The wedding-day fantasy seems to be infused into almost every girl’s DNA. Fairy tales nurture it, movies exaggerate it, and shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings flat-out exploit it. So it may come as a surprise that women initiate divorce more than men.
Perhaps you’re thinking it’s the hype of the wedding and not the marriage that makes women initiate divorce 69% of the time compared to men. They have a lifetime of dreaming and planning, then boom, babies, bills, and boredom.
But interestingly, the initiative is pretty equally split in non-marital relationships. This suggests that there is “something” about marriage that contributes to the statistical imbalance.
So what is it about tying the knot that pushes women to make a decision that often doesn’t fare in their favor? Women, after all, statistically struggle more than men with finances and lifestyle maintenance after divorce.
And, if they have spent years out of the workforce in order to raise children, they leave their marriages at a disadvantage.
Moreover, they rarely recover fully.
The reasons for which women initiate divorce are not formulaic or limited to those discussed here. But they do tend to fall under some broad categories of dissatisfaction.
Here are 7 reasons why women initiate divorce more often than men. See if any of them hit home for you.
Women have high and complex expectations about marriage, and those get dashed.
Today’s bride-to-be isn’t registering for aprons and cookbooks. She expects an egalitarian relationship with shared responsibilities and benefits not predicated on colonial gender roles. Chances are that she is employed or on a focused career path. So, she is making a contribution to the family that was once the sole responsibility of the husband.
Women today expect more. They want emotional intimacy, communication, personal growth, and shared responsibility.
When marriage starts to feel more like wash-rinse-repeat than the promised pursuit of dreams, disenchantment can creep in and take over. Once this tension sets in, women are more likely to feel its effects. Thus, women initiate divorce more often when this contradiction arises.
Equality isn’t all that “equal.”
Change may be the only thing constant in life. But that doesn’t mean it happens cleanly or logically. In the span of a handful of decades, the role of women in society has changed exponentially. Women are equally in the workforce, earning degrees, and taking on roles of tremendous power and influence. Women are notorious for braving the front lines of initiative and necessary change. Society and entities content with the status quo, however, aren’t always so quick to follow suit.
Technology, media, education, and a shrinking world continue to expose the always-present powers and potential of women. And yet, acceptance of those traits doesn’t seem to have caught up with married and family life.
Despite working outside the home just like their husbands, married women still do the majority of childcare and housework. So, while blazing new trails in the world at large, they are finding themselves stuck in traditional expectations at home.
And many women are finding that this dynamic is holding them back in life. They are capable of and yearning to do so much more. But something has to give.
Unfortunately, divorce in transformational times is another barrier that women are having to overcome. Equality, it seems, is ahead of its time.
Women are still the emotional caregivers.
Some things, like a woman’s proclivity for emotional expression and intuition, are a reflection of natural traits. But neither gender has a corner on the market of any natural leaning, especially when choice and effort can enrich it. And yet, when it comes to being sensitive, and responsive to the emotional needs of a family, the expectation still usually falls to the wife or mother. Men may have an inclination to be less emotive and communicative, but they can and often do exploit the stereotype. The weight left on the woman’s shoulders, then, becomes extremely heavy and draining over time. This weight may cause women to initiate divorce long before their spouses.
It also contributes to women being held back by marriage, as there is often so little energy left for themselves.
Women are more inclined to reach out for support.
Perhaps it’s because they have so much on their plate (and always have) that women have a knack for building community. Compared to men, they are far more likely to reach out for support. While the voices of wisdom and support may advise a woman to live her best life, men are more likely to stay stuck. Conservatism and emotional closure contribute to their choice to stay in a marriage, regardless of its dysfunction.
Women are getting more educated.
In the based-on-a-true-story movie Dangerous Beauty, the Venetian courtesan Veronica Franco proves to be more than just beautiful. She learns that courtesans are the only women given access to libraries and education, and she devours the opportunity. In one simple statement to the wives of Venice, she makes the power of that distinction clear: “A woman’s greatest and most hard-won asset is an education.” Five-hundred years later, there is still truth in her words. Women are now leading the graduation rates for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. And college-educated women initiate divorce 90% of the time, compared to 69% for women overall. Yet another testament to the role education and exposure to “what’s out there” have on women stepping into their full potential.
Women have more opportunities today.
It’s almost surreal to look back on the roles of women in history. Misguided theories, restrictive laws, and male-dominated societies have all conspired to build walls that women are still breaking down. And yet, for all the opportunities and glimpses of equality that women in America have, women in many nations are still living in a dark history. We have only to look at the patriarchal systems of the Middle East to know that one woman’s journey may be world’s away from another woman’s journey.
Women often have nothing more to lose.
Sometimes being the underdog has its advantages. If a woman is being repressed, mistreated, abused, or neglected in a marriage, she may see no risk in leaving. The greater risk may come from staying. This “nothing left to lose” mindset can be energizing and may literally propel a woman upward.
When you consider all that women have had to overcome throughout history, it’s natural to marvel at their strength and tenacity.
The fact that, in our modern era, women initiate divorce more than men comes with and because of conflicting messages.
On the one hand, women are taking the blinders off and shielding themselves with their own power instead of fear.
On the other hand, sometimes the rest of the world isn’t ready for what can be… and should be.
Since 2012, SAS for Women has been dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.