When it comes to the most common reasons for divorce, people assume the top reason for a split is infidelity. Not so fast, says divorce attorney Laura Wasser, who’s handled the proceedings for celebs ranging from Kim Kardashian to Angelina Jolie and just launched her own online divorce platform, It’s Over Easy. We checked in with Wasser to talk about the main reasons married couples tend to break up. A few may surprise you.
1. Poor Communication
Wasser admits that infidelity is an issue when it comes to divorce. But in most cases, a lack of communication comes long before spouses choose to seek intimacy elsewhere. “A breakdown in putting the marriage first is really the number one reason for divorce,” Wasser explains. Her advice? Seek out counseling before there’s a problem. “If a couple is getting along well, start some counseling then so you can develop tools for how to deal with each other and communicate effectively when things are good. Then, when you hit a difficult time—and you will at some point—you’re better equipped to handle it because of those skills.”
2. The Need for Instant Gratification
This one may be a generational thing, says Wasser, but in today’s world, instant gratification is a focus—and something that can lead to a rift. “A lot of people, after five or six years of marriage, are like ‘Oh, I just don’t feel those butterflies anymore,’” Wasser says. “Well, duh. You’re not going to feel them anymore, so you need to make a choice: Are you going to figure out a way to get the kind of gratification you need from your relationship or are you going to be a serial monogamist where you get butterflies for two or three years every time and then move on?”
Sure, you enter a contract within your state the moment you say “I do.” But you also enter an unwritten one—unless it’s spelled out via a prenup—that includes expectations about what each of you will bring to the partnership. For example, are you a homemaker or care provider who will handle all the household and social tasks? Or are you the breadwinner? What happens if those roles shift? According to Wasser, this is often a big reason a split can occur. “If something changes in regard to your financial situation, that’s a big shift, especially when some relationships are based on it,” she says. “I’ve seen cases where it’s ‘All right, I’m going to marry you. You’re not as attractive as I am and you’re not as witty as I am, but you make money and I can bring the other stuff to the table.’ Then all of a sudden they’re not making that money or you’re not as good-looking anymore. A lot of times couples struggle to work through that change.”
4. A Drug or Gambling Addiction
This one speaks for itself, because it’s pretty straightforward. If someone can’t gain control of one of these problems, a lot of times it’s a fast track to divorce, says Wasser.
5. Parenting Differences
Kids certainly bring out a range of emotions. If you’re not on the same page about how you plan to parent, it can create cracks in the foundation of your marriage. “It’s as simple as having different discipline styles. Or different views on academics, like whether you plan to send your child to public or private school,” Wasser explains. “Couples often don’t spend time on the basics: ‘How are we going to raise our kids? What’s that going to look like? What does family time look like?’” She adds that troubleshooting children with bigger issues—everything from a disability to a kid with a behavioral problem—is also a common strain. What’s more, sometimes you spend so much time focused on raising your children that when they leave and go to college, you realize you’ve grown apart. “You’ve finished communicating about the one thing you have in common, and now you’re in your 50s and your kids are in college and who even are you? It’s another super common reason for divorce,” Wasser says.