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Top 13 Warning Signs a Marriage is at Risk of Divorce

It’s rarely the money!

Marriage is a beautiful journey that starts with dreams, promises, and shared aspirations. However, even the strongest marriages can face challenges that put them at risk. Whether you are a newlywed or have been married for years, recognizing the warning signs that a marriage might be heading towards divorce is a crucial step in addressing issues before they become irreparable. Forbes Advisor surveyed divorcees to highlight warning signs they observed in their relationships before deciding to divorce. Read on to learn the actual top warning signs that can indicate a marriage is at risk of divorce from the least to most common.

Financial Stress, 10%


Financial stress is surprisingly one of the least commonly reported signs of a marriage at risk, with only one in ten divorcees quoting it as a warning sign of divorce. However, experts warn that the financial situation could add stress to existing problems.  "Debt can cause conflict in a marriage, but it's all about communication," says Dr. Regine Muradian. "Avoid criticizing each other's spending habits and instead, work on finding solutions together," Dr. Muradian advises.

Marrying Too Soon After Meeting Each Other, 12%


"Marrying too soon" is the second least common warning sign of divorce, with only 12% of divorcees citing it. Nowadays, it's more common for couples to date and live together for extended periods before getting married. According to the US Census Bureau, most couples date for two or more years before getting engaged, and some extend that period to two to five years. After the proposal, the typical engagement period lasts between 12 and 18 months.

Marrying Too Young, 12%


Only 12% of Americans blame young age for marriage problems. This could be related to the fact that the average age of first-time marriage has increased in the United States. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1980, the average American man married at 2, and the average woman married at 22. Today, the average first-time groom is 30, and the bride is 28. 

Living Different Lifestyles, 17%


Living different lifestyles within a marriage can emerge as a substantial warning sign that the relationship is at risk of ending in divorce, according to 17% of polled divorcees. Disparate daily routines, hobbies, and interests can lead to emotional distance, reduced communication, and erode the bond that brings couples together. Over time, these disparities can foster feelings of alienation and dissatisfaction, hinder conflict resolution and emotional support, and ultimately increase the likelihood of divorce.

Disapproval of Spouse From Family/Friends, 21%

Multi Generation Family Eating Meal At Outdoor Restaurant

The issue isn't exclusive to Greg Focker; scientific studies indicate that when parents disapprove of a partner or spouse, their feelings can manifest in direct, indirect, or passive-aggressive ways. This disapproval has the potential to cause significant disruptions in relationships.

Domestic Violence, 27%


Almost one in three people see this as a warning sign that their marriage is ending. Abuse knows no boundaries; it can emerge from any background or status. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, abusers exhibit a range of behaviors, including denying or downplaying violence's impact, viewing the victim as property, and blaming external factors. Abusers may appear charming to others but reveal cruelty in private. Warning signs include jealousy, possessiveness, cruelty, controlling tendencies, undermining birth control, hindering work or education, and manipulating through accusations. 

Substance Abuse, 31%

Woman With a Drink, etiquette mistakes

Substance abuse can take an emotional toll on a marriage and may lead to divorce. Symptoms include resentment, conflicts, emotional detachment, and even physical abuse. If you are concerned, seek help. SAMHSA's National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Poor Communication, 33%

Woman pushing man aside during argument on the couch

Communication issues frequently arise in relationships, leading to repetitive arguments and unresolved conflicts. Effective communication involves active listening, including tone, body language, touch, and reflective listening. Couples can navigate communication challenges and foster a healthier marital bond by understanding and valuing each other's feelings and needs.

Increased Criticism to or From My Partner, 38%

Young couple is sitting on a sofa in their apartment looking up and holding their hands to plug their ears

Dealing with a spouse who is excessively critical can be distressing, leaving you with a sense of inadequacy due to constant criticism. However, how you communicate your concerns to your partner holds great significance.  Healthy feedback is about the behavior and not the person. We can tell our partner what we think or how we feel without criticizing them as an individual," Kurt Smith, a therapist in Roseville, California, who specializes in counseling men, told The Huffington Post.  "When our comments include cursing or demeaning labels, it kills any value our message has and makes the feedback pointless. Criticism is often ignored because of the manner in which the message is delivered," Smith added.

Lack of Respect, 38%


Disrespect can damage a marriage irreversibly. It goes beyond criticism, including claims of superiority, intelligence, or morality over one's partner. This makes the recipient feel worthless and unloved, ultimately weakening the foundation of the relationship. It makes partners vulnerable to attacks. Lack of respect may sever significant social ties linked to various health issues. To counteract contempt, one should express negative feelings constructively and cultivate appreciation. "You can try each making a list of 20 things you love about each other. Read them out loud, and challenge yourselves by adding to the list over time," advises Jessica Griffin, PsyD, a professor of psy­chiatry and pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School.

Avoiding Each Other, 45%


Avoiding conflict can lead to unresolved tensions and bitterness and is the third leading sign that the marriage is at risk of divorce. Conflict or complaint avoidance might preserve short-term harmony, but it's unhealthy. Healthy relationships require open and honest communication, and the lack of it decreases relationship satisfaction. Though all genders are affected, women are particularly impacted by high conflict avoidance. Constructive confrontation significantly benefits relationships for severe issues, while conflict resolution thrives on affection and validation for minor problems.

Poor Conflict Resolution, 47%


While falling in love brings joy, relationships can face challenges like misunderstandings, arguments, and growing apart. 47% of surveyed divorcees say marriage can end in a breakup or divorce due to these issues. To avoid such outcomes, here are conflict resolution tips for couples:

– Speak Directly: Address concerns openly and kindly.

– Avoid Blame: Use "I" statements, not blaming language.

– One Issue at a Time: Focus on a single argument to find solutions.

– Effective Communication: Listen actively, maintain eye contact, and respond respectfully.

– Stay Open-Minded: Consider both sides without ego.

– Don't Sweat Small Issues: Prioritize and let go of perfectionism.

– Assume Good Intentions: Reframe negative assumptions and communicate openly.

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Lack of Showing an Interest in One Another, 48%

Angry couple.

A lack of interest in each other, poor conflict resolution, and avoiding each other were the most commonly cited signs of an imminent divorce. Almost half of respondents listed it as a worrisome sign a marriage was doomed. Feeling distant from your partner is a common issue in relationships, often caused by a decrease in affection and intimacy. Various factors contribute to this decline, such as personality differences, stress, mental health struggles, or becoming too comfortable. To counteract this, there are helpful strategies:

– Communicate: Have an open conversation about your feelings and concerns without blaming.

– Avoid Nagging: Break the cycle of nagging and retreating, focusing on positive communication.

– Highlight the Positive: Acknowledge each other's strengths and accomplishments to foster connection.

– Self-Reflection: If you struggle with showing affection, explore the reasons behind it and take small steps to change.

– Plan Date Nights: Introduce variety to your routine by trying new activities together.

Initiate Affection: Make the first move in showing affection and intimacy, discussing preferences openly.

– Seek Help: If the lack of affection persists, consider professional couples counseling for guidance.


Christopher Roback
Christopher Roback is an experienced news journalist specializing in political, science, and crime news. Read more
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