The Big Mistake Even The Kindest Husbands & Wives Make That Leads To Divorce

Although it may feel like a mystery to couples, it's no surprise to therapists like myself.

Married couple in their own separate worlds Mixmike, chonesstock, claudiodivizia | Canva

None of us who fall in love and get married want to have that marriage explode. Yet there was a 14.56 per 1,000 divorce rate for married women in 2022. If you’re married, what can you do to be sure your relationship stays strong? After more than 40 years as a psychologist and couple therapist, my conclusion is that the most common reason marriages dissolve is the emotional intimacy of the partners has eroded.


Why? Because each partner prioritizes something outside the marriage above their partner — prioritizing their role as a parent and or provider above their role as the intimate partner of the person they love most. 

RELATED: 5 Divorce-Prevention Lessons I've Learned As A Couples Therapist

Real quotes from people whose priorities shifted away from their marriage 

“Well, I thought she’d be a great wife. She had it all. She was beautiful, she came from a good family, she was organized, she was smart. I thought she’d make a great mother. So we got married, and then I just turned around and focused on my career. So I was traveling a lot and moving up in the company. It felt great to be that successful.


It was as if I was just marching forward, making lots of money, and I was just, like, throwing the money behind me, back to her and the kids. And then, 20 years later, we had a lot of financial security, and the kids had done well and left for college, and it was just the two of us. And I turned back toward her, and I realized that there just was no connection there.”

— Bill, age 56

“There just is not enough time. My job is horrible. They don’t appreciate me there. Harry’s job is worse. He works all the time. On Mondays and Wednesdays, the boys have hockey practice. My youngest, a girl, struggles in school, so I take her for tutoring the other three days a week. Then, I must come home and get dinner on the table. And make sure the kids have their homework done.

"By the time all three of them are in bed, I am completely spent. And so is Harry. On weekends, there are endless birthday parties, and we try to spend some quality time as a family of all five. We don’t have relatives close by, so there is no way that we can go away by ourselves overnight. And besides, I guess we feel guilty because we don’t get to spend all that much time with the kids, so we don’t feel that great about getting away from them, even for an overnight. “


— Sara, age 36

“I feel like I’m last on her list. At least I’d like to be able to nuzzle and cuddle in bed before sleep. But she’s getting into bed with her iPhone, and she scrolls through Facebook until she gets tired, and then she puts on her eye mask and goes to sleep.”

— Garrett, age 38



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How to heal a lack of intimacy

No one who falls in love and gets married wants their marriage to explode.

The evaporation of emotional intimacy between a couple often leads to a seemingly functional but empty marriage and eventually to divorce. About 2/3s of married couples have children. Most people, whether from an emotionally nurturing family or a neglectful or traumatic one, want to be wonderful parents. So far, so good.

However, you don't want to create a family where only the children experience being deeply known and loved. One brilliant definition of emotional intimacy between partners focuses on the daily sharing of what is going on between you and me, right now.

A few questions to ask your partner to help rebuild closeness

  • How does each person feel?
  • What is the top issue on each person's worries and goals today?
  • Can you ask the other person for what you need? Do you each feel physically close?
  • Essentially, are you best friends?

RELATED: 11 Tiny Habits Of The Most Emotionally Intimate Couples


Time together spent exclusively planning for the children's well-being for their general lives, by definition, is not being intimate. It breaks two rules: it is not laser-focused on the two people in the couple, and it is future-oriented rather than present-oriented.

Trust me, I don't want your kids to be left alone by the curb after kindergarten or hockey practice. Daily planning is critical for your kids. But your kids are not the only people in the family. If you and your partner are disconnected emotionally, your marriage will not survive.

RELATED: How To Build An Emotional Connection With Your Partner

Redefine intimacy to the here and now 

I’m the Queen of Scheduling, the Slayer of the Myth of the Supremacy of Spontaneity. I have been quoted on the necessity of booking time for sexual intimacy for more than two decades (even predating the ascendancy of social media). I published a great recipe for how to fit gourmet sexual intimacy into a frenetic life with small children, even when you don’t have a babysitter.


Try implementing this new definition of intimacy in your marriage: Talking only about "You and Me, Now".

close couple stand forehead to forehead intimately Photo: PhotodriveStudio via Shutterstock


This means scheduling time to talk to each other in this way every day. If you don’t plan it, it will not happen. It doesn’t have to be more than 10 minutes each time. But you have to adhere to the definition given here. You might be surprised how challenging it is to share, face to face, what is important to you and to share enough of your inner truth so you’ll be known by your partner.

Do this for a few weeks and watch the increased feelings of vitality and connectedness between you. Here is the bonus: Your children will do better in a vital marriage, I promise you.

RELATED: The Simple Way To Have A Loving Relationship That Lasts Forever

Psychologist Aline Zoldbrod Ph.D. is a psychologist and sex therapist near Boston, hosts her own blog on the subject, and is an award-winning author of ‘SexSmart, a book that explains how your family of origin has shaped your sexuality.