10 Reasons Why Couples Break Up - And the Grief It Causes

Marriages in the United States only have a 50% chance of lasting.  In the UK it is about 42% and in Australia 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce.  These statistics only talk about people who are married, so the total number of relationship break downs will be much higher.  

We talk about 10 main reasons why couples decide to split up below.  When couples break up this affects both families and any children involved.  It is normal to experience grief after a break up, and it may cause a lot of grief and anxiety not only for the couple but also for the extended family.  You can get help with easing break up pain here: Coping with Divorce and Separation

It is very common, so try not to be too upset or feel a failure if your relationship ends.  People change, or there are reasons we might have drifted into the wrong relationship in the first place.  Don't blame yourself, but move on and enjoy your freedom.  

Why Do Couples Break Up? - 10 Main Reasons: 

1. Infidelity and Betrayal

Infidelity is a major cause of break up. Some couples agree to have other sexual partners.  Many couples can survive a short affair if the partner forgives and accepts the promises of never to stray again.  Others feel totally betrayed when they discover their partner has been unfaithful and split up immediately. 

There are so many factors involved if one partner leaves, such as accommodation to find, custody of the children, finances and so on, that many try to continue the relationship for convenience.

Trust takes a long time to rebuild and integrity is lost. The upset, anxiety, shock and feelings of loss of respect for the partner takes a lot of forgiving.  However many do go on with a loving relationship if the promises not to stray again are kept.  See also How Infidelity Affects Children. 

Infidelity and betrayal. Couple dancing with love in their eyes.The thrill of the chase can be too tempting

2. Physical or Emotional Abuse 

Many years ago I sang in a choir and we were often asked to sing at weddings. A few weeks after one wedding I was interviewing for a caregivers post at our hospice and said to one of applicants; "I sang at your wedding".  She told me they had broken up!  It must have been one of the shortest marriages ever.  She told me that when he got angry or had had a few drinks he used her as a punch bag.

Abuse is one of the main reasons for couples to split.  It is not only physical abuse but also may be verbal abuse which can be aggressive and frightening too.

Emotional Abuse is just as destructive to a relationship.  The mood changes, the silences for days or weeks, the non stop complaints about everything the partner does.  This causes a lack of confidence and self esteem.  The victim is vulnerable and often stays in this destructive relationship too long because they begin to believe they are to blame.

3. Addiction

One partner's addiction is another major factor in the breakdown of relationships whether it be to alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping or many other things.  These can cause mood changes, arguments, aggression and financial problems, all leading to the disintegration of any relationship.

4. Money Troubles

Financial problems are another major cause of break up.  Poverty, whether it be poor wages and frugal lifestyle or adequate income but unwise spending, puts enormous strain on any relationship. Credit card spending up to and beyond the limit causes many rows and disintegration of relationships. 

5.  Distance

Geographical separation can be another significant instigator of breakdown often associated with employment.  They say "Absence makes the heart grow fonder", but it's not always true when your partner is away at sea for months at a time or in the army and not with the family for months.  They may have a job where they have to work weekends, nights or all public holidays and then the partner feels that they have no personal or family time.  

Servicemen and women, police, health service personnel all need strong relationships to survive these long separations.  Many decide they do not want this long distance relationship.  

6. Obsessions or Hobbies Outside the Home 

Sport obsessions can cause a lot of friction.  We have all heard of the term "golf widow".  Well, when one partner's love of soccer or fishing, or netball or hockey becomes more important than family outings or anniversaries then friction can interfere with relationships.  Many partners find they don't like sharing their life with sport and break up is inevitable.

7. Children Leaving Home

'Empty Nest Syndrome' is a common cause of break up which we have discussed before.  Many couples grieve when their families have grown up and left home.  Some enjoy the freedom they have now and plan to share holidays and hobbies.

However others realise that they had devoted all their time to the children and have nothing in common with each other.  She feels she gave up a career to have children, he feels he missed promotion because she would not move for his job.  They decide to go their separate ways.  Read more about Empty Nest Divorce here.

