The #1 Root Cause of Divorce: It is NOT Finances, Infidelity or Communication

Leave A Marriage Legacy
9 min readApr 18, 2023

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Marriage is a beautiful journey that two people embark on together, full of love and shared experiences. However, as much as couples try to work things out, sometimes things just don’t go as planned, leading to divorce. The reasons for divorce can vary from person to person. Still, many studies suggest that infidelity, communication problems, and financial issues are among the most common reasons couples seek to end their marriage. While these reasons can surely contribute to the breakdown of a marriage, we realised after some digging that they are NOT the root cause. So what is it then?

Photo by Matteo Grando on Unsplash

Like a sick tree, a marriage can also wither away if the root problem is not effectively dealt with. If a tree’s branches are diseased, it may seem logical to just cut them off and hope the rest of the tree will heal. However, this approach will only provide temporary relief as the root cause of the disease remains. In the same way, if the issues in a marriage are only treated superficially without addressing the root cause, the problems will continue to persist and eventually lead to divorce. Only when the underlying issue is effectively dealt with and the root problem is healed can a marriage flourish like a healthy tree.

So what is the root cause?

According to the Bible, the root cause of divorce is a hardened heart. Really, you might say?!

In Matthew 19:8, Jesus talks about the hardness of the heart that leads to divorce. He says:

“Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

A significant detail to consider is the context leading up to Jesus’ discourse on divorce. In Matthew 19:3 the Pharisees came to Jesus, testing and asking Him: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”. Notice the ‘just any reason’. Jesus bypassed it and said the sole reason they wanted their divorce was because of their hardened hearts and not any other issues the Pharisees may have been having in their marriages. He identified the actual cause, revealing the deeper issue at play.

On a side note, it is essential to understand that when Jesus speaks about divorce in this passage, He is not referring to God’s legislation but rather the Mosaic law, which allowed for divorce. He clarifies this in Matthew 19:4 “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

So, does the hardness of the heart still happen today? Oh, it certainly does and has been the main root that has led many marriages to divorce or the brink of it.

“This hardness of the heart is not something that just happens overnight, but rather a consequence of unresolved issues that build up over time.”

But why do some spouses who were once deeply committed to their life partner develop a hardened heart towards them over time? Let’s explore some of them.

Communication Problems

A common reason for divorce is communication problems. When couples are not communicating effectively, misunderstandings and conflicts can arise. Uncommunicated expectations can lead to feelings of neglect and frustration, causing partners to resent each other. Over time, this resentment can build up, causing a hardening of the heart towards one’s partner. This can lead to a relationship breakdown as partners become distant and emotionally disconnected.

Infidelity

One of the most common reasons for divorce is infidelity. When one partner cheats on the other, it can cause immense pain and damage to the relationship. The betrayed partner may feel hurt, angry, and betrayed, leading to a breakdown in trust and communication. Over time, if these issues are not resolved, the hurt partner’s heart can become hardened towards their spouse. They may start to see their spouse as untrustworthy or unworthy of their love and affection.

Financial Issues

Money is often a significant source of conflict in marriages. Financial issues such as debt, overspending, and disagreements over priorities can cause considerable stress and strain on a relationship. When these issues are not addressed and resolved, they can lead to a hardened heart towards one’s partner. Partners may start to hold contempt towards each other for their financial decisions, leading to a breakdown in trust and communication.

Falling Out Love

Sometimes, despite best efforts, couples may fall out of love with each other. Over time, the initial spark and excitement of the relationship may fade, leaving partners feeling disconnected and emotionally distant. This can lead to a hardening of the heart towards one’s partner, as they may no longer see them in the same loving and affectionate way they once did.

Abuse

Abuse in a marriage can have a devastating impact on the victim’s emotional well-being and can also lead to a hardened heart. Whether it’s physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual abuse, it will cause the victim to lose trust and feel disconnected from their partner. Constant abuse will create a cycle of pain, anger, and resentment, leading to a hardened heart. The victim may start to withdraw emotionally and build a protective wall around their heart as a coping mechanism. In such cases, seeking professional help and taking action to prevent further abuse is crucial. It’s never too late to break free from an abusive relationship, and with the right support and resources, it’s possible to heal and rebuild one’s life and sometimes even the marriage.

These are just some examples that can lead to a hardened heart. But is there something that can be done to prevent this feeling?

