“What Really Causes Divorce?”

Sometimes the cause of divorce is quite obvious: cheating, substance abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence. These cases are easy to understand. Many other times, however, none of these factors are present, and yet a marriage has broken down, and papers are filed. Why does this happen? I have a few personal observations based on years of talking to clients, and here are some of the major causes.

1. Incompatible financial goals. Money is at the root of a shocking number of divorces. If both parties do not have the same plans and goals and desires, the marriage can be put under very real stress. If one party is a saver, while the other likes to spend, that’s a built-in and inherent conflict. Resentment builds up as one party thinks that the other is needlessly wasting their money. These are the kind of marriages that often break down when there are financial problems like job loss, economic downturn, the loss of a house, or failure of a business. The stress becomes too great because the partners do not have the same goals.

2. Problems with step-children. In blended families, how to discipline and bring up step-children can be a real issue. Clashing parenting styles become very apparent. One of the most common themes I have seen is when one parent will not reign in an out-of-control teenager. The other parent feels that this is unacceptable, and it breaks up marriages.

3. Post-partum issues. Post-partum depression is real. It is not treated in nearly enough cases. A marriage undergoes significant stress with the birth of a child in the first place, and when you add in mental issues brought on by post-partum depression, the situation can get ugly in a hurry. It takes both partners to support and treat post-partum depression, and often medication on at least a temporary basis is necessary. When one partner refuses treatment, or the other partner does not take it seriously, serious conflict occurs. It is very sad that what should be a joyous event, the birth of a child, can turn into a divorce. It is, unfortunately, quite common.

4. Untreated mental issues. In general, even minor mental issues, if they go untreated, can worsen and become a real problem. Depression, bipolar disorder, or other issues can fester and at some point one spouse may become fed up with what they perceive as a relationship that does not give anything back to them.

5. Incompatible schedules. This one sounds funny, but it is truly not just a problem for celebrities. If you have opposite work schedules, or a heavy out-of-town travel schedule, this can be a real problem long-term. People simply grow apart when they do not spend time together. This should never be a long term plan if it can be avoided.

So what are the lessons from all this? First, communication remains the key. If you are unhappy in your marriage, you need to communicate it clearly and be willing to make changes. Second, you have to listen. If your spouse says they are unhappy, you have to take it seriously and explore the causes. Talking in advance about possible problems will give you a framework for dealing with them when they occur. You don’t have to agree about everything, but on major issues, you have to at least reach a reasonable compromise. And don’t be afraid to get professional help for everything from mental issues, to financial advice, to lifestyle counseling.

DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.

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