Top 10 Marriage Failure Reasons

About Brette Sember, JD |

By Brette Sember, JD Updated Nov 22, 2023


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Not all marriages have happy endings, and while we'd like to believe that our relationship doesn't fall in the percentile of marriages that fail, sometimes life doesn't pan out the way we expect it to.

About 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce or separation. There are several reasons for failed marriages, as opposed to just one, and experts such as lawyers, counselors and therapists have lists of reasons why some marriages don't last.

Here are 10 common reasons some marriages fail:

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1. Financial Burdens or Undiscussed Debts

Discussing finances with your partner can always cause friction in a marriage, especially if one party hasn't been candid about their financial situation.

Sometimes, married couples contemplate getting a divorce when there's been a lack of open communication about money problems in the first place.

It's no secret that many people struggle with financial issues such as debt, student loans, spending, budgets, and bills, but how couples deal with these issues is the true test of their love. It also may not be easy sharing financial struggles with a loved one.

Still, one mustn't wait too long to have a serious discussion with their spouse about money problems that could severely impact the marriage. Student loans or credit card debt could cause feelings of resentment if not addressed honestly, especially if a married couple is looking to buy a home together.

If you want to speak with your spouse about financial issues but don’t know how, maybe it’s time to seek advice from a counselor or financial advisor.

2. Trouble Opening Up to Your Spouse

Not everyone is good at communicating or sharing feelings, but a marriage without two-way communication is bound to fail. Both partners should discuss every aspect of married life together, even if these conversations might be difficult.

Often, if couples have communication issues before tying the knot, these problems can only worsen after marriage. No one said marriage was easy, and that's why open and constant communication to work out kinks in the relationship is essential.

There is no shame in seeking professional help from a marriage counselor. They can help facilitate conversations that spouses find difficult to have with each other. Some of these conversations may include how to raise children or deal with certain financial situations; other conversations may entail smaller issues like routines or work schedules clashing.

What’s important is that couples handle these issues head-on by communicating because if these problems aren’t openly communicated, they could lead to a rift in the marriage.

Not everyone is good at communicating and expressing feelings, but marriage requires some level of good communication.

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3. Running a Family

Marital problems can stem from children, in-laws, siblings, parents and step-children. Most couples come into trouble when discussing how to run a household and raise a family.

Not every couple has the same goals when it comes to raising children, and this can put stress on their marriage. Some of these family issues can be caused by problems like bills or different parenting styles. A spouse who believes in more traditional roles may clash with a spouse who strives for equality.

Some couples even find it hard to agree on daily chores their children should partake in or set bedtime schedules. Couples who can't agree on how to take care of their children might feel incompatible, ultimately leading to a divorce if they can't make a mutual decision.

Addressing different parenting styles early or before raising children is one way to combat issues in the future. If couples can't agree on how to raise their kids, this could also be another huge reason for marriage failure.

Dealing with in-laws or step-children may also drive a wedge in a marriage. It's important to discuss how to deal with nosey extended family or raising step-children when thinking about marriage. These issues can become so large that they destroy the marriage.

4. Lack of Sex and Intimacy

A healthy sex life is a fundamental part of most marriages.

Sex is different for everyone; therefore, getting a feel for your partner's love language early in the relationship is important and will allow you to be on the same page. Couples should communicate openly about their sex life and try to find common ground on things they'd like to experiment with regarding sex as well as what things they are not ok with.

If a partner uses sex as a weapon or withholds sex, this can lead to grounds for a failed marriage. A difference in libido can be challenging in a marriage, as can illnesses or physical changes that make sex difficult or impossible.

If you’re struggling with your sex life, open communication can help you work things out or you can consider hiring a licensed sex therapist.

5. Your Friends Don’t Like Your Spouse

Not all your friends will end up liking the person you marry. And although this issue seems trivial to some, introducing your partner to your friends and spending time with them as a couple will help everyone get to know each other better.

Sometimes, a marriage fails because friends get too involved in the married couple's business. Some friends can also be toxic to the marriage if they don't respect the couple's boundaries and try to insert themselves between spouses. Maintaining a healthy friendship and building a common ground between your friend and spouse is a good way to avoid a divorce.

