There are probably as many causes of divorce as there are individuals divorcing. Only the couple themselves can really make the decision as to whether it is genuinely “irretrievably broken.”
I would submit that there are three key areas that encompass the most of the real causes of divorce – the “3 A’s – Adultery, Abuse, and Addiction.”
Adultery is one of the leading underlying causes of divorce in this country. According to the electronic article “Adultery: Statistics on Cheating Spouses,” published by Eagle’s Nest Publications, “60-70 percent of adultery victims are women” while “30-40 percent of adultery victims are men.” In various countries adultery is illegal. In the United States, adultery is only legally recognized as grounds for divorce in a couple of states. However, adultery is usually one of the top reasons cited for divorce. This is not a new behavior, but modern technology, readily available sex partners and societal apathy seems to foster the behavior. There are many couples who have been able to survive an adulterous affair and rebuild a marriage, but this is usually a challenging process and takes a great deal of commitment. If the couple are not each focused on rebuilding a relationship of fidelity and trust, the marriage will likely not survive as a healthy relationship.
Abuse has so many faces, that it really is a study in and of itself. Perhaps it will suffice to say that abusive behaviors do not go away just because they are exposed to the light of day. Abuse, be it emotional, physical, sexual, or any combination, takes counseling and sincere and focused work and commitment to change. It often requires significant counseling and the work of a twelve step program to come to self-mastery. And, very often the abused cannot risk staying until the abuser masters herself or himself.
Addictions lead many people to become so dependent on a behavior or a substance that they no longer see how to abstain from it. These addictions – whether it be physical, such as drugs, alcohol, pornographic or sexual addictions, emotional, such as eating disorders, gambling or shopaholism, or other addictions, interfere with an individual’s abilities to place their priorities on their marriage and family relations. Everything becomes secondary. And as with abuse, the other spouse may not choose to endure the fallout in hopes that the addicted party can become sober from their addiction and remain so.
There are powerful 12-Step programs available that address the whole gamut of addictions, including pornography and sexual addictions, as well as substance abuse and gambling. Many psychologists and other mental health professionals suggest that these addictions are only mastered and controlled through a 12 step program, based on the original Alcoholics Anonymous model. Where there is addiction, there are victims of those addictions within the family, and healing best occurs if those victims of the addictions seek counseling and help as well as the addict himself/herself.
There are avenues of trying to deal with each of these problems, if both parties are determined to work at the solutions. In the short term, it may seem the more difficult choice. Often it does not work because the spouses are not equally committed to building a relationship that will survive.