Did Forbes Really Say "Lack Of Commitment" Is the Top Reason For Divorce?

Recently I saw the graph “Top Reasons for Divorce” on the Forbes Advisor website, and my heart sank.


Let me be honest, this is the kind of headline that people use to stigmatize divorcees, and I'm just so tired of it.


I explain over and over that we conservative Christians (and other people of conservative faiths) tried harder to save our marriages than most normal people and that most of us divorced for serious reasons, for life-saving reasons, not because we just couldn't go the distance like everyone else.


Fortunately, once I found and read the actual study, I discovered that researchers had looked for the reason for the “lack of commitment" among a group of study participants who had gone through a 12-hour premarital program. They were serious about marriage.  The researchers found it took something serious to bring them to divorce. For nearly 7 in 10 survey participants, a spouse’s infidelity, domestic violence, substance abuse or something generally similar was the “final straw” that ended it.


In other words, the "lack of commitment" was not because the person was “a quitter,” or “missed the party life,” or was “bored,” or wondered if “the grass is greener.”



The graph, which was based on a study of 52 individuals and 36 couples, showed that 75% of marriages break up due to “lack of commitment,” which sounded quite different from almost every other study I’ve read, where infidelity is almost always #1, followed by a number of other severe issues, usually with abuse and addictions in the top five.



Look at the math in that graph, “Top Reasons for Divorce,” on the Forbes Advisor website.


    • 75% said “lack of commitment”
    • 60% said “affairs”
    • 58% said “too much arguing”
    • 35% said “substance abuse”
    • 25% said “domestic violence” and 4 other answers.

Hmmm. Just the first three options already add up to far more than 100%.


When I looked at the actual study, I discovered that each of the 52 individuals and the 36 couples interviewed was allowed to give more than one reason for their divorce.


Well, apparently, the survey participants went for it! The 52 people chose 205 answers. It appears that, on average, EACH person chose nearly FOUR different reasons from the ELEVEN reasons for divorce. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4012696/)


We can conclude that the majority of these individuals had been in destructive marriages. These weren't just normal marriage ups and downs.



More than 2-in-3 survey participants said there was a final straw that led to the divorce. So, any idea that these were frivolous divorces is off base. Link to the study: "Reasons for Divorce and Recollections of Premarital Intervention: Implications for Improving Relationship Education": https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4012696/)

    • Infidelity: 24%
    • Domestic violence: 21.2%
    • Substance abuse: 12.1%

The researchers found that:

“Participants expressed that although these "final straw" events may not have been the first incident of their kind (e.g., the first time they realized their partner had a substance abuse problem) an event involving these behaviors led to the final decision for their relationship to end. Also, there were some situations in which individuals expressed that these three issues may have interacted with one another or other relationship issues.”



According to the researchers who created the graph, they asked several questions. For example, in a separate question, they also asked the question about the “final straw” in the marriage.

Sure enough, the most common “final straw” reasons for divorce were:

    • infidelity
    • domestic violence, and
    • substance abuse.

In chatting on Twitter with one of the researchers, I got the impression that the researchers appeared to see it two ways: (1) either as a slow erosion of the relationship or as (2) progression from “lack of commitment” and to sudden marriage-shattering act, like infidelity, near the end that causes it all to come down.


For highly religious marriages, I would like to suggest another option.

Call this option "number three."  I see marriage-destroying behavior going on for many years, not just as a final event. Finally, the cost to the invested party and to the children is just too high to go on. They were worried about the stigma of their church, but they couldn't take it anymore. They were worried about what their pastor would think, and what their friends at church would think. But eventually, they said, "Enough is enough." (By the way, the researchers did mention this pattern, but I wanted to emphasize it.)


Most devout people of faith who needed a life-saving divorce tell me that they were committed to the marriage even though their spouse had a long pattern of tearing down the marriage through selfish behavior. The “final straw” wasn’t a one-off event. It was one incident in a long line of similar incidents.



It’s important that we don’t erase and ignore years of suffering prior to the divorce.


I always learn a lot from the people on Facebook. One person left a public comment:

“Lack of commitment would be an underlying contributing issue for any failed marriage.

Why do people cheat? Lack of commitment.

Why do people abuse? Lack of commitment.

Why do people lie? Lack of commitment.

Why do people overspend? Lack of commitment.

Why are people mean and selfish? Lack of commitment.

Why won't people do the hard work of becoming better people? Lack of commitment.

