Single parenting, no matter how involved your co-parent is, is exhausting. But having a partner who doesn’t do their share of parenting can be just as tiring and resentment can build. No one goes into a marriage thinking it will end in divorce, but sometimes couples get to a point of frustration and don’t see any other option. Know that your feelings are completely normal and you’re not alone. We asked a few divorce lawyers to weigh in on some of the most common causes for divorce in the couples who come to them. Read on for their insights and their relationship advice.
The Most Common Causes of Divorce
After practicing family law for over 10 years, Attorney Lindsey White sees patterns in client inquiries. “My analytical mind takes these observations and tries to avoid the patterns in my own marriage,” said White.
The Stress of Childbearing Years
When couples are in their first 10 years of marriage, they are often facing challenges in childbearing years. “Often it is one parent feeling resentment for carrying more of the load with caring for the children and the house,” said White. “One parent feels like they are making all the sacrifices to keep the family going while the other spouse’s life hasn’t changed at all.”
There is also an added layer of financial stress during this time. The cost of childcare, extracurricular activities, and even the rising cost of groceries can put a financial strain on a family. “The childbearing years are probably the most expensive chapter in a couple’s life,” stated White.
Financial Problems in the Marriage
Nicole Sodoma, a family attorney based in Charlotte, agrees that financial stress can be a factor in divorce. “While finances may not initially be cited as the reason people split, in my experience, financial issues appear in a variety of different ways.”
If couples are uncomfortable talking about their financial struggles with each other it can be an early predictor of even larger communication breakdowns to come. “In some cases, financial struggles are an unintended consequence of one spouse engaging in addictive behavior such as gambling away a retirement fund unbeknownst to the other spouse or running up credit card debt,” said Sodoma. “In the few cases where financial struggles are not an issue at the onset of the divorce process, they often become an issue during the divorce process, especially when it comes time to address the division of assets, child support, alimony, and the dreaded attorney fees,” she said.
Infidelity Has Occurred in the Marriage
“In marriages where the couples have been married for 10-15 years, [one of] the patterns that I typically see is infidelity,” said White. After a while, couples lose their focus on being a couple. Married couples create their own routines, work life, different friends, and before you know it, it’s been months since they’ve gone on a date with one another. “Some fall into a routine of sitting at home at night with little interaction and watching TV.” There is little affection toward one another, essentially becoming roommates. The spark is gone and with the Internet and the ease of dating apps, there is an endless opportunity to be unfaithful and chase a new thrill.
Is it Too Late to Save the Marriage?
The good news is there is hope, even after you have had an initial meeting with a divorce lawyer. Many marital problems are avoidable. Sodoma describes herself as a “marriage-loving divorce attorney.” She said, “Believe it or not, I have helped more than one couple repair their relationship after finding themselves in my office.” Going to talk to a divorce lawyer is often the first step in one or both partners identifying an issue that, if not addressed, could lead to divorce but does not have to.
One lawyer shared a story of a meeting with a potential client who still loved his wife but was getting frustrated with her inability to keep up with everything at home, as he was the sole financial provider. After the lawyer calculated child support costs and alimony, he showed the potential client a very large number. The lawyer suggested to the man that he hire some housekeeping help for his wife and take her on a nice date. “The grass is not always greener, but it certainly will be more expensive,” they said.
When is it Really Time to Call the Marriage Quits?
Both lawyers agreed that the top three reasons they found divorce to be necessary are physical abuse, ongoing substance abuse, and patterns of continued infidelity. “Sometimes these issues can overlap and other times it may just be one of the three,” stated Sodoma.
“These three reasons are trauma-based and create wounds that the moving party cannot repair without ending the unhealthy relationship through divorce,” said White.
Relationship Advice from Family Lawyers
For couples struggling with connection or who want to strengthen their relationship, the attorneys offered some advice.
Date Your Spouse
Be affectionate and intimate regularly. There will always be something else to do. Life is exhausting, work can be demanding, and kids are challenging, but you must make your marriage a high priority. Make a point to get a date night on the calendar a minimum of twice a month, if you can. Make a list of new restaurants to try. Dress up. “Many of the reasons why clients have come to me, regardless of how many years they have been married, is they feel neglected,” said White. “It manifests in different ways, but the root of it is they feel their spouse does not make their needs a priority.” Add some fun back into your marriage!
“It is never too late to learn how to have empowering conversations and disagreements with your significant other. When done right, communication is the key to fostering healthy relationships where all parties involved feel safe enough to be vulnerable and honest with themselves and one another, especially when faced with hard conversations,” said Sodoma. She added that communication is the gateway to the glue that holds relationships together.
Be Intentional, Kind, and Offer Forgiveness
Be open to hearing and understanding each other and always fight fair. Remain respectful during arguments and remember that neither of you is perfect. Your spouse is flawed and always will be. No one is perfect but if you’re both on the same team and want the marriage to work, you have to offer grace. “Holding grudges will corrode your marriage,” said White.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you want to model a healthy relationship for your children, and sometimes that does mean having to end the marriage. Your children deserve you at your best and sometimes couples end up being better co-parents than they were being husband and wife.