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Do women really initiate divorce more than men?

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We recently saw an article that caught our attention regarding who in a marriage is more likely to initiate divorce. The study cited in a Psychology Today article noted, in a study involving more than 2,000 heterosexual couples, that nearly 7 in 10 divorces were first sought by the wife rather than the husband. By contrast, women and men were nearly equal in initiating breakups for non-marital relationships.

What is it about marriage that creates the shift toward women being more likely to initiate the ending? Author Douglas LaBier, drawing from his experience in counseling couples, echoed what the study found. He wrote,

When men and women seek couples therapy and then subsequently divorce; or, when either partner seeks individual therapy about a marriage conflict that ends in divorce, it's often the woman who expresses more overt conflict and dissatisfaction about the state of the marriage. On the other hand, the man is more likely to report feeling troubled by his wife's dissatisfaction, but pretty much "OK" with the way things are; he's content to just lope along as time passes.

LaBier did note that couples hailing from younger generations, "who are more likely to form non-marital but committed relationships - experience more egalitarian partnerships to begin with. When their relationship crumbles beyond repair, both experience that disintegration. Both are equally likely to address it - and part, if it can't be healed."

The study itself asserted that "women may be more likely to initiate divorces because the married women reported lower levels of relationship quality than married men. In contrast, women and men in non-marital relationships reported equal levels of relationship quality." They even went as far as to note that the study supports "the feminist assertion that some women experience heterosexual marriage as oppressive or uncomfortable."

We're in an era - certainly different from 50 years ago - where people would be more likely to stay in unhappy marriages and, as LaBier writes, "just lope along" rather than moving forward with a divorce and seeking a happier post-divorce life.

Even though divorce is more common than it's been in past eras, and women feel as comfortable initiating it as men do, the study does underscore one element of divorce that may not get as much attention as it should: The idea of divorce readiness.

In many divorces, the person initiating the divorce is more ready to get on with it and push for the divorce to be final, whereas the other person might be understandably hesitant or even resistant to the idea. What often happens in these cases is that the person who has less divorce readiness will stall proceedings in an effort to push the pause button on the divorce. If it's a negotiated divorce especially, the difference in divorce readiness needs to be dealt with patiently in order to keep things going as well as they can.

Whether you're ready to initiate a divorce, or figuring out how to best respond to a request for a divorce, The Law Office of Lisa A. Vance has a team of what we call fierce, compassionate lawyers ready to help you through your divorce.

While we're fierce when we need to be - particularly in litigated divorces and in any situation where the welfare of children are involved - compassion is at the core of what we do. Even though divorce is often the best thing to do, we recognize it's difficult, and we strive to smooth the pathway for our clients as much as possible. If this sounds like what you're looking for, we'd love to talk to you and learn more about your unique situation.

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