The Reason Many Couples Divorce May Surprise You

A new study looks at the financial factors that lead to a higher risk of divorce, and the results may not be what you'd expect.
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Women resenting their husbands for not pulling their weight in the family may lead to divorce. At least that's what a new study, "Money, Work, and Marital Stability: Assessing Change in the Gendered Determinants of Divorce," published in the American Sociological Review, seems to suggest.

The research flies in the face of other recent theories that have suggested women having equally successful and important careers as their husbands explains the uptick in divorces over the past 50 years.

"The fact that divorce rates rose during the second half of the 20th century at the same time when women were moving into the labor force has prompted some speculation that marital stability has declined because women no longer 'need' to be married for financial security," study author Alexandra Killewald, professor of sociology at Harvard University said, according to Newswise. She added, "For some, this implies that women's entry into the work force has come at the expense of stable marriages. My results do not suggest any tradeoff of that kind."

Instead, after looking at 6,300 same-sex couples, Killewald claims a couple's division of labor is what makes the difference.

For the study, researchers compared two groups of couples: those married in 1974 or earlier, and couples married in 1975 or later. The results were very interesting, to say the least.

When couples were married prior to 1975, the more housework a woman did without her hubby's help was related to a lower risk of divorce. But predictably, that dynamic didn't hold up for couples married more recently. "Expectations for the division of housework between spouses appear to have changed, so that men are expected to contribute at least somewhat to household labor," explains Killewald.

And although the data suggests women are still responsible for the majority of housework, Killelwald says, "In general, men seem to be contributing a little more than they used to, and these contributions may now be expected and appreciated by wives."

Um, yes. I do expect my husband to help out around the house, and with the kids. Because we both work, and we both live here, and we are both parents; at least, that is how I see it. When I feel like our contributions are out of balance, I definitely feel resentment boil up. And if he didn't work...well, I'm sure that would lead to resentment, and fighting as well, because I'd feel all of the burden of supporting our family was falling on me.

According to this research, my feelings are not an anomaly. "While contemporary wives need not embrace the traditional female homemaker role to stay married, contemporary husbands face higher risk of divorce when they do not fulfill the stereotypical breadwinner role, by being employed full-time," Killewald commented, adding, "Men who aren't able to sustain full-time work face heightened risk of divorce."

It seems to come down to a woman's need to feel like she has an equal partner in marriage and raising a family. At least that's my take. What's yours?

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.

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