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The Problem with Irreconcilable Differences

2 min read

By Chris Armstrong
Mar 30, 2021

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About 80% of marriages end because of irreconcilable differences. That is a gargantuan percentage and, respectfully, it is a load of crock. Unless of course, we are to believe that four out of five marriages end because two people cannot compromise, adjust, or submit.

Compromise what? Adjust their views on what? Something occurred that led to the irreconcilable conflict—what was it? 

From a client advocacy perspective, the term 'irreconcilable difference' implies the falsehood that both parties attempted—with good intent—to reconcile something, and it just wasn't possible. It misses the point that someone started or initiated something that brought up the need to compromise. 

To be clear, some marriages do end because of truly irreconcilable differences. But as a divorce lawyer once shared with me over drinks, this occurs in roughly 15% of the divorce cases in which irreconcilable differences are cited as the reason. 

Irreconcilable differences can often mask the truth.

What if the truth is that spouse A physically abused spouse B and hides those truths under the generality of irreconcilable differences? Perhaps spouse B is fearful of spouse A and goes along with it to avoid the repercussions that could come from exposing the truth. The court, in no role to investigate the truth, only to hear both sides through the mouths of attorneys, grants a no-fault divorce; and spouse B remains a victim, while spouse A continues living life, likely as a bully in his or her next relationship.

Irreconcilable differences can also influence child support, spousal support, and other compensation that would otherwise go to a spouse had the real issues being introduced as part of the divorce proceedings.

I've done relationship coaching for 10 years, and 500-plus clients into it, irreconcilable differences are rarely at the root of divorces. There was cheating, abuse, compulsive lying, and other very specific occurrences that tore two people apart. I have also seen clients who were talked into citing irreconcilable differences, the rationale ranging from avoiding high lawyer fees and lengthy proceedings, to salvaging a co-parenting relationship where children were involved.

In other words, things other than the truth.


Did you divorce due to irreconcilable differences? Was that the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—or were some important details avoided? What was the impact on you? This is where my head and my heart collide. As a coach, I understand the need for compromise and compassion. In this, irreconcilable differences may be the best option for someone, even the easier option. I just don't want it to be the only alternative.

From a legal perspective, the irreconcilable difference means, quite simply, that two people can get divorced for the sole reason that they do not, and cannot, get along. This can certainly make divorce easier; some would contend, too easy. They go on to note that marriage is a lifelong commitment, and two people should have to try harder to salvage this union. Personally, and professionally, I disagree with this. Marriage requires true desire and commitment; administrative procedures should not keep two people together who otherwise do not want to be together. 

Moral of the story? Divorce should be a choice, and everything that goes into it should be both clear and intentional. Maybe you did divorce for irreconcilable reasons. Maybe you called it that as a matter of convenience. Just be aware of what it truly means.


If you are experiencing marital difficulties, please visit DivorceForcePRO to speak with one of our experts. To learn more about our Community, visit www.DivorceForce.com.

Written by Chris Armstrong

Chris Armstrong is a Certified Relationship Coach. His advice and columns are rooted in modern realities of men, women, sex, and love. He has been published more than 500 times in various media outlets such as MSNBC, Elephant Journal, Huffington Post, Divorced Moms, Your Tango, The Good Men Project, and She Knows, to name a few. Chris has had more than 450 clients and has run more than 75 workshops and seminars. Contact him via www.MazeOfLove.com.

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