Divorce Trends: Understanding the Main Reasons Behind Relationship Breakdowns

Divorce Trends: Understanding the Main Reasons Behind Relationship Breakdowns

Apr 03, 2023
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While the divorce rate has decreased in recent decades, hundreds of thousands of divorces happen each year in the U.S. Marriages fail for many reasons, and the following are some of the trends our divorce attorneys see regularly. 

Infidelity and Betrayal: A Leading Cause of Divorce in Recent Years

Many men and women have filed for divorce upon discovering that their partner had been unfaithful. According to statistics released by the General Social Survey, 20 percent of married men and 13 percent of married women have reported having sexual relations with someone other than their partner. As it stands, infidelity is a leading cause of the breakdown of marriages across the country.

What is Infidelity?

Infidelity is the act of being unfaithful to your spouse or partner. Synonyms for infidelity include cheating, adultery, straying, and having an affair. When a partner cheats, they can be said to be violating their relationship’s sexual as well as emotional exclusivity. 

Types of Infidelity

Each case of infidelity is different and is meant to fulfill a certain need. While getting to know why your partner cheated may not alleviate the pain and agony, understanding and rationalizing the issue can help take away the confusion. 

In psychology, five types of infidelity have been identified:

Opportunistic Infidelity

This happens when a partner succumbs to the sexual desires roused by someone other than their significant other, even though they’re in love and attached to their significant other. This type of infidelity may be triggered by alcohol or drug use or some other risk-taking behavior that puts the cheating partner in a vulnerable position.

As the name suggests, opportunistic infidelity is typically not premeditated—it happens when a partner is thrown into a situation they had not anticipated. And the more in love the person is with their spouse, the more guilt they’re likely to experience after their cheating episode.

Romantic Infidelity

This is the type of infidelity that happens when there’s some emotional distance, leading the cheating partner to feel less emotionally attached to their significant other. While both partners may be committed to their marriage and try to make it work, the lack of an intimate and loving connection may be too much to bear. 

However, the marriage might still survive because of both partners’ commitment. For this reason, the affair may mean pain for both the cheating spouse and their lover, as they may come to understand that their affair is not enough to break the marriage.

Obligatory Infidelity

This type of infidelity happens when one partner feels obligated to cheat in order to obtain approval. It’s not that they are not in love with their partner; it’s just that they may fear rejection by a potential lover. The strong need for approval from this potential lover then leads them to cheat, even though they don’t feel like it.

Conflicted Romance

Conflicted romance infidelity happens when a person is in love with and/or sexually attracted to more than one person at the same time. In spite of the idealistic notion of people only being romantically attracted to one person at a time, it appears that falling for multiple people at the same time is quite common. In many cases, the cheating partner ends up hurting everyone when their affair is exposed.

Commemorative Infidelity

This type of infidelity occurs when one is not quite in love with their partner. There’s no sexual desire or emotional attachment, only a sense of obligation to stay together. As such, both partners experience a sense of dissatisfaction in their union.

When a partner decides to cheat, they can easily justify it by telling themselves that they have the right to seek love and romance elsewhere. Unfulfilled sexual needs are often an issue here. 

 

Communication Breakdown: Why Failure to Communicate is a Major Factor in Divorce

Good communication is essential to the success of every relationship. Having communication difficulties is widely cited as the number one cause of divorce in the United States. 

While the beginnings of a relationship often feel magical, it does take some work to maintain a relationship once the honeymoon phase is over. This is particularly true when you hit a rough patch. When this happens, it’s important that you don’t take sides against each other; rather, see yourselves as partners looking for a solution.

Communication issues often persist for a long time before a marriage comes to an end. If you and your partner are constantly arguing on matters big and small, or you are giving each other the silent treatment, it is important that you acknowledge the problem and start looking for better ways to communicate.

A breakdown in physical intimacy can either cause or be a symptom of poor communication between couples. This can, in turn, affect other areas of the relationship, leading to even more communication problems.

