As a Portland marriage counselor, I keep tabs of things like divorce rates and the reasons that people give for their break-up. The one that probably bothers me the most is “irreconcilable differences.”

You hear that word and think that things must have been horrible for that couple. Few people can really imagine having relationship issues serious enough that they are truly “irreconcilable,” but apparently it happens to a lot of couples.

Were they constantly cheating on each other? Lying and stealing? Was one forcing the other into slave labor? Of course not. Most of the time, all “irreconcilable differences” means is that the couple stopped wanting to fight for their marriage.

A List of “Irreconcilable Differences” from a Portland Marriage Counselor

What are some of the most common “irreconcilable differences”? Much of that depends upon how long you’ve been with your spouse, because people tend to divorce over similar relationship issues at different times in their relationship. That should tell us something, but we’ll come back to it in a moment.

The first wave. Divorce rates first peak for couples who’ve been married 5 to 7 years. Almost all these couples want to separate because they are tired of constantly arguing. And what do they fight over? Sex, money, parenting, chores and responsibilities, and friends and other outside pursuits and hobbies. In short, the same things most couples argue about.

The second wave. Couples who make it past the first wave of divorces can expect another one to hit between 10 to 15 years of marriage. People in this stage of their relationship aren’t upset over the fighting anymore. Instead, they complain that they just don’t feel the love. The two of them have drifted apart and no longer have an intimate connection. This can happen for many reasons, including the fights that didn’t quite drive them to divorce in the first wave, but most often the culprits are careers, kids, and just plain selfishness.

Portland Marriage Counselor: What These Commonalities Tell Us

Here’s where we come back to that earlier point. We have lots of people suffering from similar problems at the same times in their relationships. What does that tell us?

It says that far from being “irreconcilable,” these problems are completely normal. In fact, they are average and should be expected.

Too many people think that long-term relationships are supposed to fall into place and that everything will go smoothly, but humans aren’t built that way. If we want to remain happy with each other, we have to work at it and keep working.

Can’t do it yourself? A Portland marriage counselor can help.