Top 10 Causes of Divorce/Broken Marriages in Nigeria

Marital failure or breakdown according to Wikipedia refers to the common process whereby the relationship between a married couple erodes, such that they cannot ordinarily restore their relationship. This therefore leads to divorce or in a more simpler term, dissolution of the marital relationship.


divorce in Nigeria

In Nigeria, the recent rate at which couples divorce is low as compared to the westerners. In a recent data according to the National Bureau of Statistics, the divorce statistics in Nigeria shows that about 0.2% of men and 0.3% of women decides to end their marriages and most of these relationships are usually short. Most of the causes of divorce cases sometimes bothers more on infidelity on a cheating partner, but that’s far from it.

Trust me, marriage is not easy as most singles out there think. It is not a bed of roses as seen in movies. It really takes time, patience and understanding on the part of both partners to sustain it. Most couples don’t even know the effects of divorce and the harm it does to their children, they just feel that they can no longer live under the same roof, tolerate each other and then jump into the conclusion of divorce.

A lot of factors have been identified as the obstacles to a happy marriage, which eventually lead to a marital breakdown. If those about to marry give a serious thought to the following factors, there is no doubt that many marriages might be saved.

Below are top 10 reasons for Divorce/Broken Marriages in Nigeria

1. Lack of Preparation

Many young people today dabble into marriage without any adequate preparation. It is true that at the age of 14 for a girl and 16 for a boy, they are already physically matured for marriage, but then physical maturity is not all that is required for marriage. There is need for two people who are about to enter into marriage to be prepared for it. This preparation can come in various forms – emotional, psychological and intellectual.

They are supposed to know what marriage is all about, what is expected of them in terms of the duties and obligations, and how they are to relate with each other meaningfully after marriage. In my interaction with many young men and women whose marriages have broken down, I have discovered that at the very time they entered into the marriage, they knew next to nothing of what marriage actually entailed.

Unfortunately, many of those who want to enter into marriage today are not patient enough to undergo a formal marriage course or instruction. They have no time and would even want the marriage done within the shortest time possible. It is sad that a young man would spend 5 to 7 years in apprenticeship to learn a trade or to graduate in the university but would not deem it necessary to be informed about marriage, which is a lifelong commitment. This is why the story of many second marriages is the story of people who learned the hard way of the perils of rushing into a first marriage without preparation, meant to dispose them to holiness and the obligations to their new state.

2. Lack of Courtship

Many people enter into marriage without any courtship and without the basic knowledge of the other party. The period of acquaintance should of necessity be followed by a sufficient time of engagement, at least several months. This period offers the young people the opportunity to see whether their first love, if any, is based on a solid foundation. They should confront each other with conversations and gradually become acquainted with their mutual background and interests, their ideals and religious convictions. This is necessary if they are to choose each other with the sufficient insight, which such a vital decision deserves.

While sexual intercourse is irresponsible and ruled out completely at this stage, the two people who are engaged are nevertheless permitted manifestations of love, which would be deemed improper for other unmarried couples. Hence, engagement is the period when the two people intending to marry should be close to each other and find out such things like their blood group, their genotype, their HIV status and their fertility status by going for the necessary tests. These findings are very essential for the success of any marriage.

The practice in Nigeria where some parents simply order their children to marry a particular person for their selfish interest leaves a lot to be desired. This does not give room for engagement and the necessary freedom for marriage. The practice of paying or accepting the dowry within a few weeks that a couple came to know each other, or that a couple were introduced to one another, tends also to militate against engagement. It puts the couple in a cultural situation of viewing themselves already as man and wife, thus closing the door to a meaningful engagement.

3. Incompatibility

Many a time, when I ask people whose marriage has broken down the question, “what caused the breakdown of your marriage”, the answer that I often get is this: “we are incompatible”. By that he or she means that they cannot agree on anything, that they are opposed to each other. One wonders what effort they made at the initial stage to find out whether they were compatible or not. Physical attraction is one element of compatible relationship, but it alone will not be enough to make a boy and a girl compatible, and their marriage successful. For total compatibility, there is need also for mental attraction, emotional attraction and spiritual attraction.

It is therefore very important that before two people give their final yes to each other in marriage, that they do their utmost best to study and assess each other’s likes and dislikes, so as to see whether they would be able to achieve a balance and harmony after marriage. They should observe closely each other’s temperament, which is the combination of inborn traits that subconsciously affect human behaviour, as well as observe each others character and personality.

4. Lack of Openness

Many people enter into marriage with a hidden agenda. Any marriage that begins with insincerity is most likely to hit the rocks. The greatest illusion in marriage is for one to enter it with a hidden agenda and at the same time believe that the other party will not mind when the alarm eventually blows, and the cat is let out of the bag. Some men, in order to get a particular girl to marry them, tell a lot of false stories about their work, social status, finance and health.

Unfortunately, some girls do not go the extra mile to verify or establish the veracity of such claims. Some girls on the other hand do also hide significant information about their earlier life or marriage from their partner. Hence, some people select a marriage partner for all the wrong reasons and introduce their selfish agenda into the new union, thereby destroying their interpersonal relationship and erasing all feeling of love. The consequence of such machinations and lack of openness is evident: marital breakdown.

5. Age Differences

In marriage, the couples are supposed to be first and foremost friends. This by implication means that their ages at the time of the marriage do play an important role in the success of the marriage. A man of 40 years of age marrying a girl of 15 years of age may be in for a surprise, which he never bargained for. It means that by the time the man is 65, already an “old man”, the woman will only be at her prime, which is 35. Many women are not so comfortable to walk along the street with a man old enough to be their father.

