The words “in sickness and health” are a part of many couples’ wedding vows. However, for some people, staying together when one spouse gets sick is easier said than done — particularly when the ill spouse is the wife.
Those are the findings of a university study conducted from 1992 to 2010. Researchers looked at over 2,700 couples who were over 50 years old. According to the results, when the husband had a major health issue such as heart problems, cancer, stroke or lung disease, the couple was no more likely to divorce than a healthy couple. When the wife had a serious illness, however, the couple was 6 percent more likely to divorce.
While many people may find these results disturbing, there are a number of unknowns around what contributed to the increased divorce rate for women with major health issues. It’s also interesting to note that another study in 2010 found that couples where the husband was ill were more likely to divorce, but a wife’s illness was not a predictor that the marriage would end.
The study of the older couples did not draw conclusions about the reasons for the pattern it discovered, nor did it report which spouse initiated the divorce. However, the differences in the way that women and men react to becoming ill and the way they handle caregiver responsibilities may provide some insight.
Women with medical issues tend to be less satisfied with the care they receive from their husbands than men are with their wives’ caregiving ability. Research has also found that women are more likely than men to report depression and pain when diagnosed with a chronic illness. These things can put a strain on a marriage and possibly cause the woman to opt for divorce. Further, having a major illness can cause people to re-evaluate their lives and their choices. This could have been the case for some of these women.
Taking care of a seriously ill or disabled spouse can take a toll on a person’s physical and emotional health, not to mention on his or her marriage. North Dakotans and Minnesotans who find themselves in that position should not be afraid to seek help from other family members and professional caregivers as well as from a psychologist and/or support group. Ill spouses do not benefit from having caregivers who neglect their own well-being while focusing on their sick spouses.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Couples Over 50 Are More Likely To Divorce When The Wife Gets Sick, Study Suggests” Rebecca Adams, Mar. 05, 2015