What Breaks Us Up?

Australian Divorce Statistics
New relationships are full of excitement and glitter. Everything your partner does is endearing, you want to share every waking moment, you can’t keep your hands off each other. But inevitably, over time, the sparkle wears off and the risk of relationship breakdown becomes very real.
Statistics reveal that up to 33% of all Australian marriages are expected to end in divorce [1], and countless more relationships fall by the way side. This percentage has, on the whole, been gradually rising since 1975, when the Family Law Act introduced ‘no fault divorce’, meaning that the cause of the breakdown was irrelevant to one’s ability to obtain a divorce. In 2010 alone, there were 50,200 divorces in Australia, meaning that 100,400 people were new divorcees in that year [2].
Whilst the causes of marital breakdown may no longer be relevant to applications for divorce, it is nonetheless important to understand what causes relationship breakdown so that we can do our best to avoid it.
These causes are varied and often interrelated, but studies indicate that for most couples, inattention to the relationship is what ultimately causes the split.
Indeed, an Australian study reported that a whopping 71% of divorcees blame “affective issues” for the cause of marital breakdown [3]. Affective issues include:

  • communication problems (27%),
  • loss of connection (21%), and
  • infidelity/trust issues (20%).

Other causes of divorce in Australia include:

  • physical or emotional abuse: 7.4%
  • alcohol and drug abuse: 7.4%
  • financial problems: 4.7%
  • work/time pressures: 2.7%
  • family interference: 0.6%
  • physical health or mental health issues: 4.7%

These statistics suggest that relationships need a great deal of care and attention if they are going to thrive. Indeed, studies which have focussed on long-term marriages or relationships [4] tends to cite the following elements as essential criteria for successful relationships:

  • a great respect for each other and a mutual sense of appreciation
  • trust and faithfulness;
  • physical closeness/sexual relations;
  • strong communication skills and the ability to discuss problems openly;
  • common values and shared meaning;
  • Supportiveness for each other;
  • The ability to cooperate; and
  • Flexibility in times of transition.

These are all elements that can be learned, developed and nurtured in your own relationship. But you don’t have to do this alone. A couples therapist can teach you how to communicate better in a calm and contained environment. Better communication will lead to greater trust, a stronger sense of connection, and renewed intimacy. Good communication skills will also help you address problems in your relationship before they become insurmountable or irreversible.
[3] Australian Divorce Transitions Project (Wolcott and Hughes) 1999
[4] Kaslow and Robinson 1996; Levenson et al. 1993; Wallerstein and Blakeslee 1995 as quoted in


  1. Bradbury, T.N., Fincham, F.D., & Beach, S.R.H. (2000). Research on the nature and determinants of marital satisfaction: A decade in review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62
    (4), 964–980. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00964.x.
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