3 Reasons Why Women are More Likely than Men to End a Relationship

While it is established that about half of all marriages end in divorce, it is commonly assumed that the breakups are initiated by both genders equally. In fact, it is surprising to most people that women are actually more likely to end their marriages than men.  

The Research

Research by Dr. Michael Rosenfeld, a sociologist from Stanford University, shows that women are more likely to initiate a divorce. This research studied 2,500 heterosexual couples from between 2009-2015. Interestingly, while he found that women are more likely to end a marriage than men, women are not more likely to initiate a breakup in non-marital relationships.

Additionally, the research shows marriage quality was influential in these decisions.  Previously, it has been shown that men have higher levels of marriage quality and satisfaction than women. Yet, in non-married relationships there was no significant difference in relationship quality between men and women. Dr. Rosenfeld discussed three possible reasons for why women end marriages more frequently than men.

Reason #1:  Relationship Sensitivity

The first reason why women were more likely to end a relationship than men was because of relationship sensitivity. This explanation simply refers to the possibility that women are more sensitive to relationship problems than men. As a result of this increased sensitivity to relationship issues, women are more likely to leave their husbands.

Reason #2:  The Gendered Institution of Marriage

The second reason Dr. Rosenfeld gives for women leaving their husbands is what he calls the “gendered institution” of marriage. This means that the notion of marriage is tailored more (in our culture) to favor men and reinforces traditional gender roles between men and women. For example, women are still sacrificing their careers to raise a family. Even within the progressive Millennial Generation, the burden of childcare and chores still falls predominately on women.

Reason #3:  Power Difference in Relationships

Power differences are based on the assumption that the partner who has the better relationship prospects after marriage is the partner more likely to initiate a break up. However, this logic isn’t consistent with the notion that women initiate divorce more frequently than men. This is because, in general, research supported the notion that men tend to have better prospects than women when it comes to attracting a partner post-divorce.

Men are generally thought to be more attractive as they age. They also have greater employability and/or earning potential. One alternate explanation of the power differential theory is that women recognize that they don’t have the same power in relationships as men and thus initiate divorce proceedings to end the marriage more often. 

Research Conclusions

Rosenfeld concludes that the institution of marriage itself contributes to women having lower marital satisfaction than men. Thus, this is the main reason why women initiate divorce more frequently. More specifically, he believes that the gendered institution bias of marriage (favoring men) in our society means that men are on average more satisfied in marriage than women. Therefore they are less likely than women to end their marriage.

What to Do if You Need Help

Overall, many couples are happily married. However, it would be helpful for couples to identify relationship difficulties and examine any power differentials or differences in gender roles in their relationship. Partners need to speak up and be candid with one another regarding these issues. However, if these issues still prove to be problematic and put your marriage at risk, it is important to consult with a skilled couples counselor  to get the help you need.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, about half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. The reasons that marriages end is more complicated than we initially thought. While issues surrounding relationship sensitivity and power differential do impact the health of a marriage, Rosenfeld’s research does implicate the gendered institution of marriage as the most likely reason why women initiate divorce more often than men. Couples would certainly benefit from discussing the above issues with one another. However, it may be necessary to get professional help from a couples counselor to thoroughly work through and resolve any relationship issues.

 

The Myth of the Honeymoon Phase

There is a common misperception that couples are happiest at the start of marriage, however, recent research challenges that assumption. An Australian study showed that newlywed couples scored lower on satisfaction surveys compared to all married couples, including couples married for over 40 years.

Researching Happiness in Marriage

Researcher Dr. Melissa Wineburg said that decreased happiness among newlyweds is connected to having a “wedding hangover.” Essentially, this means couples are unprepared for the letdown that often follows the nuptials.

While the engagement period is typically very exciting for couples, they usually avoid any relationship issues that arise during that time. After the wedding, couples must deal with them as well as the financial fallout of marriage and the ceremony. Additionally, they realize they have now made a lifetime commitment to one another and must learn to live harmoniously.

