On your typical Monday, we ladies huddle around the coffee maker talking about a well-known topic — complaints about our husbands. Some days we complain more than others. But are we serious? Are we really unhappy in our marriages? Would we ever consider the D word and ask for a divorce?
It turns out that women are more interested in divorce than men are. Michael Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, examined data from Stanford’s 2009-2015 How Couples Meet and Stay Together project, a national study of relationships and breakups. Rosenfeld looked at 2,262 adults, ages 19 to 94, who had opposite sex partners in 2009. By 2015, 371 of these people had split up or gotten divorced.
According to the data results, it turns out that men have a lot to worry about if they are a topic of a coffee complaint conversation. Rosenfeld discovered that wives initiated 69 percent of splits, compared to 31 percent of husbands.
Why do women want it more?
I find the results of the project fascinating. Women are less likely to stick around in a relationship that is not satisfying to them. There had to be a bigger story here. Why do women ask for a divorce so frequently and are we inadvertently responsible for the historically high number of broken families?
Every relationship has its owns reasons for breakdown and eventually breaking up. However, a societal shift is putting much more pressure on marriages than ever before. Today’s woman spends more time earning a paycheck outside the home. After a hard day on the job, she comes home to a second shift. On a typical day, 50 percent of women spend time after their full-time job doing chores around the house. Just 20 percent of husbands will do the same.
According to the book, The Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, mothers spend 41 hours caregiving versus 22 hours per week for fathers. Women also cook and clean 10 hours more a week than husband’s do.
If we only focus on working women, the situation is just as depressing. Mothers who work full-time will put in a week and a half’s worth more time on household tasks than their male partners each year. No wonder women feel tired all of the time. I thought it was just because I was getting old!
Real life marriage does not equal gender equality
The modern marriage does not seem so modern after all. The age old uneven power dynamic still persists, leading to lowers levels of marriage satisfaction for women. Rosenfeld maintains that “Women report lower levels (of marriage satisfaction) because they experience marriage as constraining, oppressive, uncomfortable and controlling.” Marriage has not caught up with the gender equality that women expect.
One of the survey participants explained why she asked for a divorce, “I used to be a very happy, optimistic person, and it was like he was starving my soul. I did not like the way that he was treating me.”
Obviously, we cannot know the reason for all of the divorces, however, it is clear that marriages need to adapt and move to a more equal partnership or we will continue to see much higher numbers of divorces initiated by women.
Early in her life, Stacy Francis witnessed how devastating life could be for women who were not empowered through financial education. Her grandmother stayed in an abusive marriage because she did not have the skills to effectively deal with money. That experience changed Stacy’s life and drove her into the finance field.
Stacy is president and CEO of Francis Financial, a fee-only boutique wealth management, financial planning, and divorce financial planning firm, and the founder of Savvy Ladies, a non-profit that has helped over 12,000 women across the spectrum of ages, life experience, and income levels identify their goals, make proactive choices about their finances, and lead richer, more rewarding lives.
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