Saturday, April 18, 2015

Divorce Rates Higher When a Partner Has A Critical Illness

From a recent study reported on in the Iowa State Daily:

"A recent study at Iowa State found that when a wife gets a serious illness, such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease or stroke, the marriage has a higher chance of ending in divorce.
Amelia Karraker, lead author for the study and assistant professor of human development and family studies, published the study in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior...

Out of the 2,700 couples, more than 30 percent ended in divorce when the wife or husband got sick. When the wife was the one with a serious illness, divorce rates rose a considerable amount. The husband's illness still ended up in divorce but not nearly as frequent.

“This could in part be to gender socializing of roles within a relationship. In society, women are taught to be caregivers, especially with loved ones," said Tiffany Iskander, staff psychologist at Student Counseling Services.

Gender roles could affect the divorce rates, which could throw off the marriage in a noticeable way, ending in divorce. Another factor that could put pressure on an existing marriage is if the wife believes she is not receiving the care she needs...

“Significant life events may also exacerbate already existing issues within a relationship,” Iskander said.  Another idea as to why the divorce rates go up significantly after getting a serious illness is the wife or husband realized they were not happy to begin with..."

It's great that a study corroborates what those of us living with illness in our relationships know too well - illness affects the relationship.  What's missing for me is - now what?

My soapbox is that the couple/patient-caregiver dyad should be at the center of the treatment.  Every drop of the treatment affects that relationship, and that relationship is the filter through which all treatment is received and applied.

The patient needs support.  The caregiver needs support.  The couple needs support.

I am curious - in your experience with the health care system and providers, has the impact of illness on your relationship ever been addressed?


Cassandra said...

Nope. Support of us as a couple is something that I'm highly aware of and craving, but I can't even find a counselor that addresses this issue. Maybe it's 'cause I'm in a small town? I think it's a symptom of a larger problem, though. I have had a *few* doctors ask once in a while about the relationship, but only after they get to know me personally for a significant period of time. Sad.

Barbara Kivowitz said...

Sad, indeed. Have a look at my book. My co-author and I wrote it because we too felt that our illnesses were having a big impact on our relationship, and there was nothing out there that addressed that - or offered help. We wanted our book to help couples living with illness feel less alone, and learn from each other.

Dena said...

The impact of my illness (acute pancreatitis, which has now progressed to chronic pancreatitis) has only been addressed by my nurse case manager in regards to my relationship. My partner and I are seeing a counselor beginning Monday to try to work thru our issues. Issues started before my illness but me being sick has just added to the strain. Thank you for this blog. It is helpful

Barbara Kivowitz said...

Glad you found the blog, Dena. Illness is a hard burden for the patient to carry, and for the caregiver. It takes the strength the relationship, of two partners holding each other up while they carry the load together. I think counseling can be a powerful help. Talking about the hard stuff, with a guide, can help build resilience. You might find our book helpful too. I know of many couples who read it together (link is on the home page).