Does men’s inability to change fuel divorce?

Divorce|November 4th 2017

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.

Share This Post...


  1. Helen Dudden says:

    Do men find divorce more difficult? That’s another thought.

  2. Helen Dudden says:

    One comment, no two people are the same. One combination is not successful, but another can be.
    When on a recent blog we discussed marriage preparation, could that be a way to improve the chance of not divorcing?

  3. David Eggins says:

    Is this more about men not being able to change their behaviours – notice the plural – or about women not being able to be constant? Is it more about women needing to have multiple children with the genetically strongest possible survival qualities, i.e. from a variety of gene pools, or men who can’t resist being that gene pool when beckoned by finger, opportunity, lust or, as the latest feminist construct would have it ” a desire for power and control over women” Ha!-Ha! This is what some of Wikipedia has to say on the the subject: “Females at different stages of their menstrual cycle have been shown to display differences in sexual attraction. Heterosexual females not using birth control pills who are ovulating (high levels of estrogens) have a preference for the scent of males with low levels of fluctuating asymmetry.[8] Ovulating heterosexual females also display preferences toward masculine faces and report greater sexual attraction to males other than their current partner.[9] From an evolutionary perspective, increases in estrogens during fertile periods in females may direct sexual reproduction motivation toward males with preferential genes (the good genes hypothesis).
    Following natural or surgically induced menopause, many women experience declines in sexual reproduction motivation.[10] Menopause is associated with a rapid decline of estrogen, as well as a steady rate of decline of androgens.[11] The decline of estrogen and androgen levels is believed to account for the lowered levels of sexual reproduction desire and motivation in postmenopausal women, although the direct relationship is not well understood.”

  4. Paul Massey says:

    this article is absolutely typical of the gender bias we see in the feminised world of family and relationships…and it’s written by a man! Disgraceful. Why is it the fault of men for not changing, and not the fault of women and their never-ending caprice? Why is it the fault of men leaving the loo seat up and not the fault of women for leaving it down? and so on…

    Now, we have to accept that language and prejudice favour men in most areas of life, particularly the world of work. Let’s start understanding that in family stuff, including family LAW the language and prejudice is all female-slanted. Thank you.

  5. spinner says:

    So men’s inability to change is responsible for divorce, OK, so why when two women are involved are the figures even higher? It would seem from your own statistics that women are the problem in the majority of marriages.

    A lot of women like the “excitement” of being involved in either real or fake dramas. A lot of men like to just get on with their lives with as little drama as possible. So when these women don’t get a reaction from their husband from *another* fake drama because he is trying to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads they get bored and want to move onto another situation which has more drama and is more engaging to them. I think this is built into a lot of women so I don’t blame them but I would certainly appreciate a legal system that ruin men and trash families every time a women get’s bored.

  6. John says:

    I don’t know whether you spent the $11.95 for the full pdf or contented yourself with the abstract and accompanying press release.

    I’m swithering. The abstract and accompanying quotes read as if they are designed to get press coverage rather than convey the details of methodology or statistical significance of the apparent findings.

    Is it worth $11.95 just to confirm my scepticism about the usefulness of the research or the accuracy of the press summary.

  7. Seriously says:

    Other studies reported on this site have said that it takes men much longer to overcome the situation of a divorce , that men in general take marriage more seriously and more committed hence why they take longer to get over divorce.
    This assertion by Kira Birditt as to the possible reasons are plainly wrong, because the figures for same sex women ( where there is NO MAN ), are even much higher ! The reason that women petition for divorce more than men is simply because it’s much harder to keep a woman pleased , a lot are never content or happy with what they have . Many other women believe that there is fiancial gain to be had in divorcing a man , hence why there are many more single mothers than single fathers .

  8. JamesB says:

    I was taught that the heading of an article should relate to it’s detail. I have read the story and can see no link to the inability of men to change and the rate of divorce. You do provide a the cause for divorce being women instigating divorce but then out of nowhere blame men for that. Perhaps you are being provocative and I have fell for again but there you go.

    Women initiate divorce more since they have more to gain, I had a quick look at the comments and David Eggins did say something that I have been thinking on and probably needs developing, thats if we can hopefully get beyond the women dont cause problems but they solve them / women good, man bad narrative. The 78% homosexual divorces instigated by women was eye-opening.

    His point about women wanting to have their cake and eat it and how no fault divorce promotes that. Specifically so they can pick multiple mates and multiple step fathers. We all want our cake and to eat it, but I think the process and giving the money to the person with the children encourages the divorce in heterosexual relationships. The 78% figure homosexual figure where no children, well, you can’t blame men for that.

    At the risk of sounding a bit mysogenistic, perhaps women fantasize about the grass being greener a bit more. Three other points:
    1. 1946 (ish) famous case (can’t remember the name or have time to look it up) which changed the balance of power to women and supports my more to win point and the majority instigated by women point. Man comes back from war after being a POW, finds wife living with another man and his children. He divorces her and the legal battle is on who has residency of the children, which she wins. Well dodgy that and the following years case precidents have all favoured women plus birth control and welfare state making the government the daddy.
    2. Women seem better at being independent and living without a partner, perhaps with the help of the government, then men. Perhaps they don’t like admitting they are wrong, as divorcees can end up being very single, especially with children, but they say and I believe them that they are happier that way, fault of government policy there as costs them and society more that way.
    3. Please change the narrative from blaming men all the time, especially when your 78% figure and the figures that children of divorced parents do less well and mess up society more.
    Perhaps the title question of the article should be why are women messing up our society and our children’s future by divorcing so much?

