Why Are Women More Likely to Initiate Divorce?

2010 brought many highly publicized celebrity divorces.  For instance, Jesse James and Sandra Bullock, Eva Longoria and Tony Parker, Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, and Christina Aguilera and Jordan Bratman to name just a few.  The one thing nearly all these break-ups had in common? The women were the ones calling it quits.

Not surprisingly, the National Marriage Project suggests that two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women.   It appears that the wives are the ones taking the initiative to call off marriages that are no longer working.

The question is—why are women the ones to throw in the towel?  Is it because men are more resistant to change, women are more aware of when enough is enough, or is it because …

… men are more fearful to be alone?

According to the National Marriage Project:

“One recent study found that many of the reasons for this have to do with the nature of our divorce laws. For example, in most states women have a good chance of receiving custody of their children. Because women more strongly want to keep their children with them, in states where there is a presumption of shared custody with the husband the percentage of women who initiate divorces is much lower. Also, the higher rate of women initiators is probably due to the fact that men are more likely to be “badly behaved.” Husbands, for example, are more likely than wives to have problems with drinking, drug abuse, and infidelity.”

I think there is much more to it than the age old belief that marriages end due to bad boy behavior or that women file first due to custody issues.  After all, studies seem to suggest that women cheat on their husbands at nearly the same frequency as men do.  One recent study states that 50-60% of men are said to have cheated on a spouse while 45-50% of women have been unfaithful.

Perhaps the reason three-fourths of all divorces are filed by women is due to the idea that wives are becoming more and more aware of their needs and desires.  As women we are often raised to be deeply in-tune with our emotions.  Men don’t always have the same luxury.  Often times little boys are taught that emotions equal weakness.   Therefore, women may realize far before a man does that they don’t have to stay in loveless relationships.  Perhaps we can sense this more clearly than our male counterparts can and  as a result women are choosing to move on far more frequently than men.

So what do you guys think is the driving force behind women being the ones to more frequently end their marriages?

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33 thoughts on “Why Are Women More Likely to Initiate Divorce?

  1. Okay, maybe I’m taking a big guess here, but it seems that with most women being able to earn their own incomes, and having more of a stake in their lives than just being someone’s wife/mother, it stands to reason that you’ll see more divorces initiated by women. I also strongly agree about men being afraid of being alone — why do you see so many men running into a second marriage after the first one dissolves due to divorce or widowhood?

    Among friends, most of these have been due to chronic infidelity (one friend actually had a PI follow her ex around when she suspected that, despite his denials, he was having an affair with a coworker). One friend of mine initiated the divorce when she got involved with a friend of her ex (and at that point, was freeing herself of a relationship that had become loveless and dull in the previous years).

    • So.. because men don’t earn earn their own incomes, don’t have any stake in their lives than just being someone’s husband/father?
      Err, Or perhaps you do mean that men have all the same things, but if so you don’t bring up anything that would suggest a difference to imply why it “stands to reason.” Even if you mean to contrast a time when women were bound to a relationship due to finance and imply that as a reason for increase divorces it does not answer why men don’t initiate.
      As the post says rates of infidelity are said to me similar among women as well and I know how popular infidelity is as a cornerstone to any discussion on divorce, but divorce happens for other reasons and men also lack in initiating in these instances as well.

    • Bobby I think you misunderstood. Women in a marriage were in a position of being controlled by money until feminism allowed them to make their own incomes. If a divorce would mean you’d be out on the streets with no way to support yourself or your children, you’d likely be willing to put up with a lot more unhappiness if it meant you wouldn’t starve. Now that women earn their own money, they don’t have to put up with beatings or emotional unhappiness in a bad marriage. They can leave without fear or just going into a much worse situation.
      Men have always had their own incomes, so there’s no change for them, aside from needing to be more attentive to the happiness of their marriage if they want to keep it going.

      • I will now quote my self.
        “Even if you mean to contrast a time when women were bound to a relationship due to ****finance**** and imply that as a reason for increase divorces it **does not answer why men don’t initiate(divorce)**.”
        Yes women have gained leaps of freedom from becoming financially stable. Its good to remember history so we don’t repeat the past. My post was not to undermine that history but, to imply it lacks meaning to this topic.
        The article title says “Why Are Women More Likely to Initiate Divorce,”but the content asks why men given good reason(equally high infidelity rates) don’t/wont end bad relationships.

        • Concurred. While women are more likely to initiate divorce today as opposed to 60 years ago, that still doesn’t explain why men are less likely than women to initiate divorce.

