Men are cared for: women are divorced

From Science Daily

A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is the patient, according to a study that examined the role gender played in so-called “partner abandonment.

H/T: Barvasfiend

The overall rate of divorce is consistent with standard divorce rates, but once one partner in a relationship is diagnosed with cancer or multiple sclerosis, then the biggest predictor of separation or divorce was the gender of the patient. If men became ill, women stayed and looked after them, but if women became ill, then the male partners were much more likely to leave.

The article politely suggests that the rate of women staying was because they are much more able to take on caring roles, whereas men found it hard to make the commitment. I’m a little more cynical than that. I wonder if it’s because many men are used to being cared for, and expect to be cared for, so if their partner is ill and can no longer perform the caring function, then why, they’ll just find someone who will.

SotBO (Statement of the Bleedin’ Obvious, which useful acronym I lifted from here): Most men with sick partners do not leave their partners. About 80% of men with sick partners stay with and care for their partner.

However, there is a huge disparity between the stay and go rates for women and men. Only about 2.9% of women with sick partners leave. The question is, why?


I believe that I vaguely promised a food post today, but right now I’m going to bed. So (vaguely), tomorrow, tomorrow…

Also, if you click through to Barvasfiend’s place where I found out about this study, you should read her post about swimming with dolphins, at a beach in or near Sydney, yesterday.


6 responses to “Men are cared for: women are divorced

  1. I knew a woman through my sister, who also had cancer, whose husband left her because although he professed to love her he “wasn’t attracted to her any more”. You know, when she was dying, nauseous, and needed unqualified support. Presumably he skipped the “in sickness and in health” bit.

    Conversely, from my time working in a hospital, I know that a reasonable number of people are cared for by their ex wives and husbands. People who have been divorced for years and years will turn up and ensure their ex has taken their medication every day and eaten a decent meal, gets to their appointments etc etc. I wondered if some did it because they knew their child was the only alternative, or because they knew there was no alternative.

  2. Deborah, I don’t know if you used to read Liz at Granny Gets a Vibrator (now defunct), but she was a very experienced US blogger who blogged mainly about her body-building practice (tiny and elegant but amazingly built), her little Lousiana town and her BF The Painter — until she was diagnosed with lymphoma, about which she blogged rivetingly and from which, amazingly, she eventually recovered. The Painter gave her practical support for a little while but bailed on the marriage plans, bluntly saying that with cancer she was going to be too expensive to be married to, and eventually scarpered altogether.

  3. Four out of five men stay. So it is a small minority of men who leave. Not all men, or even most men.

  4. Gee, I’ve read many illuminating stats about gender relations over the years but never this one. Thanks. I saw this acted out between my own parents, in a muted kind of way. (My father didn’t leave immediately but was very begrudging and made his life entirely separate from that point on.)

  5. Taken at face value, this is quite depressing.

  6. I assume there’s some correlation going on with the fact that a significant majority (71%) of primary carers in Australia are women.

    I say “correlation” – there’s probably a bit of cause & effect, too, but it’s not clear which way it’s going.

    My guess is that another factor, related to the ones that have been mentioned, is that caring is seen as a woman’s role more than as a man’s role. That may make it more difficult for a man to see himself as a carer (perhaps similar to the way in which many men find it difficult to see themselves as stay-at-home parents).

    But I’d say that anyone who leaves a caring role probably does so for a concatenation of reasons. I think it seems pretty logical that the reasons mentioned are often involved as part of that, in some combination or another.