More importantly, a boy of 30 years of age who marries a girl of 40 years because of her money or the wealth of her parents may be in for a shock because she may have only a few years to enter the period of menopause, and with chances of having children much reduced. Again, many men who marry women much older than they are usually complain that these women neither obey nor respect them.

It is advisable to marry someone with an age difference of not more than five years. It is very important that the intending couples know each other’s date of birth. Falsification of date of birth may bring about lack of trust and eventually a strain to the marriage.

6. Academic qualification, exposure and illiteracy

It has been observed that many traders who never went beyond the primary school go for university graduates as wives, because they feel that they have enough money to maintain them. A woman by going through the university has been exposed and has imbibed a certain culture or civilization. Where such a woman marries a man who has plenty of money but is illiterate and uncultured, there may not be harmony in their relationship.

Experience has shown that there is usually a serious tension arising from their difference in mentality, habits, taste, and discipline. Of course, this is not to say that every illiterate and uncultured trader that marries a university graduate as wife will find it difficult to live with her. Nevertheless, it is important to know that this is a possible source of conflict in marriage, and that this kind of conflict has led to the breakdown of many marriages in Nigeria.

7. Childlessness and Infertility

Childlessness in marriage is one of the major causes of divorce/marital maladjustment and final breakdown of marriages in Nigeria. Given the premium which Africans in general and Nigerians in particular attach to children, any marriage that has nothing to show for it in terms of children after two years is usually in tension. Even where the man claims that he is not perturbed and is not worrying the wife about the childlessness, the woman herself does not feel at ease. The family of the man usually blames the woman for the childlessness even when the man is responsible for the problem. She is often called all sorts of names including being “a man”.

As a result of this problem of childlessness, it will be very important for two people entering into marriage to go for a fertility test. Experience has shown that some men who know before the marriage that they are Azoospermic, that is, that their sperm count is Zero, and so incapable of impregnating a woman or fathering any child, hide this fact from the other party. Some of these men usually have problems traceable to their childhood or adolescent. Some marry with the hope that the woman will agree to be getting her pregnancy from “outside”. Azoospermia is different from oligospermia, which is low sperm count, caused mainly by an infection of the urethra, epididymis or prostrate, and which can easily be cured.

On the side of women, it has been discovered that some hide the fact of their not ovulating or menstruating at all to the other party before the marriage. Such women tactfully claim to be pregnant shortly before the marriage to pressure the man into tying the nuptial knots without further delay. Usually, such women claim to have suffered a miscarriage after the marriage. However, whenever the man or the woman discovers this kind of foul play, the marriage usually hits the rock.

So in spite of the belief that it is God that gives children, a fertility test is still a human way of cooperating with God in that area, and will go a long way to preventing the unhappiness that will come from a culpable neglect of it.

8. Unfulfilled Expectation

It has been observed that some men marry hoping for material or financial benefits from the family of the woman. The underlining element and motive of the marriage is the assistance to be received. In such a situation, the love necessary to sustain the marriage is basically lacking. Many a time, this expectation is not usually met and it brings about friction and tension in the marriage, and consequently its breakdown.

A man should never agree to marry a woman he does not love, and who is much older than he is, only because he hoped that through the marriage, the family of the woman would transfer their wealth to him. This hope is rarely fulfilled after the marriage. Such unfulfilled expectation has been the cause of many broken marriages in Nigeria.

9. Unfaithfulness in Marriage

This is another top cause of divorce in Nigeria. The first characteristic of conjugal love is fidelity. Faithfulness is essential to a happy life in marriage. In marriage, the man and woman are supposed to be faithful to each other. To have affairs with another person of the opposite sex means practically to “divide” oneself, which eventually leads one to withdraw from a real love relationship.

This is why promiscuity, either on the side of the woman or the man, often times leads to marital breakdown. In the storms of problems and difficulties, a marriage can only stand firm if it is rooted in faithfulness. Hence, whenever a man or a woman betrays the promise to be faithful to the other party by engaging in extra-marital affairs, the seed for the breakdown of the marriage is sown.

10. Lack of Communication or Sharing

Communication block is a major source of marital breakdown. Communication has been called the lifeline of love. In its root meaning, it refers to sharing. It implies that two persons have now something “in common” because it has been shared. In its most profound sense, communication is a sharing of the persons themselves. It is through communication that two parties get to know each other, their hidden angers and humiliating fears.

Where there is no communication, small difficulties become big problems, and silence is understood as hostility. Without communication, there can be no understanding, and there can be no common action. Without communication, a lot of frustration develops and one feels alone in ones own world, with doubt and suspicion growing in the mind. Without communication, the couple drifts apart gradually, each opening new channels outside the home, until finally they are like two strangers sharing a table in a crowded restaurant.


It is a fact that he who has failed to plan has already planned to fail. This is applicable to marriage also for a successful marital life devoid of bitterness and rancor equally requires planning, adequate knowledge and information. One has to be aware of the things that can wreck havoc to a marriage and prevent it from being a lifelong commitment that is peaceful, harmonious and enriching.

Marital breakdown is a cankerworm that destabilizes the family and brings about untold hardship to the children of the marriage. The causes of divorces in Nigeria can be uprooted only if we know them and take necessary precautions, for prevention is better than cure and a stitch in time saves nine.

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Oluchi Chukwu

Oluchi is a seasoned Information blogger, content developer and the editor of Nigerian Queries. She is a tech enthusiast who loves reading, writing and research

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