How Many Marriages End in Divorce? Facts and Figures

Don't let statistics dictate your happiness.

<p>Grace Cary / Getty Images</p>

Grace Cary / Getty Images

Divorce, which is the dissolution of a marriage, impacted 630,505 people in the United States in the year 2020 alone. While these are huge numbers, it was higher in previous years. In 2021, there were a total of 689,308 divorces. For example, 944,000 people divorced in the year 2000 and that doesn’t even include data for California, Indiana, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

While these figures aren’t differentiated by which marriage it is, second marriages are more likely to end in divorce.

These numbers are alarming, but there is hope. First, the number of divorces has dropped since the year 2000. Second, more adults are deciding to wait to get married, meaning more people are taking their time before jumping into such a big commitment.

Marriage isn’t for everyone and more folks are realizing that. As a result, some young adults are no longer considering getting married.

This article will explore the causes of divorce, how long the average marriage lasts, what you can do to enhance your marriage’s health, and when it may be time to consider dissolving your partnership. 

What Is the Top Cause of Divorce?

It is common to hear “irreconcilable differences” as the cause of divorce, but you may not know what that means.

People tend to break up because one or both partners blames the other and lose hope for finding a secure bond with their present person(s).

A foundational study conducted in 2014 indicated that the top causes of divorce were lack of commitment, infidelity, and conflict. The study elaborated by stating that the most common issues that triggered divorce were infidelity, domestic violence, and substance misuse.

These are the common reasons why people divorce:

  • Lack of commitment

  • Infidelity

  • Conflict

  • Domestic violence

  • Substance use disorders

This same study also indicated that individuals are more likely to blame their partner rather than themselves for the marriage ending.

Shawn Howard, LMFT, a therapist, backs up this notion. With respect to non-traditional relationship structures in addition to marriage, Howard says, “People tend to break up because one or both partners blames the other and lose hope for finding a secure bond with their present person(s).”

In some situations, this loss of hope is critical. In a violent relationship, it isn’t possible to form a secure bond, and having hope that the abusive partner will change often leads to heightened levels of violence. 

Related:Why the First Year of Marriage Is So Important

How Long Does the Average Marriage Last?

The average marriage in the United States lasts eight years.This is quite short compared to marriages in Italy, where the average length of a marriage is 18 years.

Alternatively, the U.S. beats out Qatar, whose marriages end in less than five years. The average length of marriage in France wasn’t too far off from the United States, with the average French couple getting divorced after five years. These varying stats speak to the cultural and geographical differences that may impact a marriage.

Here is how long the average marriage lasts by country:

  • United States: 8 years

  • Italy: 18 years

  • Qatar: Less than five years

  • France: Five years

Marriage Length By Region in the United States

The length of a marriage can also vary regionally within the U.S. In 2021, Wyoming had a divorce rate of 3.7 annually per 1,000 people, making it the highest in the country. Massachusetts had the lowest, at 1.0 per 1,000 people.

While cultural norms of different regions could influence the divorce rate in different states, it is more likely that the varying population rates in each state are to blame.

Which Country Has the Highest Divorce Rate?

As of 2023, the Maldives has the highest divorce rate out of the entire world. It clocks in at an annual rate of 5.52 per 1,000 people.

For context, the United States has an overall rate of 2.7 per 1,000 people. It is worth noting that the United States is tied with Lithuania, Latvia, and Denmark, all of whom also have a divorce rate of 2.7 per 1,000 people.

Related:6 Ways Your Partner Might Be Patronizing You

How to Strengthen Your Marriage

Though this data may feel dismal, it can be used to empower you to learn more about what preventative action can be taken to avoid divorce.

Communicate Your Values and Expectations

Howard shared some more insights about what couples should consider before getting married. He recommended having open communication about money, sex, family, and values. Additionally, discussing conflict can be helpful, and developing conflict resolution skills prior to marriage may save you trouble later on down the road.

Be Independent Before Getting Married, But Have a Support System

“Involve the community,” Howard explained. He encourages couples to have a team of trusted friends, family, and even spiritual advisors they can turn to during times of distress. He continued by expressing how important a sense of healthy independence is prior to getting married and how independence can lead to interdependence—instead of codependence. 

Try Pre-Marital Counseling and Couple's Therapy

Before getting married, you might want to give pre-marital counseling a shot. A study showed that couples who engage in pre-marital counseling are more likely to seek help later in their marriage if they begin to experience marital issues.

While couples therapy can certainly be helpful, studies have shown that couples wait too long to seek help following the onset of their issues. Couples wait an average of 2.68 years after they begin experiencing relationship issues. Waiting too long to seek help can cause issues to fester until they become unresolvable.

To avoid this, try seeking help as early as possible. Don't assume that issues will resolve themselves. You will have a better chance if you seek help earlier in your marriage.

Related:Best Online Premarital Counseling

When Should You Get a Divorce?

If you’ve been experiencing marital challenges and are wondering if you should get a divorce, there are some considerations to keep in mind.

If You're Experiencing Domestic Violence

If there is domestic violence within your relationship, it can become a threat to your life. You'll want to seek help so that you can exit the relationship as quickly as possible but safely.

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

If No One or One of You Is Putting in Effort

If neither you nor your partner is no longer putting in the effort to create a better marriage, then a divorce will likely be the best option.

Can I Save My Marriage?

If there isn’t an active crisis or threat to your safety in your marriage and you instead are feeling it may be a matter of being unable to find your groove, Howard has some suggestions if you're thinking about divorce.

“Make the decision over an extended period of time, with reflection, care, and without involving other people,” Howard shares. He encourages making the decision from a place of empathy and compassion, hopefully after an exhaustive effort to form a secure bond. This line of decision-making can help avoid a contentious divorce.

If all parties are willing and able to make the necessary changes needed to heal the relationship, you may have a chance of healing your relationship or creating a new relationship that's even better than it was.

Above all, be sure to take care of yourself throughout your marriage, regardless of if you’re considering divorce or are happy with your partnership. Engaging in therapy, both individually and as a unit, maintaining a strong community of loved ones, and tending to your own personal interests can support you in being emotionally healthy no matter the curveballs that come your way.

Read Next:10 Ways to Strengthen a Marriage and Avoid Divorce