Why do women initiate divorce more often than men?

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

There’s an interesting dichotomy between marriage and divorce in the United States. While women only propose about 5% of the time in heterosexual marriages, they initiate about 70% of all divorces

This suggests that – contrary to popular perception – men crave the security of marriage, while women often find the situation to be less than ideal. While every situation is unique, there may be some common reasons that this happens. Consider these possibilities:

Unmet expectations

There’s a set of expectations that goes along with every marriage that guides each partner in their roles and influences the dynamics of the relationship. When those expectations aren’t met, it can provoke resentment and feelings of betrayal. Women may simply have higher expectations of their partners than men. Because they’re also socialized to have strong emotional intelligence, they may also be more inclined to act on those feelings when they’re dissatisfied. 

Shifting gender roles

Societal expectations and gender stereotypes still have a big impact on day-to-day life, but those old roles are changing. Women no longer want to handle the “heavy lifting,” emotionally or physically, in a marriage. They want partners who will share all the burdens equally, whether that’s coping with financial stressors, taking care of the children or handling the household chores.

Economic and social independence

With increasing gender equality and the fact that most women now have their own incomes and careers, many are simply not willing to settle for a lackluster marriage. Decreasing financial barriers mean that there’s less reason to stay where they’re not happy. In addition, many women have stronger support networks than their husbands – and knowing that they have close friends who are there for them may make it easier to face life as a “single.”

Ultimately, if you’re unhappy in your marriage and talking, counseling or even pleading hasn’t worked, it may be time to consider the alternatives. 

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