Communication problems often include:

  • Constant criticism of the other person
  • Blaming the other person instead of working on a solution
  • Becoming condescending
  • Lack of appreciation or positive feedback
  • The silent treatment—choosing not to discuss issues

 

According to researchers, there are four kinds of communication problems that usually lead to divorce. These are:

  • Criticism—attacking or criticizing your partner’s character
  • Defensiveness—coming up with excuses or playing the victim, often in response to criticism
  • Contempt—lowering your partner’s sense of worthiness through disrespect
  • Stonewalling—Shutting down or completely withdrawing from your partner in contempt

 

Criticism

This usually happens when one partner complains about something or asks the other partner to change their behavior. Statements typically start with a “You” and end up sounding like an attack.

Contempt

This happens when a partner is voicing their opinion and trying to get the other partner to change their behavior. This may be done through a sarcastic comment, mimicry, ridicule, or body language. Because one assumes a sense of moral superiority, the other partner may end up feeling despised or worthless.

Defensiveness

This is the most common response to criticism when the partner under attack feels victimized and reverts the blame back to their partner or some other person. This style of communication is hardly helpful; it only magnifies the problem, while the complaining partner might feel unheard.

Stonewalling

Stonewalling means completely shutting down and withdrawing from any form of communication. It is a common response and can become a bad habit. There is another way you can cope with your partner’s show of disrespect, which is to confront the issue and work collaboratively with your partner. Turning away and ignoring the issue will not solve the problem—it’ll only make things worse.

Impact of Lack of Communication in a Relationship

Couples struggling with poor communication in their relationship usually experience unresolved conflict, which makes it difficult to manage such stressors as work, finances, sexual intimacy, and children.

Healthy communication helps create space for both partners to share their opinions and feelings, express their desires, and learn how to handle conflict together. This ultimately helps the couple feel more emotionally connected.

On the other hand, when a couple is struggling with poor communication, both partners feel less emotionally connected. They may feel like they’re alone in the relationship and somewhat pessimistic about the longevity of their relationship. They may develop relationship anxiety and resentment in the marriage, ultimately increasing the likelihood of a separation or divorce. 

 

Financial Strain and Disagreements: How Money Issues Can Lead to Relationship Breakdowns

Money issues are yet another big factor in many divorce cases. Arguing about money every now and then hampers many marriages. While love may have driven two people to marriage, it is not the only reason for them to stay together. Couples commit to their marriage because it helps sort out their needs and support their dreams.

Considering that about a third of adults report that finances are a huge source of conflict in their marriage, it’s little wonder then that money problems are a leading cause of divorce

To better understand the issue, here are 6 of the most common financial issues that ail many marriages:

 

What’s Mine vs. Yours or Ours

Sometimes couples decide to split the bills when they can’t seem to agree on how to handle their money. Once the bills have been paid, each person is then free to spend the balance as they wish. While this sounds like a reasonable way to go about things, the process may foster resentment over the things that each individual is able to purchase. And with spending power divided, the financial value of the marriage is watered down. 

Bill splitting also means that it’s difficult for the couple to make long-term financial plans, such as buying a home. Also, what would happen if one partner loses their job? Or what if one partner cuts back on their work hours or takes a pay cut after changing jobs? Such issues can cause financial infidelity, where one partner hides their money from the other.

Debt

A lot of people enter a marriage with financial baggage, from school loans to car loans to credit cards. If one spouse has more debt than the other—or if one is debt-free—tempers can start to flare up when they get around to discussing how they plan to spend their income and service debts. Your partner’s debts will not hurt your credit rating. However, in most states, debts incurred after marriage are jointly shared by both spouses.

Further, some spouses might build up debt during their marriage without the other partner knowing for some time. When the debt is discovered, it can become a serious problem, especially if one spouse is concerned they will be responsible for half of the debt. 

Power Dynamics

Power dynamics often happen under one of these four situations:

  • One partner has a job, and the other is unemployed
  • One partner earns substantially more than the other
  • Both partners want to work, but one remains unemployed
  • One spouse comes from a well-endowed family, and the other does not

Under one or more of these scenarios, the one earning the money (or earning more than the other) may want to take charge of the couple’s spending priorities. Although this may seem like the rational thing to do, it is important that the couple understands that they need to work as a team.