          • Men don’t initiate divorce as often because men take the vows of marriage seriously.

            Men stand up and take responsibility and make things work,,

  2. My guess is with the article. Not wanting the relationship with their kids to be destroyed and fear of being alone. The alone part is a lot bigger then one might think.
    I read an article about middle aged divorced men that don’t quickly find a new partner. Besides suicide showing its ugly head it was quick to point out that men tend to keep in contact with family through their wives and with that connection gone and depending on the reason for the divorce it can be difficult to reestablish a connection with even immediate family.
    Men also tend not to have as large social safety nets of people to fall back on when something goes wrong and divorce can sever that as well. “Your gonna go help the guy that cheated on his wife? I don’t think so, he deserves his current situation!”
    They also noted that men that are alone into old age experience alzheimers mush earlier and with no support fall to it much faster.

  3. Men grow more satisfied with what they have over time, women grow dissatisfied with what they have and want more. So a stable environment is something a woman finds increasingly unpleasant. Some women can deal with this, many cannot. Also as stated women have much better support networks and find the transition form wife to single women/parent much easier. There is also the conventional wisdom that a man is responsible for a woman’s happiness so any woman who is unhappy (and in a relationship) it is obviously the fault of her man, and therefore she must leave in order to empower herself or find a new “better” one. Marriage (which should be seen as a partnership) is more often a situation in which the man is responsible for the happiness and fulfillment of the woman (which should be her own responsibility). There is also societal expectation in which a women who leaves a marriage is seen as “freeing” herself, as if from a cage. A man who leaves is seen as “abandoning” something, as if deserting a post. Not to mention the fact that a man is more likely to stick by someone who is not a perfect match, rather than take the risk of not being able to find someone better. Even if there is reason to believe that a better individual is available (bird in the hand and all that). While a women will jump at the chance to trade up, even if the chances of success are not favorable. *Snowflake disclaimer* The previous statement is a generalization of a statistically significant percentage of men & women, your particular experiences may differ.

      • I enjoy much of what Boring posts,and I think some of dissent I see directed towards him comes from the fact that he comes a little too close for comfort.

        • Yeah, or it could be that it’s so full of bullshit that it offends me that anyone could hate me so much without knowing me at all.

          • Erin,

            I would imagine you are upset because your responses are more “emotional” based, where his response is more logic based. I think when we are pressed down to face the facts that we don’t want to hear, it evokes an emotional response such as yours.

  4. I think Bobby brings up a good point about men wanting to stay in contact with their family. I would bet a lot of men don’t initiate divorces because they’re afraid they won’t have any custody of their kids; it’s certainly a valid concern. Hell, the mom could be an open heroin addict and the dad could be a model citizen who volunteers for his church, and the courts will still give the mom full custody. Then dad has to wait until she tries to kill one of the kids before he can even have a shot at custody. So I can definitely see why a man would be hesitant to divorce.

  5. Okay, I’ll say it:
    If a man knows he is going to lose half his assets he is less likely to file for divorce.
    If a woman knows she will get half of her husbands assets she’ll be more likely to file for divorce.
    /occam’s razor

          • Oh… so you’d agree that Paul McCartney deserved to give up $50 million of “his assets” to Heather Mills for 6 years of marriage for all the “support” she provided him?
            Because we all know Paul McCartney couldn’t have done it without her.

          • Oh, I agree.
            Here he is, a millionaire many times over, a man who is not a young, naive pup – a man who had scores of lawyers and advisors.. and no pre-nup?
            Yeah, he got what he deserved and so did she. What about Brittany Spears and K-Fed? SSDD (same shit – different day)
            Please tell me, how many men are in that situation? How many women?
            Statistically speaking – damn few. So, your assertion that a “woman takes 50% of a man’s assets” is bullshit. You state this like it’s a solid fact and it isn’t. Women today usually makes as much, if not more than their husbands.
            This completely invalidates your hypothesis.
            This brings me back to my first question: Were you born in 1909?

          • I have three male friends that have been divorced and all three of them lost 40-50% of their assets INCLUDING ALL pre-marital assets they had.
            Custody of the kids and the house is also more likely to be awarded to the woman.
            Face it. Men get the shaft in divorce WAY more often then the woman.
            To say other wise is just naive.

          • Brian. I simply refuse to argue with a person who cannot see the facts. .
            I’ll say this:

            IT IS NOT 1962!
            Women come into marriages with as much assets as men do these days and contribute as much as well.
            But you keep that head in the sand, buddy. Daddy knows best, right?