The study involved measuring levels of happiness amongst 2,000 people in Australia, using a range between 0-100. The study revealed that:

  • The Australian population as a whole scored 75 on the happiness scale.
  • Couples married for less than a year had a happiness score of 73.9.
  • Couples married for forty years or more scored 79.8.

Now the Good News!

The good news is that the researchers found that the happiness scores increase during the second year of marriage. The actually rebound from their first challenging married year together. The average happiness score was 78.4 for these couples.

In addition, those who had the longest marriages, in some cases lasting forty years or more, were the happiest in the study. The study authors point to three reasons why:

  1. These couples adjusted from their first married year and learned how to live together.
  2. They started resolving conflict more effectively with one another.
  3. They started getting to know each other and learned how to work well together.

The researchers also compared marriages that went through a separation and reunion. Not surprisingly, they found that these couples were unhappiest and had an average score of 69.2.

The “Honeymoon Period”

When people think of the “honeymoon period,” they are generally referring to the period after marriage or the first year of dating. However, many couples today are together for much longer periods of time prior to marriage. They live together and already share many responsibilities shared by married (living in a home, dividing responsibilities, etc.).

Future research should focus on comparing couples with a short courtship versus those who dated for a while before getting married. Also, it’s possible there are some cultural differences between the study’s Australian participants and those in North America.

The Takeaway for Couples

Overall, this research tells us that marriage takes work and there often isn’t a smooth road for most marriages. If couples identify issues arising during the first year of marriage, they should not wait to seek professional couples counseling. A skilled therapist can help couples navigate this challenging time period. Counseling can empower them to communicate more effectively, understand each other better, and learn to resolve conflict together.

Unfortunately, research shows that couples wait way too long to get help. Couples wait, on average, six years after problems begin before seeking help! Six years! That’s much too long to wait before addressing these important relationship issues.

The whole notion of a honeymoon phase is mostly divorced from reality. Couples can be so blinded by the feel-good parts about their relationship and their wedding ceremony that they don’t recognize real relationship challenges or simply choose to ignore them. People too often mistakenly assume that if they are compatible with their partner then everything will be continuously blissful. The reality, of course, is that having a healthy marriage actually takes a lot of work!

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5 Reasons Why Women Cheat

With the advancement of technology, the ability to have an emotional or romantic affair has become easier than ever. This is due, in part, to sites such as Ashley Madison or apps like Tinder. Both of which are setup to allow you easy and secret engagement in an illicit affair with very little effort.

But affairs can be innocently initiated through social media as well. Many people strike up conversations with old flames or even old friends on Facebook and one thing often does lead to the next. So, while having an affair couldn’t be any easier with today’s technology, it is interesting to note that women are often having affairs for different reasons than men.

Reason #1: Lack of Emotional Connection

When women find themselves in an emotionally distant relationship, they can seek out an affair after lengthy periods of loneliness and emotional disconnection. Women desire connection, especially when there’s an attraction to a man who makes them feel alive. (Note that for this article we are focusing on heterosexual relationships). The sex is simply a byproduct of that emotional component. If their husband or partner isn’t making the effort to forge, nurture, and actively participate in that connection, the wife will sometimes find it elsewhere.

Reason #2: Unsatisfying Sex Life

Just because women crave emotional intimacy doesn’t mean women don’t want a satisfying sex life too. Although men are typically more focused on quantity (how often they have sex), women are more concerned with the quality of their sexual experience.

Women are less likely to be interested in having an affair with a man if there isn’t any emotional intimacy. So, even if they are interested in having sex, the way they typically get there is by feeling emotionally connected. Again, if they lack that physical or emotional intimacy with their partner, women will look for it somewhere else.

Reason #3: Revenge

Some women have affairs as payback, feeling justified in doing so because of their husband/partner’s actions. If she finds out that he’s having an affair, she may feel justified in having one herself. After all, if he can have an affair, why can’t she?

But her affair doesn’t always repay an affair. This response can apply whenever she feels mistreated in any capacity. Revenge affairs could occur because of emotional distancing, verbal abuse, or even physical abuse. Now, she has a reason to do something for herself and to get some payback.

