What Leads to Divorce? 8 Bad Habits to Avoid

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Everyone has flaws – no one’s perfect. And that’s ok! But sometimes our flaws can get in the way of our most precious relationships. Sometimes, it’s not even so much a flaw, but just life circumstances that make marriage difficult. It’s perfectly reasonable to have the occasional hiccup in a marriage – but what if your marriage is ridden with difficulty? What leads to divorce? It may be due to one of these 8 bad habits that lead to divorce.

Everyone has flaws - no one's perfect. But what leads to divorce? It may be due to one of these 8 bad habits that lead to divorce.

1) Criticism

The first bad habit that leads to divorce is criticism.

Criticism is one of marriage expert John Gottman’s “Four Horsemen” (the four big things that can predict divorce). Criticism is an attack of your spouse’s character or personality over something that they did. It degrades their dignity and tears them down.

But what if your spouse did something that really bothers you? Shouldn’t you be able to voice your concern and stand up for yourself?

YES – but it matters how you do it.

Gottman says rather than making a criticism we should voice a complaint. Here’s the difference:

  • a criticism attacks the person
  • a complaint attacks the problem

He makes it even easier to understand by giving this example:

  • Complaint: “I was scared when you were running late and didn’t call me. I thought we had agreed that we would do that for each other.”
  • Criticism: “You never think about how your behavior is affecting other people. I don’t believe you are that forgetful, you’re just selfish. You never think of others! You never think of me!”

See the difference? Constantly criticizing your spouse will fundamentally make them feel unloved. And if someone is unloved long enough, chances are they will leave.

2) Neglecting your emotional connection

The second bad habit that leads to divorce is neglecting your emotional connection.

Here’s the timeline: you meet the love of your life, get married, and buy a house. You have a couple of kids, and before you know it you’re 42 years old with and 9-year-old, a 5-year-old, a full-time job that you hate, and a spouse who’s not much more than your roommate.

You go to bed at night and you think, “How did we get here? I feel like I don’t even know this person lying next to me anymore?”

Well, I can tell you how it happened: you neglected the emotional connection in your marriage over the years.

Think back to when you started dating: you spent tons of time together, you learned new things about each other, and you sought out new experiences together.

Now let me ask you this – do you still do those things? If your answer is no, there’s your problem.

The emotional connection in your marriage is rooted in friendship (check out these great quotes), and you build a friendship by spending quality time together. Start nurturing your emotional connection with your spouse by simply spending more time together!

3) Holding on to the past

The third bad habit that leads to divorce is holding on to the past.

Everyone has problems, and everyone has experienced some horrible things in life. Some, worse than others. But over time, if you’re not able to let go of the past, move on, and find happiness, you’re in for a tough ride.

This is particularly true in relationships. Like I said, no one is perfect. Your spouse has certainly made mistakes that have hurt you. Here’s the kicker – they’re going to continue to make mistakes that hurt you.

Why? Because we’re human, and we screw up from time to time.

Constantly reminding your spouse of all the horrible things they’ve done to you over the course of your marriage is an almost-certain guarantee that they will leave you.

It shows them a few things:

  • that you don’t think they’re worthy of forgiveness
  • that any attempts they’ve made to “right wrongs” won’t help
  • and that you don’t love them

The stakes are high. It’s perfectly acceptable to process your feelings over something that hurt you. But once you’ve moved on and agreed to reconcile, let it go. If you do, it could mean the end of your marriage.

4) Non-committal mindset

The fourth bad habit that leads to divorce is a non-committal mindset.

What does this mean? It means that you’re “keeping your options open” or “creating a plan B”. You’ve heard of the types that are “afraid of commitment” – well, they get married sometimes, and that can be a recipe for disaster.

With a non-committal mindset, you’ll look for a way out of your marriage at the first sight of a problem.

Newsflash: you’re going to have problems in your marriage. You should expect this before your wedding day.

A big part of the problem is though, most people don’t realize that this is the reality – that literally everyone has marriage problems at some point in their life. And then when problems do arise, they freak out and think that something’s desperately wrong, and they go looking for something better.