  9. JamesB says:

    Pleased to read something not by John Bolch for a change. The 78% figure was also very interesting and new. Thank you. One figure I have is that separations among non marrieds with children are initiated 50% by women and 50% by men. So, we need more inclusive narrative and policy not by the liberals (metropolitan elite educated etc) or conservatives, but everyone, wider consultation and approach to family policy please. Thanks.

  10. JamesB says:

    The article shows why women shouldn’t have the vote or be priests or presidents. How can they lead if they think differently and are more and less emotional and inclined to be gut over head and vice versa at different times of their menstrual cycle as written above comment and I just looked up the science and it says the same.

    • JamesB says:

      Doesn’t mean that they can be brilliant and better than men in many other ways. For example I do think women are better at bringing up children. I also think they are better with colours and team building, I could go on with all things each sex are better at, men reading maps, women asking for directions etc but have other things to do, we compliment (rather than fight) each other is how god makes us, equal but different, my 2pence worth.

  11. JamesB says:

    Don’t have an issue with women driving. Apart from those SUVs what are they about? I have problem with SUVs in town in general regardless of gender driving them. Like driving around in a tank, its not addressing the problem, bit like blaming men for divorce, not addressing the real problem, the laws which encourage women to file, such as couples penalties which government said in opposition they would get rid of but haven’t. Like I say, they file as they stand to win the most by filing, as evidenced by the figure of 50% being initiated by men where there is no unfair gain by either side. Think was a college study, that and the POW cases can be looked up, they are true. As also the CSA 1991, pension sharing 1999, divorce bill 1969, MCA 1973, Wachtel case, relocating abroad case, all major cases since 1944 have come down on side of mum, to blame men is taking the piss and you probably should have thought about that heading a bit more.

  12. JamesB says:

    Oh, and the pill and access to it probably had a bit effect too and that happened sometime around the 1960s. Indeed perhaps the 60s were not such an improvement. On balance though I prefer things now than in 1946, that said we should be trying to even the percentage initiated by each sex, to move to a 50:50 split would show divorce is fair. I mean if men are initiating 50% of the time divorce then it is evidently not a stitch up and whichever side does initiate more will be the side that stands to gain more.

  13. JamesB says:

    The childrens act another one favouring the mums, plus the 50:50 goal is heterosexual marriages initiation between men and women so as not to be unfairly skewed against women by lesbians divorcing each other left right and centre, will make me look at lesbians in a different light this article.

  14. JamesB says:

    Final point, to be fair, the ratio is coming down, and that is a good thing. In the 90s it was 90% initiated by women, in the 2000s it was 75% and now its apparently 61%, its moving in the right direction and needs help by family law reform.

    Perhaps a few women have decided that the grass is not always greener and judges aren’t falling for unfair settlements as much, hope it continues to move downwards to 50:50. To be honest, I don’t have an issue with increasing numbers of divorce if ratio is about evenly initiated by either sex and outcomes are fair to both sides, having seen unhappy marriages, that is not the answer and sometimes divorce is the answer and its better for children to be in good households rather than high conflict households (provided the ex isn’t expected to pay for them). Tricky subject this gender studies.

  15. Seriously says:

    Read the above please very applicable

    • Cameron Paterson says:

      It’s certainly a powerful piece

    • JamesB says:

      I just read that, thank you for it. The following bit, well all of it really, but the following especially hit a nerve.

      The notion that bad men can be made good if they conform to the required social norms set by women being pervasive across family services. The Fatherhood Institute was even, unashamedly, set up on this seductive notion – that good men do what women tell them to do, whilst all the rest are mad, bad and dangerous to know.

      It seems being educated metropolitan elite, being a remainer, supporting LGBT rights, paying way too much child support, being called names, all fall into that category. Taking the contact on offer and not complaining when it is cut or doesn’t happen, and being happy with it. Taking a female PM, even though she is rubbish. Indeed most female MPs are rubbish, indeed, perhaps even most MPs. Like all this bleeting on about VAT on tampons. Female Labour MP says “Tory MPS are shaven and there is no VAT on razors”, erm, yes there is. Also, as a father of two daughters, not impressed with sexual harassment and abuse of power for sexual favours at all, by either sex on either sex.

      I could go on all day with the dodgy narrative. Including the constant moaning about men not doing enough round the house etc. But I agree with the BMP. We are half of the population, the other half of the sky as John Lennon said, we should get more respect and consultation in legislation. Instead of the fighting (example tit for tat on can a woman stop the dripping tap). Make love not war between the sexes ;-).

    • JamesB says:

      Just looked at the Fatherhood institute. Setup with government money.

      Way over three quarters of the people employed by it are women.

      WTF? Sick joke, it surprises me, I don’t know why how bad family law and government can be and is.

      I would think The Fatherhood institute should have at least three quarters of paid people, and people who run it being men. Obvious really.

  16. JamesB says:

    We need Boris Johnson as PM asap.

  17. Divorce Attorney says:

    In a marriage setup, both parties should embrace first their differences and the flaws of each other because most of the time, this diversity of attitude results to a conflict then worse, divorce. If unfortunately in the end, you still cannot understand and adapt to your husband’s or wife’s behavior, and you think you badly need divorce, find a reputable divorce lawyer to help you settle things properly.

Leave a Reply


Newsletter Sign Up

For all the latest news from Stowe Family law
please sign up for instant access today.

Privacy Policy