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Exploring the Major Reasons Behind Divorce and Infidelity

Apr 10, 2023 | 0 comments

Apr 10, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments


The rise in the number of couples seeking divorce has been quite concerning for the past decade. In the United States, for example, researchers have shown that at least 50% of the first marriages are most likely to end up in divorce. Also, 58.7% of all second marriages end in divorce. What is concerning is not the basic statistic but rather, the rising numbers. Between 1990-2000, a percentage of 52 were recorded for first marriages seeking a divorce.  In the next decade, this number would see a rise to at least 67% the last decade (Wilson 20). The younger the couples are, the more likely that their marriage would end in divorce. However, Jasper clearly states that age may not necessarily be a factor when it comes to divorce (8). People married for decades are just as likely to get a divorce as young couples married for months.

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The major factor that is generally becoming a concern for researchers is the fact that infidelity is the main reason cited for increased divorce rates. Whereas the majority of the factors associated with divorce can be easily manipulated, even avoided during the process of preparing for marriage, infidelity can neither be anticipated, expected nor even prepared for. The result is that majority of the marriages are ill-prepared to deal with a case of infidelity. Infidelity leads to mistrust among the partners, with one partner feeling betrayed. The sense of mistrust in turn leads to bitterness and un-forgiveness. Within a duration of time, even as the couple and individuals work hard to repair the relationship, they often find that this is difficult and in some cases impossible.

Factors Leading To Divorce and Infidelity

Lack of commitment

Faust (281) during the course of a study found that 74% of the participants felt that a lack of commitment to building the marriage and/ or relationship led to the divorce.  According to him, the main difference between marriages facing difficult problems withstanding or breaking down is the simple inability to commit and work towards the success of the relationship. Many partners often feel that while they may have invested greatly in ensuring the success of the marriage, their partners failed to do the same.  However, the issue of commitment does not just reflect on their partners, 13% of the individuals in the study indicated that they wished they themselves had worked harder to ensure the success of their marriage.  There have been two basic levels of commitment identified upon which marriages are built:

Constraint commitment: this is a commitment that is drawn from external factors.  For example, since the economic downturn around the globe, financial constraints coupled with the increased costs of divorces have discouraged divorce altogether. Children often play a big role in constraint commitment. Many couples, around 34% have stayed together despite the majority of problems they are facing because of the children. It is common to hear individuals stating that they are only together because of their children.

Personal commitment: this is the kind of commitment often encouraged towards fostering a strong marriage. Personal commitment comes from internal, where an individual is willing to work through the problems and leaks that they are facing in the marriage. For this individual, it is unlikely that they will engage in any untoward or risky behavior that is likely to jeopardize the marriage.

Loss of income:

Due to several reasons, there is likely to be a decrease in income in the home. When such a decrease brings on a change in lifestyle especially for couples who began at a particular social class and got used to particular things quarrels cause friction which in turn leads to divorce or infidelity. Cheating is often viewed as an ideal way to overcome the responsibilities that could be overwhelming an individual. The majority of the cheating partners are often looking for an avenue to release some of the tension arising from financial and other obligations. Financial constraints can be quite stressful and in turn, lead to major disagreements by a couple. Nearly (23) however disagrees indicating that majority of the divorces and cases of infidelity and brought on by other matters rather than finances. According to him, the case of financial strain can cause a couple to draw together, and marriage to last much longer. He states that couples that have undergone stressful financial situations are most likely to succeed in marriage than couples who have enjoyed a relatively strong financial cushion through the period of marriage (78). The evidence shows that couples earning less than $25,000 are less likely to get divorced compared to couples earning $70,000 and more during the period of marriage.  To these researchers, apparently, couples earning modest incomes struggle together and therefore can bond through the difficulties of financial strain.

Coupled with income is the issue of education. Couples that are less educated are less likely to get divorced since they often feel they are obligated to their own partners. Further, they are also less likely to engage in activities that are risky including infidelity. On the other hand, Dnes and Rowthorn disagree stating that proper education and investment in the same is a vital foundation for couples to build their own marriage (122). Such investment allows the couple to have common ground, to resolve issues with high knowledge, and to critically evaluate situations that are facing them. The result is of course a higher chance of survival within the marriage.

Pre-marital cohabitation

In the 1980s majority of psychoanalysts encouraged couples to live together before deciding to get married. The basis of this hypothesis was that majority of the couples get married before they are acquainted with each other’s behaviors, likes, and dislikes. Once they are married and have to live together, it takes a few months to realize that they are completely incompatible. However, 37% of couples who have cohabited often end up in divorce and separation. According to Reinhold (19), this is because the majority of the couples cohabiting have often in many cases cohabited with someone else.  This statistic often gets worse when the couple gets children. In the United States, 42% of children are born out of wedlock. Parents who get married or cohabit because they have a child or children have a 60% of getting divorced within the second year of marriage. Visio (86) found that couples who live together before they get married tend to develop more leniency in the topic of divorce. Such couples find that divorce is more acceptable, and are most likely to call upon this action when things do not go as they had planned or expected when getting married.

