The real reasons behind most failed marriages

Much attention has been given to the topic of why marriages fail. Everyone wants to know what warning signs to look out for and where they should focus their attention in order to avoid becoming an unhappy statistic. But in spite of all the available advice, the divorce rate remains high and those in struggling marriages keep wondering how they got there.

The primary reasons people divorce trace back to early in their relationships, to a time long before they said "I do." From those first dates, through courtship and engagement, and long past the honeymoon, until they grew into issues that became deal breakers. Therefore the most important key to not becoming a divorce statistic is to know yourself first and what you want and need from a potential partner and relationship. This readiness will help you make conscious and well thought out choices beginning with who you should date, through commitment and beyond. The following are top contributors to why marriages fail. Give them careful thought and honestly ask yourself, "Is this or could this be me, and if so; what can I do differently?"

Marrying your convenient partner

Too many marriages start with a relationship of convenience. A classic example of this is when two people who are dating decide it would save time, energy, and money to live together. It could be that they live in the same area and one moves in with the other or they find a new place to share; or they could live at some distance from one another and one makes the decision to relocate. Any of these steps in an investment in the relationship that makes breaking-up more complicated. With every investment this is true, and too often a divorcing spouse cites convenience as a reason they got together and stayed together, even when there were indicator lights warning them to slow down or take a break.

Checking the marriage box

Our culture tells us that we need to have goals and a plan that includes a time frame for achieving them. Few people would argue against the merits of having a life vision and setting goals to help us get there. However some people pursue their goals at any and all costs. For them, life is a series of boxes that need to be checked, and when the pressure of one's peers checking a certain box before them is added on, it can lead to a bad decision. Create goals that are uniquely tailored to you and keep your eyes on the road that lies ahead, avoiding those sideways and backwards glances to see what others are doing. Do you really want to live someone else's idea of a good life?

Ignoring the warning signs

How many times have you observed something in a friend's relationship that set off an alarm? Perhaps you wondered if you should discuss your observations and concerns with them because they seemed unaware or too accepting of something unhealthy. Many people ignore issues in their relationship, rationalizing that they may be overreacting, expecting perfection, and/or are afraid to address them for fear of losing the relationship. Too often there is a belief that something will go away if we ignore it, or at least lessen over time. The opposite is often true in relationships. Those small red flags, annoyances, doubts, and/or moments of concern are often what people cite when they are on their way to divorce. They saw something, but did nothing.


Every day people bring assumptions and expectations to the altar along with their wedding vows. They might assume their partner wants children, a house in the suburbs, and a family-centered life. They feel sure that he or she is on the same page regarding how money should be handled, how involved extended family will be, and what religious practices will be observed, if any. Then after marriage little issues start to bubble to the surface that lead to frustration, problems with communication, increased conflict, and/or a decrease in their friendship and intimate life. They are often shocked to find out that a partner feels differently about something they always assumed they felt the same way about, since it never came up in conversation and wasn't an issue earlier on in the relationship. This was not at all what they expected from their partner and marriage.

This is why it is so important to know yourself and to ask questions and have those deep discussions about your relationship and family wants, needs, and goals before marriage. These should begin early in your dating life, and continue throughout your engagement and marriage. When red flags appear or something feels off, talk about it. If you can't do so before marriage, it will be even harder afterwards. Who and when to marry will be one of the most important decisions of your life. Following a conscious and well thought-out path that is uniquely yours will give you the best chance of marrying the right person for you.

Want to read other articles on this subject?

"The importance of Mental health in dating and relationships"
List of more "Soul mates or Something else" articles

"Can your summer love become more than just a convenienceship or locationship?"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.

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