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February 13, 2008: Infidelity, incompatibility among highest causes of divorce, says poll

by Jeffrey Cottrill

TORONTO -- What causes people to divorce? It's a very subjective question, of course: the reasons married couples have for breaking up are as various as their reasons for falling in love. However, there are some issues that come up frequently among couples -- especially infidelity, poor communication, abuse, and just plain incompatibility.

A 2006 poll by DivorceMagazine.com asked its online readers the simple question: "What caused your separation/divorce?" The poll offered nine separate answers and told respondents to choose which one was the single strongest factor in the marital breakdown. The poll closed on October 31, 2006, after a total of 1514 people (1033 of them women) had responded.

Out of the whole, 23% of respondents claimed infidelity as the dominant factor in triggering their separations or divorces. Communication problems came a close second at 22%, followed by basic incompatibility with 18% and emotional or physical abuse with 17%.

Other cited answers in the poll: 8% of respondents cited drug addiction or alcoholism as the strongest factor, followed by money problems at 6%, one spouse being a workaholic at 3%, and a change in one spouse's appearance at 2%.

However, it's worth noting that the top answers differed noticeably between male and female respondents.

In the men's case, basic incompatibility was the top choice, as picked by 27% of respondents. Communication problems were second with men, at 25%; after that, men answered infidelity (19%) and abuse (11%).

On the female side, nearly a quarter of the women polled chose infidelity as the dominant reason for their divorce. Second for women was communication, at 20%, followed closely by abuse at 19% and basic incompatibility at only 14%.

So what does the gender difference mean? Any answer would probably be suspect of sexist generalization, of course, but the poll results seem to imply that men and women may have slightly different ideas as to what defines or constitutes "incompatibility" in a relationship, and/or what level of marital incompatibility is a sufficient reason to initiate a divorce. However, it's obvious overall that personal and physical compatibility is a must for a marriage, however you perceive or define it. And anyone would agree that communication is vitally important to the strength and longevity of a relationship.

To see the results of past DivorceMagazine.com polls, click here.

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