Personality

Personality plays an important role in habits and discussions about money. Even when the couple is debt-free, there’s the age-old issue between savers and spenders, which can play out in different ways. It is important to know what your partner’s habits are with money, as well as your own habits, and to openly talk about your differences.

In a nutshell, some people prefer to save their money and may be seen as risk-averse and cheapskates, while others are big spenders who’ll want to make a statement every now and then. Those that like to shop big may rack up debt, while savers choose to delay gratification and keep the money or invest it for future self-sufficiency. Whichever profile you fit, it’s important for you and your spouse to recognize bad habits and deal with them accordingly.

Children

Food, clothing, and shelter aside, there are many other responsibilities that come with having children. Things such as designer shoes, ballet lessons, prom gowns, cars, and college education are but a part of the long list of child-related costs.

Having children is not just about the cost. If one partner loses their job or cuts down their work hours, couples should sit down and discuss how that affects their finances and what they can do about it.

Extended Family

When it comes to extended family, things can get tricky with regard to finances. Take, for instance, your partner’s mom wanting a vacation in Miami. Or their parents asking for a new car. While one partner writes a check for those things, the other wants to know why they can’t put that money to some other use. “Why a vacation for your mom and not one for us?”

Extended family can be quite a challenge, and no piece of advice can address every situation you face and the emotions that come with it. Even if you’re on the winning side of an argument with your spouse, you do not want to live with a frustrated, resentful partner.

Changing Social Attitudes and Expectations: Why Couples Are More Likely to Divorce in 2023

In our modern world, a lot has changed compared to how people did things in the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, and so on. For example, a lot more women are in the workforce and able to support themselves financially. This makes them less dependent on men for their upkeep and freer to leave a relationship when it’s not satisfying.

Here are two examples of changing social attitudes and expectations that make divorce more likely to happen today:

Changing Gender Roles and Feminism

Women’s position in society has been changing for some time now, and this has impacted divorce rates. Gone are the days when many women did not have a paid job—about 70% or more women now do, compared to less than 50% in past decades. The feminist movement has been on for some time now and is credited with changing how women are viewed today. Some feminists have gone as far as saying, “Anything a man can do, a woman can do better.”

Advances in contraception have also made an impact. Thanks to contraceptives, many women today can avoid unwanted pregnancies, and those that are without children in a marriage feel freer to leave when things are not working.

Postmodernism

Both traditional values and religion have declined in the United States. For this reason, people do not feel bound to a set of social values that compel them to stay married, and there’s less of the social stigma that comes with getting divorced. Additionally, the rise of consumer culture supports the idea that each individual can choose the kind of lifestyle they want.

Many marriages today are based on love (or the idea of it). This is to say, if one or both partners fall out of love and the relationship is not fulfilling, the partners can choose to go their separate ways. They decide not to stay together out of a sense of duty, all thanks to changing social attitudes.

Now more than ever, there are more opportunities for individuals to make decisions in every aspect of their lives, and this increased choice may also increase conflict between partners, which helps explain the high divorce rate in modern times.

 

Contact Us Today to Speak With a Texas Divorce Attorney

If you are filing for divorce in Texas, whether contested or uncontested, it is vital to have dependable legal counsel by your side. At Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Fort Worth Family Law, we have a combined experience of more than 75 years of helping clients navigate the complexities of divorce cases.

What you don’t know now could hurt you for a long time to come. Call us today at 817-476-7964 or fill out the contact form on our website to schedule a consultation.

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Constance Mims

Constance Mims has over fifteen years of experience practicing exclusively family law. Mrs. Mims is Board Certified in Family Law, by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She is Collaborative Law certified and is a shrewd negotiator, not to mention her experience in the most challenging child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, alimony, prenuptial agreements, and divorce issues, both in court and in the appellate arena.

Contact Us Today!

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Constance Mims who has over 15 years of experience practicing exclusively family law. Mrs. Mims is Board Certified in Family Law, by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization..

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