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Study says couples facing this challenge more likely to divorce

Many readers of this blog may be familiar with the term "gray divorce." It has been used in countless stories in recent months to describe the trend of couples over the age of 50 getting divorced. Some people suggest that the increase in divorces is due to longer life spans, shifts in gender roles over time or the desire to seek new opportunities after kids have left the home.

However, there may be another factor in the gray divorce phenomenon. According to a recent study, spouses who are dealing with the illness of a partner are reportedly more likely to divorce. More specifically, couples are more likely to divorce if and when it is the wife who is sick with a serious disease. This could certainly interesting for spouses in Minnesota to be aware of, as many people are dealing with the stress, fear and anxiety of both marital troubles and health problems.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan who explored data on 2,717 couples from the last 20 years. The study participants consisted of couples where at least one was over 50 and researchers identified those that developed serious illnesses like cancer or heart disease. Of those couples, an estimated 31 percent ended in divorce. 

The researchers concluded that although the men were more likely to get sick, a divorce was more likely to happen if it was the wife who was ill. Like the gray divorce trend, there are many suggestions for why this may be. Some people suggest that it is because men are less likely to believe they can care for a wife if they are not used to doing so; others believe that a wife may not want to stay in a marriage with someone who does not provide adequate support.

With research like this, there is generally no one reason why couples in a particular situation are more likely to get divorced. However, the trends that are identified can be helpful for people facing similar circumstances by showing them that they are not alone. While every couple and situation is unique, it can be of some comfort for people in these difficult situations to know that there are many other people in the same position. Understanding this can provide spouses with the support they need to pursue a divorce.

Source: Time, "Divorce More Likely When Wife Falls Ill," Alexandra Sifferlin, May 1, 2014

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