How Many Marriages End In Divorce?

It’s becoming more common to hear people state that almost all marriages end in divorce these days, but how true is that statement?

Between 40 and 50% of marriages in the USA end in divorce, but this pertains to first marriages. The latest research suggests that the crude divorce rate is 2.3 per 1,000 people in 2023, with divorce rates varying for second and third marriages and in different states.

The United States has the third-highest divorce rate in the world, according to experts, and statistics show that although the statement that almost 50% of marriages in the States end in divorce is technically true, there’s more to it than simply suggesting that half of all marriages fail.

So, what’s the truth about failed marriages – how many marriages end in divorce?

divorce symbolized by two wedding rings on top of paperwork

The Statistics About Divorce Rates In the USA

Statistics submitted regarding US divorce rates have been scrutinized since the most recent information came from only 45 states; Indiana, Hawaii, New Mexico, California, and Minnesota did not contribute to recent studies, so the results may vary.

The outcome of the latest 2023 study suggests that the current divorce rate is 2.3 per 1,000 people and that these rates vary by state, too. For example, Massachusetts and Louisiana have significantly lower divorce rates, while Wyoming and Alabama reported much more than double the divorces per 1,000 people.

The truth isn’t quite so cut and dried when it comes to the suggestion that half of all marriages end in divorce. Researchers have found that between 40 and 50 percent of all first marriages culminate in separation or divorce and that second and third marriages are worse off still.

Are More Marriages Ending In Divorce Now Than In The Past?

It’s interesting to compare the current statistics to the information gathered half a century ago and note the trends in divorce rates over time. Back in the 60s, there were markedly fewer divorces listed, but it’s fair to say that this was a different era with a long list of social issues that could account for why divorce wasn’t a commonly accepted action in those times.

Divorces spiked in the 80s, with 22.6 out of every 1,000 women getting divorced forty years ago, but research now shows that there has been a decline, with fewer divorces recorded since then. However, it’s worth noting that marriage itself has declined too, with fewer people tying the knot than before.

Evidence suggests that the global COVID-19 pandemic prompted more divorces due to the higher levels of domestic violence reported and other stressors aggravated by the worldwide lockdown and societal restrictions.

woman signing divorce paper work with narcissist husband

Why Do So Many Marriages End In Divorce?

There is no clear-cut answer to this question, but fortunately, extensive research has identified some significant themes we can establish reasoning around. Research data suggests the following issues were cited as reasons for divorce in US-based studies – remember, some of these reasons may overlap with each other:

Commitment Issues

Up to 75% of divorce cases cited that issues with commitment lead to the end of the marriage, surpassing even domestic violence and adultery in the rankings.

How this is defined, however, is a mixed bag: lack of commitment to each other, to future planning, to children, to financial responsibilities, or perceived lack of commitment to the marriage itself are some of the possibilities here.


As many as 60% of couples report that an unfaithful spouse prompted them to divorce.

It’s understandably difficult to regain trust and feel valued when your partner has cheated on you, and with as much as 60% of couples reporting this kind of betrayal, the issue seems to be widespread.

Domestic Violence

Nearly one-quarter of divorcing couples cite that domestic violence is the reason for ending the marriage.

While this is a little different from ‘conflict and arguing,’ which is also a reason often given for why the relationship didn’t work out, domestic violence is a reason that’s difficult to argue with.

No one should have to remain in a marriage where their safety is at risk.

Marrying Young

A startling number of marriages ended due to the couple being too young; while we can assume that this doesn’t mean they were minors, it’s understandable that emotionally immature and naïve couples who get married before having established their own identity might struggle as they get older.

Financial Stress

In whatever way finances add stress to a marriage, it has been reported as a reason for divorce by around 37% of couples in the process of ending their marriage.

This may take the form of one partner carrying all the responsibility, a partner not being responsible for the finances, or someone in the marriage causing financial trauma (or even abuse).

Substance Abuse

Staggering numbers of people struggle with alcohol and drug addiction.

Since substance abuse comes with a swathe of problems – including financial damage, physical and health problems, potential domestic violence, and risky behavior – it makes sense that a partner may have had enough of dealing with substance abuse and seek to end the marriage.

Lack of Support

Listed as one of the reasons for divorce by around 18% of divorcees, lack of support from family and friends could be interpreted in a far more nefarious way.

Family and friends that actively dislike someone’s partner and choose to make them feel unwelcome are primary triggers; additionally, struggling on your own with a difficult spouse and having no family or friends to support you could be too much for some.

man with wedding rings on table files for divorce with paperwork

Health Problems

One of the lesser cited reasons, health problems could pertain to partners with chronic conditions or medical concerns that don’t get any support from their spouse. Often this is also a matter of having little to no care from your loved one – or the health conditions negatively impact the relationship.

This could range from physical limitations to mental health conditions that prevent intimacy, require full-time caregiving, or the like.

Religious Differences

Around 13% of divorcees note that religious differences pushed them apart. This is not just about behaviors in the marriage going against religious beliefs (for example, drinking or being unfaithful) but the fact that the partners cannot agree on a shared belief system for themselves or their children.


Researchers have also listed pre-marital education as a reason for divorce, although it may make more sense to correlate divorce with knowledge and experience. Still, the reality is that low rates of education have caused divorce in around 13% of divorces.

It’s worth noting that this list isn’t exhaustive and doesn’t contain all the reasons for a marriage ending. It also doesn’t account for the fact that many marriages deal with a significant overlap between these reasons, with one that is often seen as the final straw.

Some other commonly cited reasons for divorce include:

  • Incompatible life goals
  • Lack of interest and effort by one partner
  • Falling out of love by one or both partners
  • Lack of intimacy between partners
  • Inability to communicate effectively
  • Incompatibility between partners (no shared interests)
  • Conflicting values, morals, or beliefs
  • Complacency or getting comfortable and making no effort

Other Causes Or Contributors To Divorce

The above reasons may indicate why a spouse resorted to divorce, but a few other important causes or contributors add to the stress in a marriage that may prompt divorce.

  • Occupation: High-stress and all-consuming careers detract from a close-knit, intimate partnership and can wear a marriage down.
  • Income Bracket: Statistics show that divorce rates are higher among couples that live below the poverty line. Those with significantly more wealth are less likely to get divorced.
  • History: As much as children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves, relationship history is also a contributor. Those who have been together for brief periods before tying the knot tend to end the marriage more readily than long-term relationships.

Additionally, if children and another parent are involved from a previous relationship, this may complicate matters even further.

  • Unequal roles or expectations: When one partner is expected to carry all of the responsibility, the relationship will undoubtedly become strained. Furthermore, if the expectations of each other are unreasonable, it is unlikely that the relationship will endure.
  • Traumatic life events: Major events such as death, accident, injury, or trauma from an assault, for example, will have lasting effects on any relationship – and if not deal with, can contribute to the marriage ending.


Statistics such as these can seem particularly negative when read in black in white, but the reality is that despite there being a high divorce rate in the USA, there are still more people getting married than there are divorced. 

Although the 40-50% quoted divorce rate seems scary, it should urge couples to think carefully and prepare adequately to make a marriage work.

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