That does not mean people are getting divorced for frivolous reasons. Rather, it means toxic people don't really commit to living out the sacred marriage vows... because they are toxic people.”

On top of it, abusers say their victims “lack commitment” simply because they chose to divorce and find relief from the danger.



For many people, this imbalance of commitment existed for 20, 30, 40, even 50 years in their marriage. THEY did not divorce due to their own “lack of commitment.” Every day they were investing time, money, and energy into making the marriage safe and loving. Their church required them to be committed and behave well. They finally divorced because their spouse’s destructive behavior was affecting their life and sanity and their children’s wellbeing. Their lives had become tense and chaotic.


I’ve been a divorce recovery leader for 25 years in conservative churches, and am the founder and administrator of the 5,000-member private online group, the “Life-Saving Divorce Private Group” on Facebook. So I hear from a lot more than 100 people every day.


People of faith, who follow church teachings, “stay and pray” and forgive over and over for years, despite their spouse’s cheating, addictions, and abuse. They attend churches that tell them to “fight for their marriage,” meaning “stay married at any cost to yourself and your children.”


To make matters worse, these highly invested spouses were shamed by church leaders, Christian authors, and Focus on the Family for not fixing their spouse’s destructive behavior, and were told that they could fix the marriage if they were just nice enough, forgiving enough, or positive enough.


In this study, 3 in 10 people said they wished they had been educated about "red flags" in their premarital classes, and had walked away rather than entering the marriage.


The people in my group will tell you they had far too much commitment to a low-commitment spouse who put little investment in the marriage. They may have endured physical or emotional abuse, callous manipulation, deception, psychological aggression or neglect, cheating, child abuse, and/or family-crushing additions. They stay for years. Why? Because the church required them to. They were told God hates divorce, and that meant that God would hate them for divorcing. (By the way, every NEW MAJOR Bible translation since the publication of the Dead Seas Scrolls in 1996,  has used the more accurate Hebrew wording that condemns men for unjustly divorcing their wives. Not one of these new major translations say "God hates divorce" or "I hate divorce." See the English Standard Version, the Christian Standard Bible, and the New International Version 2011 update.)


I'm not sure that selecting it off a list was a good way of teasing out the real reasons for divorce. It just doesn’t tell us much, and it exposes us to harm because there are malicious people who want ammunition to make divorce harder to get. They malign those who initiate divorce, even in cases of abuse, tarnishing them as having a "lack of commitment."



Bottom line:

The interpretation that 75% of people divorce frivolously just because they had no commitment, simply isn’t true. That's not the conclusion of the “Top Reasons for Divorce” study on the Forbes Advisor website.



In their conclusion, the researchers made a very important statement: Good premarital counseling should encourage good communication but also dissuade distressed or abusive couples from marrying.  They suggest addressing substance abuse and aggressive behavior by saying, "...change these behaviors or break up."  They say, "One of the potential benefits of relationship education is that it can help some couples on an ill-advised or premature path toward marriage to reconsider their plans." This is why I like PREP as a premarital program. There's a Christian and a secular version.




Are you going through a life-saving divorce? I’d like to invite you to my private Facebook group, "Life-Saving Divorce for Separated or Divorced Christians." Just click the link and ANSWER the 3 QUESTIONS. This is a group for women and men of faith who have walked this path, or are considering it. Supporters and people helpers are also welcome.  I’ve written a book about spiritual abuse and divorce for Christians. Also, sign up for my email list below.



Start Here

Physical and Emotional Abuse & Infidelity

God Allows Divorce to Protect Victims


Does God Hate Divorce? No, Most English Bible Translations Don’t Say That


How to Find a Good Supportive Church


What If My Pastor Says It Would Be Wrong to Get Divorced for Abuse?


Divorce Saves Lives: The Surprising (Wonderful!) Truth About Divorce Nobody Told You

Will I Ever Find Love Again? Dating After Divorce: Good News

Finding Happiness and Health After Divorce


Thriving After Divorce: These Christians Tell their Stories

Self-Doubt, Second-Guessing Ourselves, and Gaslighting

Children and Divorce: Researchers Give Hope


High Conflict Divorce and Parenting

Recommended Reading List and Free Resources for Christians and Other People of Faith


Common Myths






GET THE BOOK! The Life-Saving Divorce is about divorces for very serious reasons: a pattern of sexual immorality, physical abuse, chronic emotional abuse, life-altering addictions, abandonment, or severe neglect. This book will give you hope for your future, and optimism about your children. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.



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