Why Do Women File for Divorce More Often Than Men?

Unlike an informal break-up, a divorce filing is a severing of financial and legal ties that is public record. As well as losing emotional support, divorce represents a disentangling of a financial relationship that can leave both partners with reduced income. It’s no surprise therefore, that filing for divorce is a weighty decision that married couples agonize over, sometimes for years.

According to 2017 research, https://convention2.allacademic.com/one/asa/asa15/index.php?program_focus=view_paper&selected_paper_id=1006782&cmd=online_program_direct_link&sub_action=online_program in unmarried relationships, men and women have an equal share in taking the initiative to launch the break-up. Interestingly, when people are married, women are overwhelmingly more likely than men to ask for divorce. In the U.S., it’s estimated that 70% of women in heterosexual relationships are the ones to initiate divorce. https://www.asanet.org/press-center/press-releases/women-more-likely-men-initiate-divorces-not-non-marital-breakups. What is it about marriage that pushes women to breaking point?

Economic Ties

Marriage is an economically intertwined relationship. Sometimes this can mean economic interdependence, where both spouses are working or have equal salaries. In other situations, one spouse stays at home primarily and doesn’t have an independent income. Even if the wife isn’t a homemaker, the gender pay gap means women often earn significantly less than men. Getting a divorce can drastically cut people’s income, and this is particularly true for women. With the rise of people getting a divorce later in life, divorced women are facing reduced financial circumstances in old age. Despite all this, research has suggested that only 27% of women regret their divorce http://www.multivu.com/players/English/7827051-avvo-relationship-trends-study. and the remainder of women tend to thrive in the immediate aftermath of divorce compared to men, who often struggle. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5992251/

When women are college educated and have better career prospects, divorces are initiated by women up to 90% of the time. In addition, the marriages of women who out-earn their husbands are 50% more likely to end in divorce, perhaps because the reversed breadwinner roles are a threat to men’s social status. https://www.kiplinger.com/personal-finance/603298/women-who-make-more-than-their-husbands-should-watch-out#:~:text=When%20women%20out%2Dearn%20their,a%20University%20of%20Chicago%20study. It makes sense that women who can thrive independently would be more likely to initiate a divorce. Yet even women who might experience financial hardship as a result of the divorce are still more likely to file for divorce than their counterparts. Why is this? Well, one theory https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20220511-why-women-file-for-divorce-more-than-men is that divorce is a structured separation, like breaking up a business. Men are often content to separate without getting a divorce, but this can leave women in an insecure position financially. Likewise, women who leave cohabitation relationships that weren’t formalized can end up in financially bad straits. Women may be the ones to file for divorce because divorce is a formal process that can support their transition to financial independence.

Division of Labor and Emotional Satisfaction

Even now, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that heterosexual marriage is an institution that may not always benefit women. Men tend to live longer and earn more money if they are married, whereas women – even working women – tend to shoulder the lion’s share of childcare, housework and emotional labor. https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/05/breadwinning-wives-gender-inequality/589237/ During the lockdown phase of the pandemic, research indicated that women were doing more housework and homeschooling, and often gave up their jobs to take on this labor. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/06/upshot/pandemic-chores-homeschooling-gender.html? Contrary to the belief that divorce makes parenting more burdensome, many women have been forthright about the benefits of the structured nature of divorced parenting. When parents have equal visitation time, the children’s time with the other parent can provide some much needed alone time for women.

Societal expectations of marriage have also changed, and women may not get the emotional support they hoped for in heterosexual marriage. Expectations of men and women often differ in that women are expected to be caring, emotionally literate and supportive, while men were not raised to value these skills and may not pull their weight emotionally in the marriage. 

According to a 2016 Avvo survey, only 27 percent of women say they regret their divorce, while 39 percent of men do. However, it’s important to note that divorce can be economically perilous for women, especially those who have sacrificed career opportunities within their marriage. It’s critical that women ask for what they are worth in a divorce and ensure they plan carefully for their future. Speak to an experienced Massachusetts Divorce Attorney before you embark on your divorce journey to understand what to expect and how you can negotiate a fair divorce settlement. 

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