When illness strikes, it can change a couple’s relationship. One person may have to transition into more of a caretaker role. This is especially true for long-term or chronic illnesses where consistent care is needed. The nature of the relationship will necessarily change.
Major life changes can often lead to divorce. Does this mean that one partner becoming ill makes it more likely that a couple is going to split up?
Which person is sick?
The big question to ask may not be whether or not the odds of divorce go up, but which partner has developed a serious health condition. Who is the caretaker and who is the person that needs care? The reason that this is important is because studies have found, when looking at heterosexual marriages, that the divorce odds do not seem to increase when men get sick. However, those odds do go up if the wife is the one who is sick.
A common example of this phenomenon that is often cited in the media is Albert Pujols, who was a professional baseball player. He was married to his wife for 22 years. She announced that she had a brain tumor and needed to have surgery to remove it. Just days after she made this announcement, he said that they would be getting a divorce.
At the end of the day, gender may play a bigger role than the actual illness itself. Women appear to be more likely to stay with their spouse and offer care when necessary, whereas men are more likely than their wives to decide to simply move on from the relationship. That certainly doesn’t mean that there aren’t men who stay married and offer care to their wives, of course, but simply that the statistics show which person is more likely to ask for a divorce in the event of a serious diagnosis.
Exploring divorce options
Getting divorced when a spouse is sick can be complex and potentially contentious. It’s important for those involved to understand exactly what legal rights they have and what steps to take if they divide up asset and do other things of this nature.