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Why Divorce Rates Peak after 8 Years of Marriage

Oft-cited statistics have the number of first marriages in the United States ending in divorce hovering around 50%. But a closer look at the data shows an interesting trend regarding which year of marriage couples are most likely to divorce.  

The average length of an American marriage

Countless studies exist on the subject of divorce in America, many with conflicting statistics. But one statistic seems consistent: Divorce rates for first marriages peak right around a couple’s eighth anniversary. 

Are there some commonalities that make marriages more at risk around the eight-year mark, and are all marriages at risk around that time?

Why eight years?

According to Daniel Levinson’s theory of human development, adult development has two distinct seasons: a period of stability and a period of transition in roughly a 7:3 ratio in years. Divorce seems to track in these same footsteps. 

While marriage can initially be bumpy, commitment seems to weigh in its favor in the first few years. Married people can be more committed to building a life based on the promises they’ve made to each other in this phase. 

But after a few years, a couple’s issues can begin to pull at the threads of their relationship. These issues may include financial struggles, infidelity, feelings of inequality, or even boredom. Partners start to lose their feelings of commitment to the relationship and each other and begin to put their energies elsewhere – their career, their kids, or other distractions.

What are your options?

At this point, a couple faces a crossroads. Do they remain committed to a marriage that seems to be faltering and try to repair the damage, or do they cut ties and move on? 

Interestingly, the data also show that when couples work together to make it past this eight-year point of potential crisis, the next period of years – 9 to 15 – shows a lower frequency of divorce. 

Marital issues are a fact of life. The reality is that every couple will experience problems at various stages of their marriage, whether that is year eight or twenty-eight. Often, when couples have developed a strong commitment to work through these issues and learned tools to help them do that, they can survive nearly any marital bump along the way.

Not all married partners can reach resolutions on their own. Getting professional guidance can help couples navigate the inevitable problems they face. A marriage counselor or therapist can help couples identify their issues and gain tools to preserve their relationship. Through mutual willingness and good communication skills, these problems may be solvable.

Of course, not all relationships can survive once they have reached a critical point. While therapy can help when both partners are committed, if one is ready to leave or is ambivalent about continuing, divorce can loom on the horizon. A divorce coach can help couples determine their best course of action – to stay together or break up – and what steps need to be taken to ensure that both partners get what they need to navigate whatever decision they make. 

When divorce seems inevitable, it doesn’t have to be acrimonious. At Hello Divorce, we are dedicated to changing the face of the lawyer-up-and-go-to-battle model. We offer divorce plans, mediation services, and divorce coaching that can help couples reach decisions that work for both in cooperative and affordable ways.