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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Why Do Couples Divorce?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 20th 2012

Why Do Couples Divorce?If we ask the question, "Why Do People Marry?" as we did in a recent post, then we must ask, "Why Do People Divorce?" Given that we now have a more than 50% rate of divorce, this is a very relevant question. Here are some of the theories and explanations that have been advanced.

First, during the last two hundreds years, the purpose and focus of marriage has changed. There was a time when marriage was an economic and political arrangement designed to advance the interests of both families. With few exceptions, romance had little or nothing to do with the arrangement. Consequently, there was a lot of external pressure and influence put on the couple to remain together and raise children who would then carry on those same family businesses and political interests. Societal pressure was even more firmly applied through religious institutions that viewed divorce as sinful.

With the movement toward women's equal rights, modern birth control methods, the dissolution of the extended family, rapidly changing times and a world that became and continues to be extremely mobile, all of the glue or societal influences that came to bear on marriage by and large, dissolved. Did anything replace these external pressures on people to marry and stay together? The answer is, "yes."

The previous two centuries have seen a shift in the purpose of marriage away from business and politics, and towards romance. Love is now the dominant factor that motivates marriage. Along with the fact that men and women live apart from their families and make their own decisions, there are far fewer binding influences on marriage than before. In other words, nuclear and extended family members live far away, they often are divorced themselves, and can do little to influence who their children choose to marry. The influence of religious institutions has waned as society has become more secular and divorce is now fairly easiy available to those who wish to dissolve or annul the marriage. In addition, divorced people no longer face the hostile and disapproving world that they once did if they ended the marriage. Many people choose to remarry, live single, move in with single friends or co habitate with a romantic partner.

"I am no longer in love," is often the explanation given by those dissolving the marriage. Of course, underlying this explanation are much more complex factors. What are these factors?

Money and sex are two of the biggest causitive factors for divorce. If two people don't share the same attitudes and values with regard to handling money, sharing sex, and being romantic, the marriage is on the road to disaster. While spouses always go through adjustments in their sexual arrangements and level of satisfaction, if they are not compatible, things will not work out. Some areas of incompatibilty have to do with unequal libidinal desires. For example, if one partner wants sex every day but the other is either indifferent or wants it once per month, there is then a huge gap that will be impossible to bridge. These very same things can be said with regard to money, sharing, saving and spending. If one wants to save for a house but the other is an impulse spender, then, another gap exists. Often, divorcing couples experience both problems at the same time.

Romance itself exerts a pressure that can lead down the road to divorce. Couples enter the marriage with passionate feelings, both sexual and amorous. These ardently experienced feelings often set up unrealistically high expectations for the couple. As life continues, after the ceremony, the passion and excitement must, inevitably, wear off. The inevitability stems from the fact that it's impossible for anyone to maintain such a higl levels of excitement on a continous basis. Energy must be available for work, having and raising children and coping with the real world of bills, house-cleaning and cooking.

The ideal is for this passion to gradually find balance in affection and a deeper type of intimacy filled with empathy and mutual generosity. Sex remains a vital part of marriage. However, it is now enhanced with better technique, being more in tune with the preferences of the partner and with an ability to quickly understand and respond to the nuances of the other person. This is why surveys show that couples married for a long time report greater sexual satisfaction as compared to those married less time or those who are single. When this doesn't occur, people often go looking for other partners for sexual contact.

In fact, extramarital sex is one of the leading causitive factors for marital dissolution. The feelings of betrayal, being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, and broken trust pave the road to termination of the relationship.

It needs to be stated that, for those coming to marriage from divorced families, the chances of marital success are diminished. Evidently, the role model of a broken marriage exerts a powerful influnce on the children who will one day marry.

Your thoughts, comments and opinions about divorce are strongly encouraged. Also, please take part in our forum, The Marriage Corner.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Pornography and Marriage do not work - - Jan 23rd 2012

Porongraphy addiction only gets worse, where the user must find more hard-core videos in order to get off.  The Wife can no longer compete, and eventually he turns to voyeurism and peeping tom activities.   So destrutctive ot the whole family

It's deeper than that. - Dr. Mike M - Jan 20th 2012

"Money and sex are two of the biggest causitive factors for divorce. If two people don't share the same attitudes and values with regard to handling money, sharing sex, and being romantic, the marriage is on the road to disaster." - Dr. Schwartz.


At the counseling practice where I work, we help many couples who are struggling with relationship issues.  Usually the couple brings up either sex or money.  However after having the couple processes their thoughts and feelings, it appears that there are other factors that are leading to lesser (or in some cases) more sex, or how one spends or wants to spend money.  The counsellor needs to help the couple understand why one person does not want to have sex as often, or why one person feels that the money is being mismanaged.


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