Reason #4: To End a Relationship

For many women, it’s too scary to leave a problematic relationship without having a comfortable landing spot. There are, of course, logistical questions to consider:  

  • Where will I live?
  • How will I take care of my children?
  • Who can I turn to?

In some cases, women will not feel comfortable leaving unless there is someone else already in their lives to turn to. These women feel they need a man in their lives to survive physically and emotionally.

Reason #5: As a Way of Coping with Stressful Transitions

Women sometimes seek out affairs as a maladaptive way of dealing with a difficult life transition. For example:

  • Their children are grown up and leave home. Coping with the “empty nest” can be challenging for many.
  • The death of a parent or any close relative occurs.
  • A loved one is experiencing a serious medical problem.
  • She experiences a job loss.

Having an affair to cope with these tough moments in life is, of course, an unhealthy way

to cope with the situation. While these affairs can provide some comfort, more importantly, they just serve as a distraction from the current difficult situation.

Unfortunately, regardless of gender, affairs happen far too often and create great pain and turmoil. This happens not just for the participants involved, but for many family members as well. While most relationships can recover from an affair with professional help, it’s of course much more ideal that couples get help before choosing to be unfaithful.

When partners can identify any emotional distance in their relationship (before becoming tempted with an affair) and seek professional support, the easier and sooner they will be able to reconnect and build a healthier relationship.

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The Other Kind of Trust Issue

The most common kind of trust issue I see in my practice doesn’t involve infidelity. While I do see many couples and individuals who are recovering from betrayal, the most common trust issue showing up in my practice involves the lack of faith partners have in one another.

Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-common situation. Partners are left doubting that their partner will be there for them when push comes to shove. Or, they have no faith that they will have each other’s back. The hidden reality is that even couples that have never managed any type of affair or relationship betrayal still struggle frequently with trust issues. It goes without saying that couples who have dealt with physical and/or emotional infidelity experience a lack this type of faith in each another too.

Under the Surface

Dr. Sue Johnson, who developed emotionally focused therapy, very effectively addresses this topic. She points out that the lack of trust in a relationship is not really about the “little issues.” Instead, underneath the surface, is where the fundamental sources of trust (or lack of trust) lie. For example:

  • Do they feel secure in their emotional bond with each other?  
  • Is she truly there for me?
  • Can he put me first?  

Without feeling secure in their shared emotional bond, unhealthy and unproductive conflict can grow. Dr. Johnson refers to these unproductive interactions as “Demon Dialogues.”

What are “Demon Dialogues?”

Dr. Johnson describes them this way: 

[when] partners get stuck in spirals of negative emotions and wind up shutting down and shutting their partner out.”

Once stuck in this spiral, it’s very difficult to get out. Each partner experiences hurt feelings and emotional pain that negatively impacts the next encounter. This leads to bot distrust between partners, which, in turn, inflicts further damage on the relationship.

EFT and the Demon Dialogues

In emotionally focused therapy (EFT) the goal is for the couple to eliminate the Demon Dialogues and create a more trusting bond with each other. This connection can foster healthier and deeper level conversations. Dr. Johnson refers to these discussions as “Hold Me Tight” conversations.  For example couples spend time

  • Talking about how one’s actions affect the relationship.
  • Expressing remorse for their part in hurtful discussions.
  • Sharing how they care about each other.
  • Showing forgiveness.
  • Acknowledging their own shortcomings.

A common problem is that many couples never even begin these productive conversations because their Demon Dialogues get in the way. They may have some desire to talk about these issues, but instead, get caught up in those negative cycles. Why? Because sharing their feelings is too scary and feels too vulnerable to even bring to the surface.

Becoming More Emotionally Secure

When couples do begin to have these productive dialogues, their external issues often fade into the background and become mostly insignificant. If you are angry over how money is spent or you are unhappy with your sex life, but at the same time you know your partner fundamentally has your back, you are likely to feel more comfortable discussing these issues in depth. As a result, you are both less likely to let these conversations turn into Demon Dialogues. Then you are more likely to feel secure enough to have Hold Me Tight discussions. Such emotional security is essential in order to have a satisfying and healthy relationship.  