Solutions to soften the heart and restore the marriage

While the reasons for a hardened heart may vary, the consequence is always the same — a breakdown of the relationship. To prevent this from happening, couples must learn to recognise the signs of a hardened heart and take steps to soften it. This can involve seeking marriage-focused counselling, communication workshops, or simply taking the time to reconnect and rediscover each other’s love. Read our story Stop Leaving Your Marriage to Chance: The Resources You Need to Build a Strong Relationship” for some guidance and tips.

For communication problems, couples can work on their listening and speaking skills, learning to express their needs and feelings clearly and respectfully. They must set aside time to communicate effectively and work through any misunderstandings.

For infidelity, couples can work to rebuild trust by being transparent, honest, and accountable. They may need to seek therapy to work through the underlying issues that led to the affair.

For financial issues, couples can create a budget and financial plan that works for both partners. They can work together to prioritise their spending and find ways to save money. Seeking financial counselling or advice can also help couples get on the same page and reduce financial stress.

For couples who have fallen out of love, it’s important to recognise that love is not just a feeling but a choice. Partners can choose to work on rebuilding their emotional connection, even if the initial feelings of love and attraction have faded. They can spend time together, communicate openly and honestly, and engage in activities that bring them closer together. Seeking counselling or therapy can also help couples navigate this complex process. Read our story on “Marriage Counselling: A Guide to Choosing The Right Counsellor to help you choose the right counsellor.

When it comes to abuse in a marriage, the first step is to seek professional help and support immediately. It’s essential to create a safe space where the victim (husband or wife) can express their feelings and thoughts without fear of judgment or retribution. It’s also important to establish boundaries and take action to protect oneself from further abuse. This can involve seeking legal help or finding a safe place to stay if necessary.

In cases where the offender (husband or wife) is unwilling to change, the victim may need to decide to end the relationship. It’s important to remember that abuse is never the victim’s fault, and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. If the offender refuses to seek help or acknowledge their behaviour, the victim will need to prioritise their safety, the safety of the children and their well-being by leaving the relationship. It’s essential to seek support from loved ones, professionals, and community resources during this difficult time. Remember, healing from the effects of abuse takes time and patience, but it’s possible with the right support and help.

We realise that this next point might be contentious for some, but as a transparent and truthful team wanting to see marriages succeed, we feel obligated to share it since we’ve witnessed it occur before. In cases where the offender seeks help and is willing to change, there is hope for restoring the marriage. It’s crucial for both the offender and the victim to seek professional help and support to address the root causes of the abuse and work towards healing and restoration. This can include individual therapy for both parties, marriage-focused couples and family therapy, and support groups for abusers.

In therapy, the offender can work on identifying the underlying issues that led to the abusive behaviour and learn healthy ways to cope with their emotions and communicate with their partner. The victim can work on healing from the trauma of the abuse and learning to rebuild trust in their partner. It’s essential for both parties to commit to the therapy process and be willing to do the hard work required to restore the relationship.

In a nutshell, seeking professional help and support is the first step towards softening the heart and restoring a marriage impacted by abuse. With commitment, hard work, and a willingness to change, it’s possible to overcome the effects of abuse and rebuild a healthy and loving relationship. However, if the offender (husband or wife) is unwilling to change, the victim (husband or wife) will need to prioritise their safety, the safety of the children and their well-being by leaving the relationship.

To Summarise:

When a person’s heart becomes hardened towards their spouse, they may begin to see their partner as the problem rather than identifying the actual root of the issue and working together to find a solution. Instead of seeing their spouse as a partner and ally, they may begin to view them as the enemy, which will cause an inability to work through challenges as a team. By working together and softening our hearts towards one another, we can overcome even the most challenging situations and emerge with a stronger, more loving relationship.

Recognising that a spouse is a gift from God and is still a blessing even in difficult situations is important. We must remember that our spouse is not the source of these problems but rather a partner in addressing them. It’s easy to lose sight of this amid marital struggles, but it’s important to remember that our partners are not the problem but rather a part of the solution.

Ultimately, combining professional guidance with spiritual guidance from God is vital to overcoming a hardened heart. Through counselling, prayer and faith, we can find the strength and courage to face the challenges in our relationship and work towards restoring our love for one another. By recognising that our spouse is a gift from God and working together to address the root causes of our problems, we can build a lasting, loving marriage that honours Him.

Bible Ref.:

“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”
Hebrews 12:15 (NLT)

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
James 5:16 (NLT)

“Happy is the man who is always reverent, But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.”
Proverbs 28:14 (NKJV)

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