Women ask for divorce more than men. This is as close to an absolute fact as you can get when dealing with the tricky subject of human relationships. More than an anecdotal observation, we have statistics which prove this is the case.
In the latest set of divorce figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), women were responsible for 61 per cent of heterosexual divorces and 78 per cent of same sex divorces in 2016. That’s quite a sizable majority. It’s also not a recent phenomenon. In fact, the last time divorces instigated by men outnumbered those asked for by women in England and Wales was 1944. That was a year where there were only 12,312 divorces in total. Times have certainly changed.
So why is there such a significant imbalance? Researchers from the University of Michigan (UM) have come up with a theory: men do not change their behaviour.
In a new study of 355 couples, the team analysed 16 years’ worth of data collected from UM’s Early Years of Marriage Project. This was launched by the university in 1986 and features several interviews with couples at various stages of their marriage. The first of these took place once the couples had been married for four months, then at nine. Following interviews took place at the two, three, four, seven and 16 year marks.
Researchers found that divorce was most likely in cases where the husband reported low levels of tension in the relationship while the wives displayed increased tension. Hardly surprising considering that twice as many women asked for a divorce among the sampled couples than men.
Kira Birditt, from the UM Institute for Social Research, suggested that the reason for these findings “could reflect a lack of investment in the relationship on the husband’s part”. It could be that, if they do not feel tension in their marriage, husbands “might believe it’s unnecessary to change or adjust their behaviour” she added.
Or perhaps women develop a more realistic view of their husbands, whereas men maintain “more idealistic expectations of wives” Birditt said.
The results of this research appear to support a 2014 study from Rutgers, New Jersey’s state university, which suggested that a wife’s happiness was more important to the strength of a marriage than the husband’s.
Marriage and divorce are never straight forward. Due to the nature of humans, every combination of two people is going to be unique. So while it’s admirable to explain the disparity in divorce applications, it’s probably never going to be fully understood.
If you’re facing the prospect of a divorce, whether you are a husband or a wife, Stowe Family Law has a team of solicitors who can help guide you through every step of the journey. To talk to one of them, please get in touch.
Photo by Cordell and Cordell via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.