Do Military Couples Divorce More Often?

Hossein Berenji, Jul 26, 2019

Marriages have peaks and valleys, good times and hard times. All long-term marriages face obstacles and major life stressors. Does a marriage with one spouse in the military bring on more stress? Do military couples divorce more frequently than civilian couples?

This may be a difficult issue to look at and compare. Marriages where at least one spouse is in the military do not fall into a single demographic. Do the years enlisted matter? Does the number of years on active duty with a high level of combat matter? Or, what if the enlisted spouse is a woman and the man a civilian?

What Stats Are Available on Military Couples and Divorce?

The divorce rate for those in the military has been holding steady at a rate between 3 and 3.1 percent for the past 4 years. This stat was calculated by comparing the number of those in the military who are married at the start of the year to those who reported divorces at the end of the year. The rate of divorce among women in the military is double that of their male counterparts.

The average divorce rate for those in the military is only slightly higher than the average U.S. divorce rate overall. The U.S. divorce rate is 2.9.  However, the average rate for women in the military is higher than the average U.S. divorce rate.

Those military spouses with longer and more frequent deployments also see a higher rate of divorce. There has even been a link to a higher rate of divorce for military spouses whose deployments included combat and weapon use. Some research has shown an increase among those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The above stats can be somewhat misleading. To have accurate stats we’d have to be able to look at similarities between people – both civilian and military – who have gone through a divorce. Age, level of education, race, economic status, and other such information would be necessary for an accurate study. We don’t have the statistics that break it down into the categories mentioned above.

Overall, it is hard to compare the stats on divorce rates for those in the military versus civilians. There are arguments to be made that the statistics might be lower for those in the military. Other issues compromise those stats, such as the divorce spike right after a spouse leaves the military.

In some ways, as an employer, the military can be seen as marriage and family-friendly. There are benefits that go to the spouse and children, housing allowances, assistance with education for the military spouse and family, etc. This support may help families and couples ride out the high-stress levels that come with life in the military.

How Can a Couple Deal With the Stress of Enlisted Life?

Military life has unique and powerful stressors. There are long periods of separation and worry. Just as with any marriage, communication is key. If you find you and your spouse starting to drift or argue more than usual you can start a conversation about these issues. If more help is needed you should seek out counseling services sooner rather than later.

You may cross the threshold where there is no going back, and the marriage cannot be saved. If this happens you may still want to seek counseling to minimize the impact of separation and divorce. You may want to have a consultation with an experienced divorce attorney early on in the process so that you can learn about your rights and responsibilities.