10 Most Common Reasons South Africans Divorce

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Data from the Department of Social Development in 2021 shows that South Africa has seen a steady decline in traditional “nuclear” families, with similar changes in divorce and marriage rates over the past decade.

Other measures show that there has been a steady increase in divorce rates across the country.

Together, the decline in the number of marriages and the increase in divorces led to a steady decline in couple-headed households for some time in South Africa, according to the department.

Legal experts have also pointed to an increase in new divorce proceedings in the country since the start of the Covid pandemic.

Family lawyers say February and March are usually divorce months, however, the pandemic has spiked in other months due to increased job losses and psychological effects including anxiety and depression, while couples have also been forced to stay close for long periods during lockdown.

The head of the family and divorce law department at Maurice Phillips Wisenberg Attorneys, Bertus Preller, provided the 10 most common reasons for divorce:


10. Difference in Priorities

The difference in priorities between married couples, which many men and women discuss and anticipate before they marry, becomes a significant issue in the later stages of many marriages. If one spouse wants to start a family and the other doesn’t, it can create a huge conflict.

A spouse often spends less time with their family and focuses on other priorities. This often creates a struggle for the survival of any marriage. No matter how hard spouses try to harmonize their priorities, they still remain completely unique, distinct, and completely different individuals.


9. Religious differences

Couples of a different religion, culture, or ethnicity sometimes ignore the expectations of their partner’s religion, which often causes resentment among them.

These differences are mainly due to the many taboos posed by a specific culture. In addition to this, most parents prefer that the religion of the children be the same as themselves.


8. Parental responsibilities

Spouses are often unable to constructively co-parent children during marriage. Children are a reflection of ourselves, and sometimes parents can’t let go of their egos and put their children on the back burner.

Differences in ideas about how to properly raise children cause breakdowns in marriages, contributing to the list of reasons for divorce. A parent often creates a wedge between the other parent and the children by siding with the children and thus forming two camps within the marriage.

This often causes the other parent to feel rejected in the marriage. Differences between the parents on how to discipline the children also create tension in the marriage, as one parent feels rejected, especially when one parent scolds the other in the presence of the children.


7. Finance

In the face of difficult times, some marriages crumble. Money or anything related to it is a cause of disagreement between the spouses.

Whether they’re happy or not, married couples can have disagreements over minor financial issues. Money is not always the only or main cause of divorce among married couples and is usually associated with other main reasons for divorce causing distress.


6. Sexual Incompatibility

Men and women are different emotionally, mentally, sexually. Things can change as the marriage progresses i.e. children, health issues, career changes, etc.

In most cases, a partner’s sexual dissatisfaction usually leads to divorce. The issue of sexual incompatibility varies greatly from case to case. If a spouse is not fulfilled emotionally and physically, they will look elsewhere.


5. Dependency

Marriage, family and addiction certainly don’t mix. Any form of addiction has a serious impact on a marital relationship.


4. Social networks

Flirting and comments on Facebook are contributing to a growing number of divorces, and social media is affecting privacy and family interactions. Social media blurs the line between public and private.

The nature of social media encourages free-spirited commenting, posting, and sharing of information. Facebook has made it easy for people to see if the grass is greener on the other side, especially when so many profiles are just a click away.


3. Marital infidelity

Infidelity, adultery or more commonly known as “cheating”, tops the list of grounds for divorce in South Africa.

Most people know precisely what infidelity or cheating is, but in more formal terms, infidelity gets to the root of the foundation of any relationship, which is trust, and it’s a violation of the rules. or mutually agreed boundaries that a couple assumes in their relationship.

Adultery can be defined as extramarital sexual relations that willfully and maliciously interfere with marital relations, making the breakdown of the marital relationship irretrievable.


2. Physical, psychological, financial or emotional abuse

The abusers can be husband or wife, and this is a major concern for many couples. Domestic violence and abuse occurs among heterosexual couples, same-sex couples, and anyone living together in the same household.

While women and children are the most victimized, men are also abused, mostly verbally and emotionally, but sometimes also physically. Domestic violence occurs across all age groups, ethnic groups and class levels.

Abuse varies from family to family; however, in a restricted list, they include things like telling a spouse they are unwanted, swearing, ignoring, restricting a person to a room, monitoring phone calls, forcing the spouse to do something with which he is not comfortable, withholding finances, etc. Violence is one of the main reasons for divorce.


1. Lack of communication

Without adequate communication, no relationship can ever be adequate. Communicating in a couple does not mean agreeing with each other. Couples who have communication problems, which usually lead to divorce and breakup, cannot find the middle ground and cannot compromise.

Many teams lack communication when it comes to making financial decisions. Lack of communication leads to financial problems and endless arguments. Many couples also have a complete lack of communication when making decisions about their children.

Lack of communication in all areas of marriage causes significant damage to the marital relationship.


Read: An increase in January divorces in South Africa – and the rule you need to know

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