Does a serious illness drive a couple closer to divorce? Part II

The previous post discussed a groundbreaking study published in the medical journal Cancer back in 2009 examining the divorce rates among couples where one spouse was diagnosed with a very serious illness.

Here, researchers discovered that when a wife is diagnosed with a serious illness, the marriage is actually seven times more likely to result in a dissolution of marriage. Specifically, they determined the divorce rate to be only three percent for men diagnosed with a serious illness versus 21 percent for women diagnosed with a serious illness.

Today’s post will continue the previous discussion, examining why some men are more likely to seek a divorce after their wives receive a difficult diagnosis.

According to psychological experts, one of the primary reasons why men are so much more likely to leave their spouses in these situations is that a serious illness can result in a new – and possibly uncomfortable – shift in traditional gender roles.

To illustrate, a prolonged illness may keep some men away from what they perceive to be their primary role as the breadwinning spouse and force them to assume the more unfamiliar role of the caregiving spouse.

Furthermore, this assumption of the role of the caregiving spouse often requires a husband to do more than just visit the hospital.

“In the past, a person would stay at the hospital for weeks,” said Dr. Jimmie Holland, a psycho-oncologist. “Now people come home with wounds that need to be cleaned, and all kinds of other things we once used to think only nurses could do.”

Another reason identified by these experts as to why men are so much more likely to leave their ill spouses is actually rather surprising: fear of abandonment.

Experts theorize that many men chose to leave their marriages in an attempt to minimize the emotional pain they would otherwise endure in the event of the untimely demise of their wives.

Similarly, psychological experts point out that many men lose their primary emotional support systems when their wives fall ill, and as a result, may look elsewhere for the support they need.

It is important to remember, however, that many couples do stay the course during prolonged illnesses, often emerging stronger.

“I’m now more secure in our marriage,” said Jennifer W., who grew to rely on her husband during her battle with breast cancer. “I trust him more than ever before, because we’ve been through the worst together. And he’s still here.”

To learn more about dissolution of marriage or life after divorce, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Names have been withheld to protect the identity of the parties.

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …

Related Resources:

When spouse gets sick – who leaves? (CNN)