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4 interpersonal behaviors that can lead to divorce

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2023 | Divorce

It’s an urban legend that half of U.S. marriages end in divorce. Some experts say the actual number is closer to 39 percent — still a high number.

Every divorce happens for reasons specific to the spouses, their personalities, circumstances and how they handle conflict. However, some unhelpful reactions to conflict tend to occur in marriages that are on the path to divorce. Here are four poor but all too common conflict techniques that are very likely indicators that a couple’s marriage is in trouble.

Personal criticism

It’s okay, even healthy, to bring up specific concerns you have about an issue, such as your spouse not doing the laundry like they promised or money troubles. But criticism of your character from your spouse can feel like a personal attack. Over time, constant criticism can erode affection and ruin the relationship.

Getting defensive

Rather than accept responsibility for their part in an issue, some people go on the defensive. They play the victim and blame their spouse. This avoids resolving the conflict and denies the validity of the other spouse’s feelings.


This is when a spouse responds to an argument by shutting down. Instead of responding, they withdraw or ignore their spouse. They might act busy with something. Asking for a break if you are feeling overwhelmed during a disagreement can be healthy, but you cannot make your problems go away by shutting out your spouse.

Contempt between spouses

A marriage is almost definitely in danger of divorce once a spouse begins feeling contempt for the other one or if both have contempt for each other. Contempt can overtake the positive feelings, respect and affection you have for your spouse until it’s the only thing left and there is no basis for the marriage to continue on.

Of course, all the well-meaning and positive conflict resolution techniques in the world are not enough to prevent every couple from ever getting divorced. And divorce is often the best available solution. But it requires a fair settlement or trial verdict over things like property division and child custody for that to be true.