This is a fast-track to divorce. What should happen instead is that, when marital issues present themselves, you and your spouse should hold on to each other even tighter than you did before.

Going through hell together is much better than going through hell alone.


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5) Negativity & Cynicism

The fifth bad habit that leads to divorce is negativity & cynicism.

This kind of goes along with letting go of the past.

I repeat: Everyone has problems, and everyone has experienced some horrible things in life. Some, worse than others. But over time, if you’re not able to let go of the past, move on, and find happiness, you’re in for a tough ride.

If you’re going through a rough patch in your marriage, it’s pretty much impossible to see the positive in things. (Been there! 🙋‍♀️) After all, most people consider their marriage to be one of the most important relationships in their life.

But when you and your spouse are stuck in a cycle of perpetual negativity, it will kill your marriage FAST.

Why? Often, it’s because these negative thoughts turn into contempt (another one of Gottman’s horsemen). Contempt is when you attack your spouse as a person, tear them down, and attack their character.

This communicates one thing very clearly: that you think you’re better than your spouse. It demonstrates that you think negatively of them on a fundamental level. Not a lot of marriages can withstand that.

TIP: to start turning this around, change your mindset by focusing on your spouse’s admirable qualities!

6) Selfishness

The sixth bad habit that leads to divorce is selfishness.

Marriage is about teamwork. And teamwork requires coordination, cooperation, and sacrifice. Selfishness defeats those things however, and can take a real toll on a marriage.

Selfishness shows up in a number of ways, but usually in a few key areas:

  • one spouse carries an unbalanced load of child-rearing
  • a spouse carries an unbalanced load of housework
  • one spouse carries an unbalanced load of financial responsibility
  • or some combination of those three.

A selfish spouse is usually demanding with their wants, and has little regard for the needs or wants of the other spouse.

Overtime, this sends a message that only one partner’s needs are considered in the marriage. And at that point, the marriage is no longer a partnership. There is no teamwork. This bad habit puts a real damper on things.

7) Trying to change them

The seventh bad habit that leads to divorce is trying to change your spouse.

This may be more of an expectation than a habit. Nonetheless, it causes big issues in marriage. All of us have vices. And perhaps all of us should want to change them. But that’s a personal matter, and not a job for spouses.

When you encounter a fundamental difference you have with your spouse, it is not your job to change it.

It is your job to accept it.

(NOTE: this does not apply to abuse of any kind. You do not, and should not tolerate abuse. If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help as soon as possible).

Trying to change things about your partner shows them that you think there’s something wrong with them, and that you don’t love them for who they are.

Ask yourself this: how would you feel if someone tried to change your most deeply held beliefs and values?

You’d probably flip them the bird, and tell them to move on. Why should this be any different in marriage. Differences that cause challenges in marriage don’t have to be deal-breakers, unless you make it that way.

People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other’s personalities. Who wouldn’t? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that’s not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner’s faults honestly and say, ‘I can work around that. I can make something out of it.’? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it’s always going to pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you.

– Elizabeth Gilbert

8) Lack of quality communication

The eighth bad habit that leads to divorce is bad communication.

You’ll hear this one like a broken record. “What’s the biggest problem in your marriage?” Most people will answer, “communication.”

OK fine, but what does that really mean? Just saying “communication” is pretty unspecific!

When most people cite communication as an issue in their marriage, it’s usually for one of two reasons:

  • they have a need that’s not being met, but haven’t yet identified the need yet
  • or, there’s some insecurity around being open about whatever problem is nigh

Solving the first problem is relatively simple: track your feelings, and use your feelings to help you identify what you’re missing in your marriage. Sometimes, you don’t get what you need simply because you’ve haven’t asked for the right thing yet.

If the problem is that you’re insecure about how to approach a topic (either because it’s been an issue in the past, or communication is so broken that you don’t talk anymore at all), it’s still not too late. The key to success here is in the approach to the conversation.

Any functional relationship needs communication to stay alive – inside and outside of marriage. If you want to avoid divorce, learning quality communication is key.

Want to learn how to communicate better in your marriage?

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Have you ever asked yourself, "should I get a divorce?" Most have. But deciding on divorce isn't easy. Here's some things to consider.

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