Elderly couple breaking upSometime couples break up after many years of marriage

8.  Retirement

Retirement  - the day people dream about and have huge unrealistic expectations about.  The great day arrives.  Most couples have made plans, discussed what they would like to do and enjoy their remaining years together. 

However, once again we find couples who cannot agree on what they want to do.  They both have ideas of their own, which their partners do not agree with.  One wants to stay home, the other wants to downsize and travel.  The outcome is that instead of enjoying retirement together, many couples realise they have no shared interests and break up.  They had been so busy working they did not discover how far apart they had become.

9.  Accidents or Illness

Some people are unable to cope with illness and walk away from the situation and separate at a very problematic time.  It is often when the loved one has a chronic and serious illness and is not likely to improve that a partner cannot cope and leaves the home.  They are grieving for the partner they used to have who has changed.  Read more about Coping with a Chronic Illness. 

If a person is likely to die from their injuries or illness, this is called 'anticipatory grief'. You are grieving while someone is still alive, but is likely to die.  It is a difficult time for all families and relationships.  It may seem callous for someone to leave in this circumstance, but some people just cannot handle watching someone deteriorate and slowly die.  They are simply not strong enough to go through the experience.  

10. Grief

Grief can be a factor in couples breaking up.  One person may be grieving and the other is not as close to the person who died.  A partner may feel that they are not getting enough support from their other half and becomes resentful.  

Or a couple may lose a child and are unable to support one another.  

We all grieve in our own way and time.  Some people hide their feelings, others can not. When a couple are both grieving it is difficult for them to give each other the comfort and support they both need. The shock and pain they feel inhibits their ability to support others.  Sad as it may seem, the loss of a child can be the cause of separation for many couples.  One accuses the other of not caring enough for the lost loved one or showing enough grief.  One can't support the other for whatever reason.  

See our pages on How to Deal with Grief

Healing from a Break Up

The above is just an overview of why couples break up.  There are probably many more reasons but loss and grief are so much a part of this process.  

Many people do not realise that the pain they are feeling is grief.  The emotions of a break up can be just the same as the emotions of grief such as shock, anger, jealousy, denial.  The break up may cause you to become depressed, or to turn to alcohol or food.  The loss of your partner, home and dreams for the future all gone. 

There may be loss of contact with children.  Friendships between the in-laws may be lost.  Grandparents worry about how often they will see the grandchildren. The couples themselves go through a lot of grieving for the lifestyle they had.  There may be loss of the home and change of school for the children.  The happy ever after expectations are lost. You may get little support for this kind of grief, because no-one has died.  This is often called 'disenfranchised grief' as people don't actually realise you are grieving.  

You have to start again build a new future.  Dealing with a break up and surviving will make you stronger.  It is a learning process and one which in the end will make us stronger and able to face life's challenges. 

Our lives are important - each day a gift.  All we can do is try to make the best of each day for ourselves and families.  

Related Pages: 

There are many pages on this site to help you get over grief after a break up:    

Getting Over Divorce and Separation

Empty Nest Divorce

10 Ways to Cope with Grief

We also recommend an online counselling service which is run by expert psychologists and is completely flexible and confidential.  

Online Relationship Counselling

Online Grief Counselling

Self-Hypnosis Downloads are also a great way of learning to cope with the stress of relationship break-up: 

Self-Hypnosis for Relationship Help

Self-Hypnosis for Getting Over Divorce

Get Private and Confidential Help in the Privacy of Your Own Home

Do you feel alone and sad with no support and no idea how to move forward?  It can be tough when you are stuck in grief to find the motivation to get the most out of your precious life. 

Online counseling can help by giving you that support so you don't feel so alone. You can have someone to talk to anytime you like, a kind and understanding person who will help you to find meaning in life again, to treasure the memories of your loved one without being overwhelmed and to enjoy your activities, family and friends again.

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