Most Common Reasons Couples Break Up

November 15th 2016

You've likely heard the oft-cited statistic that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. With such a high rate of divorce, it's easy to wonder why so many unions don't work out.

Whether you're currently single or in a relationship, you could probably benefit from knowing the most common reasons couples break up. Terry Gaspard, a licensed therapist who specializes in relationships and divorce and co-creator of the blog "Moving Past Divorce," discussed with ATTN: the five major reasons couples call it quits and shared some great advice on how to work out the issues that can be resolved.

1. You have developed a harmful relationship pattern. 

One of the main causes of divorce is a pattern known by psychologists as "demand-withdraw," which is when one person makes a request or gives a criticism to their partner, who then becomes defensive and distant, according to Gaspard.

A couple practicing this harmful pattern will eventually face an erosion of love and trust due to a lack of emotional and sexual intimacy that often comes from being in harmony with each other. 

2. Playing the blame game.

Placing the blame on one another when issues arise is another common reason why couples split, according to Gaspard. Psychological researcher John Gottman, world renowned for his research on marital stability and divorce prediction, reported the leading causes for divorce as criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling in his book "The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work." But Gaspard offered some advice on how to break out of this pattern:

"Instead of focusing on your partner’s flaws and looking to blame him or her, try spending your energy fostering a deeper connection. Stop assuming the worst of your partner and put an end to demanding your partner change. Instead, focus on your needs and how you can communicate them in a loving, respectful way. Take responsibility for your part in a problem – none of us are without flaws."

3. The presence of emotional, verbal or physical abuse in the relationship. 

A blog post on The Gottman Institute website details different forms of violence that can occur in a relationship, noting that 50 percent of couples seeking therapy have dealt with violence, whether or not they admit it. The Gottman Institute explained two types of abuse:

"Battery is a form of abuse where the primary aggressor employs violence ranging from pushing to relationship rape, to homicide, to enhance the aggressor’s control over their partner, leading the partner to modify their behaviors in daily life. Situational violence occurs most often with couples who lack conflict resolution skills. Generally both partners feel remorse, understand the impact, and internalize the blame."

Gaspard added, "For the most part, experts agree that any type of abuse erodes feelings of security, trust, or sense of belonging in a relationship and these issues can’t be resolved in the context of a marriage." 

If you or someone you know has experienced some form of domestic abuse, emotional or physical, from a spouse or significant other, please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). 

4. Infidelity.

Infidelity is all too common, according to Gaspard, and when it occurs, it raises questions, such as: "Should I stay?" "Can trust be rebuilt?"

The answer to those questions depends on the couple and their willingness to repair the relationship, as well as assessing the seriousness of the threat. "For instance flings – which can be a one-night stand or go on for months – are the least serious type of affair and romantic love affairs –think 'Casablanca' – pose the greatest threat to a marriage," Gaspard explained.

While acknowledging betrayal may be the worst challenge a couple faces, The Gottman Institute wrote that in order for a couple to recover after such a betrayal would require accepting and believing the partner who cheated truly regretted his or her infidelity, which might take several reassurances. In addition to ending the affair and any communication with the other man or woman, the partner of the person who cheated must also communicate what he or she needs to repair the relationship, such as transparency about their whereabouts and companions.

5. Your needs for sexual intimacy are vastly different from your mate and/or you rarely have sex.

“Whether it is him or you that has lost interest, a lack of regular intimacy in a marriage is a bad sign. Sex is the glue that binds, it is the way us adults play and enjoy each other,” wrote Cathy Meyer, a relationship coach and divorce blogger, on her blog Divorced Moms.

Gaspard also stated that a sexual connection is important in every relationship and that this type of problem could indicate your marriage or relationship is in trouble.

Some general advice...

Gaspard noted, "It’s important to create daily rituals of spending time together, show physical affection, and learn to repair conflicts in a healthy way. Practicing emotional attunement while relaxing together can help you stay connected in spite of your differences." 

Share your opinion

Have any of your relationships ended because of one of these reasons?

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