    • I really liked that article. I feel like it picked out some good points without saying “women are evil for not loving their men and men are stupid for loving women.” (cough cough cough boring cough)

      “Put simply, boys are taught that marriage is about “settling down” while girls are taught that marriage is about finding enduring fulfillment. And it’s obvious who has the higher set of expectations” really made sense. Girls are fed the idea that marriage is supposed to be the best thing ever times twelve since they’re little. For women, marriage is how you fulfill your life (according to societal constructs, at least). For men, marriage is just something that you get pressured into or have to give up your freedom for. So it makes sense that men are told to expect boring, whereas women are told to expect utter spiritual fulfillment.

  6. With all the women friends I know, the man has left to be with another woman or has been caught out having an affair and the woman ends the relationship because of it, the woman asks if they want a divorce (as in, is it final) when he says it’s over and the man says yes but does nothing to start the ball rolling. The woman then starts divorce proceedings and most of the men don’t get a solicitor and need to be chased to fill the paperwork for the separation and Divorce they initiated. In most cases it is because he men don’t want to pay for legal help so the woman would incur all the costs. The figures stating women initiate Divorce are skewed, normally the man goes off with someone else leaving the woman with the kids which leaves the woman no choice than to start proceedings when he won’t do so. My ex husband said that women initiate all divorces and therefore must have the most affairs, while saying this he was having an affair himself with a member of my family lol, but I am the bad guy for divorcing him…

  7. I don’t believe that it due to abusive spouses because women are equally as violent as men. When you come to the economics of a divorce, men don’t have the same access to the same resources of managing divorce as women. When it comes to division of assets, men on average equal to or less then 50%, They must pay alimony to a women now a days can support herself, 90 percent of women get sole custody despite the fact 70% of fathers wanted sole or joint custody and are told their privilege of what role they may play in the child’s upbringing. They must pay for a child they have no say on how its raised. Women who leave is done upon her FEELINGS without acknowledgement of the husband or father’s humanity. Men have more to lose. Women are never happy with what they have and usually go looking for more, its why women expect men to bend over a give them everything they want and still ask for more. Then men cheat because they aren’t receiving the emotional support that they think they would have gotten by bending over. Men are less important because they must work to be considered but not women. We still have not destroyed the male role that holds him down. He is a deadbeat if he doesn’t work while women may choose stay at home or go to work if she FEELS like it.

  8. Blurry -

    Are you crazy? The financial well-being of women is completely irrelevant – divorce courts NEVER award a woman’s money to her ex-husband! This is almost unheard of, even less likely than a father getting primary custody. You’re assuming that equal partners get equal treatment, which just isn’t the case.

  9. Kurtis is sure right. It’s like you are not considered a fit parent just because of your genitals. Nothing else comes into the picture as far as the courts gop
    CK is also right. The courts rarely consider a womens income in a divorce. If anyone thinks that you will be treated fairly and you are a male you are delusional.
    Men are really stupid. I’m one and I say this. Have you ever wondered why men are more likely to re marry even though they have been screwed once by this insane institution? Relationships are good. Why don’t we just have girlfriends and not get married? Seems like it would be much smarter.

  10. It’s always the money. Women initiate most divorces simply because they are most likely to gain financially. In current society, materialism has become more important than family. People have more possessions and fewer children.

  11. I think women are under a lot of societal pressure to marry, and men aren’t. In our society, even in our post-feminist era, a big chunk of a woman’s identity is tied to being Mrs. Husband’s Last Name. And women do expect more from marriage than men. Women expect emotional intimacy and communication, and men expect meals to be cooked for them, the house to be cleaned, and a regular supply of sex. Women put a lot of effort into trying to build a relationship and try to make their men happy, and the men don’t reciprocate. Men aren’t really interested in relating to women as people, or in making an emotional connection with them. So, when the initial hormones wear off and the flowers and chocolates stop, the woman wants to talk, communicate, share feelings, and the man wants her to shut up and let him watch the game, dissatisfaction ensues.Then, as the woman gets older, especially if she has a rewarding career, she grows emotionally and gets a sense of who she is as a person in her own right, but the husband still just wants her to provide him with hot meals, domestic labor and sex and doesn’t want to recognize her as a person in her own right, and she decides to leave. And the stuff about her getting half his money is bull. In community property states, she gets half of the assets and money that were accumulated during the marriage. After a divorce, the woman’s standard of living decreases by 27% while the man’s increases by 10%, so the man is financially better off after the divorce, the woman is worse off. It’s not about the money, it’s about the woman needing to feel loved and valued as a human being instead of a cook, dishwasher and sexual object.

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