If you and your partner find yourselves getting dragged down by Demon Dialogues too often, it is highly recommended you consider attending couples counseling. While working with a therapist, you both can learn how to eliminate hurtful surface-level issues and get to the real, deeper issues in your relationship. One you both develop trust and faith in one another, counseling can teach you how to communicate effectively so that you rarely find yourselves getting caught up in the downward spiral of the Demon Dialogues.

Relationships require constant work and attention. Yet, it’s more difficult to be with your partner when neither of you has the emotional security where you can truly count on one another. Through couples counseling, you can both learn to avoid the Demon Dialogues and begin to create a foundation of trust that will lead to more Hold Me Tight conversations.

 

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It’s Not Just Your Imagination – Your Exes are Really Similar

Many of us realize that we are attracted to certain physical and personality traits in a partner. Being drawn to potential partners with blonde hair, a sense of humor, and who are physically active are some examples. Intuitively, we have a sense that we are drawn to certain types of people over and over again. If this is true, it means our exes have a lot in common. Recent research actually confirms this.

You Do Have a “Type”

Researchers from the University of California-Davis studied this issue of common traits in romantic partners through three separate but related studies. They compared over 1,000 heterosexual relationships by conducting interviews and tracking social media. The results showed that people actually do have a “type” of preferred partner. Also, the study indicated that people are drawn to partners with similar physical qualities for both short-term and long-term relationships. In other words, we’re attracted to a similar physical type, regardless of whether the person is ready/wanting a life-long relationship or a casual interaction.

Location Does Matter

One of the studies, conducted with young adults, looked at whether partners had similar qualities beyond physical attractiveness (such as intelligence and religious affiliation). The conclusion was yes, but it’s often because of the physical location where these young people interacted. In their case, it was at a school or college, where you often find like-minded people of similar intelligence.  Also, if you attend a church, synagogue, or other house of worship, you will meet people whom you have common ground and potentially meet a partner.

Attractiveness

Interestingly, when it comes to physical attraction these attributes remain similar regardless of short-term flings or committed relationships. People still selected partners who had common physical characteristics, such as hair color or body type. Of course, it’s a challenge to determine how to measure attractiveness since this quality is very subjective. However, attractiveness was likely determined by participants’ self-reporting methods.

So What Does All This Mean?

Overall, the research indicates that our chances of finding a partner are determined where we live and also physical desirability. However, the researchers didn’t address the more complex issue of people who are repeatedly attracted to the same personality dynamic. Essentially, this means that many people who are repeatedly attracted to certain personality characteristics are often attracted to unhealthy characteristics. For instance:

  • Relationships that are controlling.
  • Relationships that create a codependency between both partners.
  • Relationships that involve drug or alcohol use/abuse.
  • Relationships that reinforce negative childhood experiences or unhealthy parent/child dynamics.

Unfortunately, not everyone realizes they are stuck in these relationship patterns or dysfunctional cycles. It often takes professional intervention to help you identify and understand the repeated themes at work in your relationship.

How Can I Tell If I am In an Unhealthy Relationship?

Oftentimes we don’t recognize these patterns ourselves, which means we blindly go from one unhealthy relationship to the next. This causes us to become stuck in relationships that are either unhealthy, unsatisfying or both. Working with a therapist can help uncover these unhealthy dynamics and identify the desirable qualities that you’ve been seeking in relationships. Once you have the insight, you are then able to take proactive steps towards changing those patterns to healthier ones. You then are able to seek loving and caring connections and avoid destructive and unhealthy partnerships.

It’s one thing to notice your exes all have the same physical appearance.  However, if you have consistently ended up in unhealthy relationships, working with a therapist can help you uncover any dysfunctional patterns. Then you will know which traits to look for in a prospective partner. In addition, you’ll  know which characteristics to avoid!