Military Marriage Divorce Rate: Understanding Why It’s So High

Feb 18, 2024 | Communication, Divorce, Military Divorce

The facts are that military marriages end in divorce more frequently than civilian marriages. And what’s even more shocking is that married female service members have a divorce rate 2.5x higher than enlisted married men. It’s clear that military marriages face different challenges that civilian marriages may not encounter. However, is that the real reason why military marriages are failing and even more so for women? In this article, we’ll explore the factors contributing to the military marriage divorce rate, the impact of divorce on military families, and more. 


Factors Contributing to the Military Marriage Divorce Rate

We turned to and MilitaryOneSource to understand what factors were contributing to this shockingly high military marriage divorce rate. What we uncovered was somewhat surprising. Here are the factors that may contribute to the higher divorce rate among military couples: 

Younger Marriages  

One reason the divorce may be more prevalent among military couples is the fact that they tend to get married younger to take advantage of military marriage benefits. In fact, more than half of the troops are married before they turn 25. Now, let’s look at the general public. Most folks in the U.S. tie the knot somewhere between the ages of 28 and 30, as of 2023, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This is a big jump! There’s lots of learning and growing in your 20’s so it may contribute to a higher number of divorces.

Extreme Financial Hardship

According to a 2021 Survey of Military Spouses, the average financial well-being of military spouses was below the national average. In addition, 1 out of 4 felt “food insecure.” MilitaryOneSource quotes some real military spouses who say they struggle to even cover the grocery bills week to week. This extreme financial hardship can lead to conflict in a marriage and ultimately a breakdown. 

Rushing in for Military Marriage Benefits 

Let’s face it, some military marriages are based on the need to gain access to military marriage benefits. From Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to healthcare, young adults may need this governmental support to make it, and what better way to receive these benefits than to marry your boyfriend/girlfriend who you love! Well, of course, this backfires for some people for getting married for the wrong reasons! 


According to 2017 research done by the University of Minnesota, about 30% of male Air Force members experienced infidelity in some form while on a year long deployment. Infidelity based on long deployments are clearly a strain on a relationship and may lead to divorce. 

Stress and Anxiety

Acccording to a 2021 Survey of military spouses, 44% have seen a counselor during their spouse’s time on active duty. It’s no wonder–the constant stress and anxiety associated with military life can take a toll on a person, which can ultimately lead to a strain on the relationship.


Of course there’s the dreaded deployment which marks a long period of time where the military spouse is required to “hold down the fort” at home while their spouse is away on duty. This can put an immense amount of pressure on the military spouse to cook, clean, take care of the kids and pets, all by themselves. Plus, throw in the chance of money troubles, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for relationship stress.


Potential Reasons Why Female Troops are Divorcing at Higher Rates 

There is no hard and fast reason why women in the military are getting divorced at nearly 2.5x the rate that male troops are. However, here are some of the speculations we’ve come across on the “why:” 

  • Lack of family support while the female military member is away 
  • About half of married female troops are wedded to fellow service members, whereas only a small fraction, about 10%, of male troops have spouses who also serve in the military. Dealing with dual-military marriages can be stressful trying to balance two different military careers. 
  • Military women may be less conventional as a whole and thus less likely to stay in a bad relationship, thus divorcing at higher rates than more “conventional” women. 
  • The available military family support may be geared towards male military service members instead of females. 

While there’s no straightforward answer, it’s likely a combination of many different reasons as to why our female troops are more likely to get divorced. 


Impact of Military Divorce

Now that you’ve read and better understand the “why” behind the high military marriage divorce rates, let’s discuss the impact that divorce in the military can have on families and the service members. 

Emotional Toll

Divorce can lead to emotional distress for both spouses and children involved, affecting mental health and well-being.

Financial Consequences

Military divorces often come with financial challenges, including division of assets, spousal support, and potential loss of benefits.

Impact on Children

Children of military families may face additional stress and adjustment difficulties during and after divorce, impacting their academic performance and social relationships.


Despite the challenges, military marriages can thrive with effective communication, support, and resilience. By understanding the unique stressors faced by military couples and implementing strategies to strengthen their relationships, couples can overcome obstacles and build a fulfilling partnership.


Real Life Military Divorces 

We turned to Reddit to find real stories, from real military service members on the impact of divorce. Here are some of the ones that stuck out to us.

One Airforce Member’s Advice to Other Military Members

On a subreddit group for AirForce members (r/AirForce), anonymous user u/JustarianCeasar explained: 

“Hindsight is 20/20, but I should have known better than to completely disregard all the social safety-nets that were handed to me for nearly 14 years.

Don’t be like me, learn from my mistakes. When those married couple retreats come up, force your family to go; at worst its free daycare for a weekend. Optional ‘mandatory fun’ events shouldn’t be optional, no matter how many decades you have in. When your leadership and/or peers say that ‘You don’t need to go on this deployment if you don’t want to’ understand that’s their soft way of telling you that they think you are neglecting your family.”

The moral of this user’s story? When your military branch offers up marriage and family support… take it. If you have the option to stay home from deployment? Take it. 

A Story of Infidelity

A female member of the Armed Forces told her story on the subreddit for Army service members (r/Army). She vented her story out to the void and also sought some advice. Here’s what u/Ms_Snowhater had to say:


I’m at an outpost with [bad] internet access and no JAG so no help there. Recently deployed, found out about him cheating and kicked him out about 6 weeks before leaving. Now he’s saying he wants us to start divorce proceedings ASAP because his new GF(who he cheated with and is also in the army) wants to get married ASAP. We have no children and no property. My pay went into a joint bank account because he hasn’t worked since I enlisted and he didn’t like having to ask me for money when he needed stuff but I have since switched that to my personal account. We’ve been married for 4 years and I’ve been in the army less than 2 years.

I guess I’m just venting and also reaching out to y’all to see if there are any resources I could have access to while here and also if it’s possible to get this stuff done online. Thank you.

For our female troops, the rate of divorce is much higher than for male troops (nearly 2.5x higher). As we see in this divorce tale, her spouse committed adultery while she was deployed, which is not unsurprising given the long periods of time spent away from one another.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Military Marriage Divorce Rates

Let’s continue the discussion below with some FAQs surrounding the topic of military divorce rates. 

Q: What is the divorce rate among military couples?

A: The divorce rate among military couples is 4.8% compared to approximately 2.5% of the general public. 


Q: How does divorce impact children in military families?

A: Divorce can have a significant impact on children in military families, affecting their emotional well-being, academic performance, and social relationships. 


Q: What resources are available for military couples seeking support?

A: Military couples can access a variety of resources, including counseling services, support groups, and financial assistance programs, to help navigate challenges and strengthen their relationships. MilitaryOneSource has a full page filled with various marriage and family support programs which you can access here.

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