Women must face a harsh reality about their relationships. There is a decent chance her husband’s vow to love her “in sickness and in health” only meant in his sickness, not hers.
Divorce Statistics When Someone Falls Ill
Marriage vows create a promise to love and care for each other through all of lifes ups and downs. While most wives abide by the standard, many husbands do not.
According to Science Daily, the strongest predictor of divorce during a life-altering illness is the patient’s gender. A little over 20% of female patients will find themselves served with divorce papers if they get sick, compared to less than 3% of men.
Though 20% is far from a majority, it’s still a stark contrast to the opposite gender, which begs the question:
Why do so many men leave?
Women Typically Care for the Home
Wives take care of nearly everything around the house. Pew Research shows that married women spend 11 more hours per week on domestic labor, like housework and child-rearing than their husbands.
Women spend their free time cooking, cleaning, caring for the kids, and managing the family’s social calendar. Men, in the meantime, have far more time for leisure.
When women fall ill, they can no longer manage all their responsibilities. They can’t keep the house clean, cook dinner, and take care of the children.
Are Men Leaving Over Care-Taking?
The disparity in domestic labor between genders, coupled with the statistics that men are more likely to leave, implies that men leave when their wives can no longer care for them and their home the way they’ve come to expect.
The implication leads to a terrifying conclusion about the state of marriage. These husbands don’t seem to care about their wives as a person. They only seem to care about what she can do to enhance his life. When she’s no longer able to provide him with the care and attention he feels entitled to, he leaves to find a replacement.
Women Discuss the Problem
Women around the internet are well aware of the disparity and have discussed the problem at length in their online spaces.
Here’s what women are saying about the men who leave their sick wives, and what they feel is the root of the problem.
Men Aren’t Caretakers
Many women pointed out the gender roles thrust upon us from the time we’re born. Little girls are raised for caretaking. They’re given toys like baby dolls, kitchen sets, and easy-bake ovens designed to mold them into perfect little caretakers. Older girls are typically asked to help with chores and care for the younger siblings.
Little boys aren’t raised with these expectations, and when they grow up, they don’t know how to handle caretaking tasks.
“Women are socialized to do care work while men are socialized to have someone at home to do their care work (care for the house, for them, for the children, for their parents, etc.) and not do it themselves,” said one user of an Ask Women forum.
“People who are used to being the one taken care of don’t adapt well when they suddenly have to be the caretaker,” said another.
The difference in socialization leads to an entitlement in men. They feel entitled to a woman’s domestic labor; when she can no longer provide it, they no longer see value in the relationship.
“They feel they deserve a partner who puts their needs last,” said one user, implying that men expect women to ignore their own needs for the sake of the family.
Men also feel entitled to their wives’ energy and attention (which usually means sex) and flip out when they’re not getting it.
“The justification the man uses for leaving in these cases is usually something like, “Oh, my wife isn’t fun anymore and won’t show affection anymore,” explained one user.
It’s not limited to leaving over chronic illnesses. Many men will cheat when their wife gets sick or in the first few years after a baby arrives.
Men Encourage It
It doesn’t help that other men constantly encourage the behavior.
One user shared that she often sees posts from men complaining about their sick wives, and the attitude is always the same. The men hate their lives, resent their wives, and are generally angry about caring for her. But the advice from other men encourages him to leave rather than stand by her.
“These posts always get upvotes, and the top comments are always something like, “Dude…leave her for both of your sakes. Go live your life and let your wife find someone who is happily willing to care for her. You don’t deserve this,” the user shared, shocked that so many men agree with this behavior.
Women Get Shamed
Women are never encouraged to leave their sick husbands. She’s often shamed for not standing by his side through thick and thin.
“If a woman left her sick husband, she’d be socially outcasted. If a man left his sick wife, it’s okay because his comfort and needs are above her health and quality of life. It’s just another subtle facet of male privilege that nobody seems to want to bring up,” said one user.
Men Need Women
Many women said men leave their sick wives because they can’t function on their own. Statistics show how marriage benefits men to women’s determent, with married men enjoying more free time and longer, happier lives than their partners.
“Men need women for survival. I’m dead serious. They go from momma to wife,” stated one user.
Another shared how the men she dated reacted to her whenever she got sick.
“They got mad at me and yelled at me,” she began. “They were used to me doing everything around the house and being their caregiver and emotional support and felt betrayed when I simply stopped, not to mention asked them for help. I don’t think they were being mean on purpose, I think they just couldn’t handle it, and anger is the easiest emotion to fall back on.”
Time To Change How We Raise Men
The forum was filled with women sharing their stories of heartbreak and despair after a life-altering diagnosis. The person who was supposed to stand by their side either cheated or left, and often even left the sick partner with children to care for.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Men are just as capable of caring for sick partners as women. They’re capable of raising children and keeping the house clean.
Unfortunately, we don’t expect it from them. We don’t raise little boys with empathy or teach them basic life skills like we teach girls. We let them roam free without expectations; then, we’re shocked when they can’t handle adulting basics independently.
To change the culture of men leaving sick wives, we must start with the way we raise little boys. If we start raising them with the same expectations we raise little girls, they’ll be far more caring and capable as adults.