Infidelity as a Valid Reason for Divorce

Recent research showed that at least 75% of all Americans feel that divorce is an acceptable choice.    Also, many feel that where infidelity is concerned, divorce is inevitable (Clark 288). However, Taylor cites that some couples could be easily destroyed by simple arguments, while others can work through and sustain their marriages even though bigger issues such as infidelity (97). Infidelity and cheating are issues that are clearly beyond the boundary of what a healthy marriage is expected to be. Each partner has the right to be fulfilled happy and safe within the relationship, and infidelity often destroys the sanctity of this safety.  The stakes become higher when children are involved. Statistics have shown that at least 70% of the children coming from divorced parents are emotionally stagnated, often living well below their own potential, and are more likely to become divorcees themselves.  According to Hirsch all parents feel and understand that their children have a stake in the marriage. Therefore when children are concerned, parents and married couples tend to take the topic of divorce a bit more seriously (para 5). Parents will attempt every avenue to repair the marriage, and only if such avenues fail will they opt for a divorce.

63% of the couples interviewed by Brown (91) stated that they would not forgive a spouse if they found out they had been unfaithful. Surprisingly, 25% of those married responded that they had been unfaithful at least once during the course of their marriage. It follows therefore that whereas a majority of couples may feel that their spouses have remained faithful, the opposite could be true. There are more and more avenues opening up for individuals looking to cheat on their spouses. There are now several channels, the fastest and most effective of which is the internet to meet someone and engage in an illicit affair. Bair (200) reports however that couples who have managed to deal with infidelity are often much stronger and more determined to stay together. He states that whereas many couples say they would divorce a cheating partner, in actuality at least 60% stay even after discovering a partner’s infidelity.

Divorce and Children

Stosny and Morey 213) say that society has attempted to control and manage the institution of marriage by ensuring that parents have a heavy responsibility. Parents are according to the norms of society expected to ensure the happiness and safety of their children. For proper development, emotional stability, and behavioral response, children need both parents. A divorce, according to Spence could cause detrimental emotional development of the children. Children often find it difficult to adjust to life after a divorce (112). Fine and Harvey show that issues such as constant arguments, division of property, loss of income for one parent, and subsequent custodial fights have a generally negative impact on children (67). Their ability to cope becomes stagnated; they become emotionally distant and at the same time often develop questionable behavior. On the other hand, Pam and Pearson (199) show that parents who stay together just for the kid’s sake end up hurting and stagnating them even more. The resentment that is often apparent between such parents makes it difficult for the kids to grow and develop properly especially emotionally. Such an environment is often so toxic that such children prefer if the parents were actually divorced.


The topic of divorce has been widely debated.  Partners who decide to take the divorce path, or make attempts at infidelity rather than choose to build their own relationships and marriages do so based on the befits they seem to accrue from the marriage. Where children are considered a major benefit, divorce is unlikely despite the kind of situation that the marriage is in. the 20th-century society has become permissive with regards to the morals surrounding divorce and cheating. In this modern age, infidelity is considered a norm, and divorces are granted as many times as one wishes. This permissive culture is only set to make the situation degrade and become worse.

Work Cited

Bair, Deirdre. Calling It Quits: Late-life Divorce and Starting Over. New York: Random House, 2007. Print.

Brown, Emily M. Patterns of Infidelity and Their Treatment. New York, N.Y: Brunner/Mazel, 1991.

Clarke, Roderick O. Loose but Bound: Infidelity in Marriage. Milton Keynes: AuthorHouse UK, 2008

Dnes, Antony W, and Bob Rowthorn. The Law and Economics of Marriage and Divorce. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press, 2002

Faust, Kimberly A. “Marriage. Divorce, and Family Groups.” Methods and Materials of Demography. (2008)

Fine, Mark A, and John H. Harvey. Handbook of Divorce and Relationship Dissolution. Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2006.

Healey, Justin. Marriage and Divorce. Rozelle, N.S.W: Spinney Press, 2003

Hirsch, Jennifer S. The Secret: Love, Marriage, and Hiv. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2009.

Jasper, Margaret C. Marriage and Divorce. New York: Oceana, 2008.

Pam, Alvin, and Judith Pearson. Splitting Up: Enmeshment and Estrangement in the Process of Divorce. New York: Guilford Press, 1998.

Reinhold, Steffen. Reassessing the Link between Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Instability. Mannheim: MEA, 2009 Spence, Aaron M. Adult Children Accounts of Parental Infidelity and Divorce: Associations with Own Infidelity, Risky Behaviors, and Attachment. , 2012.

Stosny, Steven, and Arthur Morey. Living & Loving After Betrayal: How to Heal from Emotional Abuse, Deceit, Infidelity, and Chronic Resentment. , 2013.

Taylor, Richard, and Richard Taylor. Love Affairs: Marriage & Infidelity. Amherst, N.Y: Prometheus Books, 1997. Print. Wilson, Mike. Divorce. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2009.

Vasko, Christopher P. Premarital Cohabitation and Its Effects on Marital Consent: Canonical Considerations and Pastoral Preparation for Marriage. , 2006

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