Monday, June 2, 2014

Divorce Rates Higher for Older Couples When Wife Becomes Ill

Excerpted from an article in Tech Times:  Divorce Rates Spike Among Older Couples if Wife Becomes Sick

"For older married heterosexual couples, the risk of divorce increases when the wife becomes seriously ill but such is not the case when the husband does.
According to social scientists from the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and University of Michigan, wives who experience health crises such as heart problems, cancer, stroke and lung disease increase the risk of divorce. Curiously, husbands who experience these life-threatening illnesses do not pose the same effect.
The researchers analyzed 2,717 marriages in the Health and Retirement Study from 1992 to 2010. These couples started out healthy in their marriages and how the onset of a serious illness affected the quality of their marriages were measured in the study."
This study did not analyze why this is so, but researchers speculated that gender norms around caregiving may play a factor.
Duh. You think so!?!??!!
Both Richard and I were surprised and reassured that he was able to be so selfless when my pain condition was at its worst.  He had never been tested like that before.  He was not only selfless, at times he was heroic.
But I always thought that he was the exception.  I have heard from a few blog readers that they too had heroic partners.  I have heard from many more that their (male) partner fit better somewhere on the awkward to negligent scale.
However, to put the entire blame on the male partner or on gender norms misses the way the couple is intertwined and operates as an integrated system -- with each move balanced by countermoves.  The couple dance is a complex one, honed over years of practice.  Illness plays a new tune and requires that the dance change and that couples adapt with new moves.
Illness puts a terrible strain on relationships.  And couples rarely have either the support or the education they need to adapt and weather illness together.  When the well partner feels sustained and engaged, both partners are uplifted.  Likewise, if the well partner is disregarded and disengaged, both partners will sink.
When I appreciated Richard's efforts, he felt seen and needed and could use that to bolster his caregiving efforts.  When I disengaged from him and chose isolation rather than connection, he too distanced.  When we talked about what we each were going through and needed from each other - there was more life force available from which we could each draw.
Has your partner disengaged?  How does that effect you?  Have you given up on him (or her) and sought support elsewhere?  Have you found ways to re-engage with your partner?

1 comment:

Julie said...

Perhaps it's social norms on both sides. Women are used to being the care-giver, being independant, and not relying on someone else. When we are sick in a way that we can't continue to be the care-giver is it perhaps the norm to then withdraw so that the well partner doesn't feel they have to care for us?

Just a thought. However, I totally agree that we (the sick) have to make an effort to make sure we stay engaged in our relationships, whether with our partner or friendships. In any situation when you pull away you create walls.