It's also wise to listen to any genuine concerns friends may have about your current partner; sometimes, friends can help you see red flags that you overlooked before because you're so in love.

Ensure your friends are looking out for your best interest when commenting about your relationship. A friend who doesn’t have good intentions could cause tension in your marriage, which may ultimately lead to divorce.

6. Gambling, Drugs, and Alcohol Addiction

Gambling, drugs, and alcohol abuse can lead to numerous issues and be common reasons a marriage fails. The behavior of an addicted spouse can make a normal married life nearly impossible.

Addictions such as these can also lead to serious money problems and bad spending habits that impede a couple's married life.

They can also cause married couples to fight constantly if one person is trying to help their partner with their addiction, but their spouse does not want help. A spouse who is addicted to substances or gambling can put intense strain on the marriage.

If you are contemplating divorce because of these issues, it doesn't hurt to ask your spouse if they would consider giving addiction treatment a chance. Alternatively, there are intervention specialists you can call if you need help.

It’s also important for you to attend a support group such as CODA or ALANON if you are married to a partner with addiction.

7. A Toxic Spouse

Abuse is never acceptable in a marriage. Physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse are all reasons marriages fail.

A partner should never degrade their spouse or abuse them. If you are experiencing spousal abuse, it's vital to seek out sources of help such as domestic abuse shelters or attorneys who handle domestic abuse cases, in addition to getting plugged in with a good therapist.

A spouse should never stay with their abusive partner just because they're married. Verbal, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse create a dangerous situation and an unhealthy marriage.

Often, abusers try to isolate their partner from friends and family. In these situations, the abused person should try to rekindle support systems like friends or family who can help them.

When children are involved, leaving these types of situations are tougher. However the stakes are even higher when children are involved.

If you are in danger, contact 911 immediately for assistance. If ongoing abuse is a concern, seek help from a domestic violence hotline or shelter.

8. It’s Not Me, It’s You

They say opposites attract. While some couples don't mind being total opposites, others have difficulty finding common ground. Sometimes being too opposite can affect the relationship, especially if fighting is frequent.

If you have conflicting views, beliefs, personality types, or needs, it can make marriage very challenging.

Therapy can help you determine if there is a middle ground or a compromise possible and whether your marriage can survive these challenges or whether a divorce is your best option.

9. High or Unattainable Expectations

Learning how to adapt to married life depends on the couple's expectations for each other and the marriage itself. Disillusionment is common when romantic or unrealistic expectations are not met. But having realistic expectations for marriage is essential.

If couples can't agree on their expectations for each other, this could lead to dissatisfaction in the marriage. It's important for couples to communicate openly about how they'd like their married life together to play out. Over time, unmet expectations can lead to discontentment and make meaningful compromises nearly impossible.

Setting clear expectations from the beginning could help prevent conflict. Couples should speak with a counselor or therapist if they have differing expectations in their marriage.

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10. Schedule Issues

Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but not too much space and time apart. A healthy marriage allows for time together, but also for some time apart.

When couples know how to balance their time with each other, it results in beautiful opportunities for growth and harmony. Couples who cannot find a good balance of time may find their marriage in trouble.

It’s important to note that everyone goes through busy periods at work or times when they just need more time to themselves. Issues arise however when there are long-term schedule incompatibilities.

Sometimes, couples' work and home schedules are not always compatible, leading to ongoing tension in their marriage if not resolved early. Little to no quality time spent together puts severe stress on a marriage and may cause some spouses to contemplate divorce, especially if they're always alone.

Communicating with your spouse about the quality time you need with each other could be an excellent way to address daily routines or work schedules that might impact how much time you spend with each other.

Finding shared interests and planning for shared activities can help a marriage stay strong.

Final Thoughts

No one wants their marriage to fail. But issues often arise when couples don't address problems like debt, poor communication, or addiction.

Before considering marriage, couples should evaluate how they foresee their married life in the future, and whether their current partner has the qualities they're looking for.

Failure to communicate openly about what one would like out of their marriage could result in divorce. The 10 reasons for failed marriages should not be taken lightly by anyone considering married life.

Family lawyers, therapists, and counselors have seen these reasons play out and advocate that couples should resolve them early in the marriage or as they arise.

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