Divorce (It’s a Woman Thing)
Surprising as it is, the statistics are clear: When marriages fall apart, it's usually the woman who ends it. Tweet
When marriages fall apart, it is the woman who initiates divorce proceedings more than 70% of the time.
Even when women marry other women, they wind up divorced at abnormally high rates.
Women may like getting married more than men; they just don’t like staying married as much.
In today’s world, women are the ones likelier to crave change and excitement over the ordinariness of real life.
The audience for The Bachelor – the long-running ABC Show in which 25 gorgeous women compete for the chance to live happily-ever-after with a hunky, possibly even straight guy – is 77% female. No big surprise there, right? No more than that it’s women who buy Brides Magazine, and tune into Say Yes to the Dress, and fixate on soap operas.
Women, as the pat explanation has it, are romantics.
On the other hand, what to make of this? A 2015 study by the Amerrican Sociological Association informs us that when marriages fall apart, it is the woman who initiates divorce proceedings more than 70% of the time. And when the couple are college grads, chances are better than nine in ten the woman will do the filing.
‘When marriages fall apart, it is the woman who initiates divorce proceedings more than 70% of the time.’
Talk to a feminist, you’ll likely be told the explanation is obvious: forget the filing part, that’s just a legalism and the final step in a long process. Look closely at why the marriage came apart, and you’ll usually find it was the man who caused it.
And, indeed, there’s no shortage of statistics that can be marshaled in support of such a proposition. Men are more likely to be unfaithful, as well as to have drug, alcohol, or gambling problems.
Still, satisfying as such an explanation might be to many women, accurate as it may register even to men in a time when manhood itself is largely under attack, it is wrong.
How can we be sure? Because even when women marry other women, they wind up divorced at abnormally high rates. Indeed, married lesbians are far more likely than straight couples or even gay men to divorce. Nor is this the case only in America. It’s worldwide, across cultures. Between 2005 and 2009, lesbian divorce rates in Belgium were twice those of gay men, and data likewise show double the divorce rate among gay women in Sweden and the Netherlands, while Great Britain’s Pink News reports that in 2019 divorce was three times as common among lesbians as among gay men.
So what’s going on here? Doesn’t this conflict with everything we’ve heard about men and women – and especially gay men and gay women?
After all, since men are furnished (and often burdened) by nature with a more relentless sex drive – inclined, as Nora Ephon had it, to have sex with a venetian blind when nothing else is available – it would stand to reason that married gay men, absent the civilizing influence of women, would be even more likely to stray than go straight? And, by the same token, aren’t lesbians more likely to stay faithful?
Yes, indeed, in both cases. Their respective attitudes toward domesticity vs. wild abandon are reflected in an old joke: “Q: What’s a second date for lesbians? A: Picking out drapes. Q: What’s a second date for gay men? A: What’s a second date?”
In fact, more plausible than promiscuity as an explanation for the frequent failures of lesbian marriages is their absence of passion; and how quickly they’re apt to devolve into boring domesticity. There’s even a term for it: lesbian bed death. Nearly half of lesbian couples have sex once a month or less. By contrast, 85% of married heterosexual have sex no less than once a week.
Straight and gay aside, given the consistency of the data, maybe we should simply accept exactly what it suggests: that in spite of everything we’ve been taught to believe, divorce is basically a woman thing. Women may like getting married more than men; they just don’t like staying married as much.
Why is that? Because in today’s world, they are the ones likelier to crave change and excitement over the ordinariness of real life. So they’re readier to walk away when the reality doesn’t match the dream.
“The internal process for a woman usually starts with her wondering why she is so unhappy” writes Julie Danielson in Divorce Magazine – and yes, there really is such a thing. “She works on herself by reading self-help books. Maybe she seeks counseling, starts exercising, or does some form of self-development. At some point, she feels a little better, but something is still off. She may feel lonely, so she looks closer at the marriage. Looking at the marriage under a microscope reveals a multitude of infractions.”
And why is that? Well, now we’re opening a whole different can – make it a bucket – of very slimy worms. Could it be that in contemporary western culture, women are forever being told they’re entitled to be happy? And when things don’t work out as they hoped, it’s not their fault, since there’s a big, bad patriarchy out there stacked against them?
Try finding the magazine or self help book where men get told that.