of roughly seven years with a lower-than-average divorce rate. During years 9 – 15 of marriage, parents often report increased relationship satisfaction as they settle into their careers and their children grow older. The divorce rate begins to decline each year beginning with the 10th anniversary, which could be a result of more practical relationship expectations that come with time and experience.
Unfortunately, this second honeymoon period eventually comes to an end for many couples. The divorce rate levels out around year 15, and remains close to the long-term average going forward.
Factors that commonly lead to divorce
Every divorce case is unique, but the circumstances that lead to divorce and separation have a lot in common. Polls of divorced couples often include the following factors:
Many people are surprised to hear that a lack of commitment, not infidelity, is the number one cause of divorce in the United States. This is a general response that envelops several other common factors, but it’s by far the most commonly cited reason for divorce.
Communication is a factor that has a hand in almost every root cause in divorce cases. Whether the ultimate reason is infidelity, financial woes, abuse, or commitment issues, communication problems are likely at the heart of the issue. It’s not always about arguing and fighting, either — the silent treatment can be just as damaging to a marriage. When one partner wants to shout their feelings and the other refuses to engage, both parties wind up blaming the other for their communication problems until the chasm widens beyond repair.
It may not come as a surprise that infidelity is a top-5 reason for divorce, but the unspoken reasons behind why someone cheats on their partner are much more complex than you’d expect. People don’t typically seek out infidelity — rather, the problem usually begins at home with intimacy issues, resentment, inequality, commitment, and poor communication. At a certain point, a friendship at work or in social circles leads to emotional infidelity long before physical infidelity becomes an issue.
Perhaps one of the most unfortunate things about infidelity is that while you can often work your way back from another relationship faux pas, infidelity is an automatic deal-breaker for most people. It’s certainly possible to save a marriage with counseling, improved communication, and lifestyle changes, but these efforts are often unsuccessful when infidelity is the issue.
Financial difficulties are a close second to infidelity in divorce cases. Couples who live paycheck-to-paycheck and struggle to make ends meet are the most at risk, but even wealthy couples can fall to financial woes when their financial goals and habits don’t line up. Dual-income households with a significant gap in income between spouses can lead to a power struggle, which often pushes a marriage to the breaking point.
The interesting takeaway here is that making more money doesn’t remove financial stress from a marriage. Affluence may alleviate the stress of living paycheck to paycheck, but wealth comes with it’s own money problems.
Finding equal ground in a relationship is a challenging, lifelong endeavor. As life circumstances change over time, spouses must constantly reevaluate their place in the relationship, family, and home. When a spouse feels they’re shouldering more responsibility than their partner, or that their partner isn’t giving them the opportunity to pursue their goals and interests, divorce is far more likely.
Physical, emotional, and verbal abuse have no place in a healthy relationship. Abusers are often full of excuses for their behavior, but it’s simply inexcusable. You can argue for saving a marriage under many conditions, but this is one of the few factors that actually should lead to a divorce. With few exceptions, it’s safe to say that anyone would be happier and better-off in a healthy relationship where they’re not the victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse.
Most of these factors can lead to a divorce at any stage of a marriage, but this particular factor is primarily responsible for divorces within the first year of marriage. Often coupled with a general lack of preparation for married life, unrealistic expectations can quickly lead to a lack of equality amongst married partners. Unless the expectations are adjusted to a realistic level, it’s extremely difficult to save a marriage when one or both parties have a completely different vision and goals.
Lack of preparedness
As mentioned previously, a lack of preparedness combined with unrealistic expectations are often the bane of young marriages. This is particularly an issue for young married couples, as studies show show that individuals who marry in their teens have abnormally high divorce rates. However, it can also be an issue for individuals who wait too long to marry, as the same studies indicate those who enter a first marriage in the late-thirties are just as likely to divorce as couples who marry in their teens.