This Is How Many Years the Average Couple Makes It Before Getting Divorced — and Why

This Is How Many Years the Average Couple Makes It Before Getting Divorced — and Why

We chatted with several divorce attorneys to learn when and why most couples split up.

By Jen Glantz
Secrets to lasting marriage

When celebrating your moment of marital bliss, many things go through your head: How long will the honeymoon period of our marriage last? Where will we end up moving? Do we want to have kids, and if so, when?

But one thing you (rightfully and hopefully) might not think about is... will this marriage end? There’s no easy way to know whether a couple is walking down the aisle toward a lifetime together, or whether their marriage has a dead-end expiration date. But there are some signs to look at and some facts to consider.

Dori Shwirtz, an attorney and full-time divorce mediator and coach, points out the well-known fact that just about 50 percent of marriages in the United States will end up on the chopping block.

“Throughout time, seven years tends to be the magic number for the average length a couple makes it to before divorcing. They don't call it the 7-year-itch for nothing,” says Shwritz.

What’s the logic behind that number?

Shwirtz points us to the National Center for Health Statistics, which show that seven years is the average median duration in every decade they have studied.

“The first year is the honeymoon phase and not until about year four do tensions start to arise. By year seven, it's fight or flee. Either the couple will find a way to deal with the tension or they will call it quits,” Shwirtz says.

If you’re wondering what factors play into the high divorce rate, Katherine Miller, the founder of the Miller Law Group, shares that, according to the United Nations, the United States has the third highest divorce rate in the world and that there’s one divorce approximately every 36 seconds in this country.

Miller says that a lot marriages fail because communication has been absent for years prior.

“Once the honeymoon phase is over, the breakdown starts with misunderstanding and, left unattended, grows to competitiveness, resentment, and contempt.  Each member of the couple finds themselves more and more isolated as this downward spiral progresses,” says Miller.  “They then find themselves locked in what I call a conflict trap — each person at first trying desperately to be heard and seen by the other and then simply taking shots at the other justified in their minds by years of hurt.  Infidelity, over-spending, and passive aggressive behavior stem from the same source.”

Another main reason marriages are crumbling in today’s world is that people are living longer.

"People are living longer and, while they may have rationalized staying in a marriage for the sake of the children, or for business or social reasons (or all of the above), these rationalizations tend to fade over time, when the children are grown up and gone and retirement is at hand.  Some couples just don’t want to spend their 'golden years' stuck in an uncomfortable, unhappy partnership,” says Susan Myres, a Houston family lawyer.

Myres also points to factors that increase infidelity.

“Maybe there has been a change in the behavior of one partner, possibly because of a medical condition. Maybe there has been infidelity as one partner chased a vanished youth.  Medications aimed at treating erectile dysfunction may play a role in upending the relationship,” says Myres.

Aside from looking at infidelity, communication flaws, and overall partner resentment as signs your marriage isn’t going to make it, Melissa Fecak, a divorce lawyer and collaborative practitioner, recommends watching how your marriage changes once kids come into the picture.

“Many new parents do not realize how stressful having a newborn/young child can be. It is common for a parent to feel neglected by his or her spouse, as now the attention is being taken away from them and onto the child,” says Fecak. “Date nights and romantic trips together often lessen or stop once a baby arrives.  The lack of intimacy and shift in attention can sometimes be more than a parent anticipated and they are unwilling to change their expectations.”

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