When Your Spouse Forgets the “Sickness and Health, Better or Worse” Part of Their Vows

When Your Spouse Forgets the “Sickness and Health, Better or Worse” Part of Their VowsTraditionally, couples who marry make their vows in front of friends and family alike. Those vows typically include some version of promising to stand by one another in good times and challenging times. And while there are few family events more challenging than long-term or terminal illnesses, it appears that not everyone takes the “in sickness” part of their vows to heart.

According to an article by Daily Mail, Wolfgang Porsche, the executive chairman of the Porsche company, is divorcing his wife of 16 years after learning that she has been diagnosed with dementia. Many people reacted to the news across the country, stating that couples take a vow to stick together through “sickness and health, better or worse.” However, research shows that illness is a reason for divorce more often than we might think.

The National Library of Medicine embarked on a 10-year study, analyzing data from around 2,700 opposite-sex marriages to determine how divorces dissolved when serious physical illness was present. After it was completed, the study revealed that marriages typically end in divorce when the wife is sick – but when the husband is sick, the couples remain together. As a matter of fact, women are six times more likely to face divorce after being diagnosed with cancer than men.

Why do divorces tend to happen more when the wife is sick?

Every marriage is unique and different, meaning that only the couple knows what happens behind closed doors and causes their marriages to fall apart. However, no matter if your marriage is going strong or on the brink of divorce, when a person becomes physically ill, it can change things tremendously.

One of the reasons why this tends to happen is because wives are typically called to be caretakers more often than husbands. While many men have the ability to take care of their spouses and children, they tend to be primary providers, making sure that the family is financially secure. Therefore, when their wives become sick, husbands simply are not sure how to respond or what to do; in some cases, they leave the marriage as a result.

However, it is important to mention that it is not uncommon for wives to file for divorce after becoming ill as they may become resentful and unhappy with how they are treated or cared for by their husbands throughout the illness.

It is also important to note that the study reviewed only cis-gender, opposite-sex couples. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that same-sex couples experience health issues differently:

Overall, our analysis suggested that patients and spouses construct and approach illness in two dominant and distinctive ways. Spouses typically constructed illness in ways that either minimized the seriousness of illness or that emphasized immersion in the illness experience. Most spouses who minimized illness also generally downplayed the need for care work around the illness. In contrast, spouses who constructed the illness as immersive generally described illness as requiring intensive care and attention from both patient and care provider. Findings suggested that among both patients and care providers within same-sex and different-sex marriages, men generally engaged in more minimizing of illness and consequently expected and provided less care work. In contrast, women generally engaged in more illness immersion and consequently more care work and a wider range of types of care work for their same- or different-sex spouse.

Reflecting the gendered co-construction of illness, spouses in same-sex relationships generally described illness experiences in similar ways, suggesting a fairly high level of concordance between spouses. In contrast, spouses in different-sex relationships tended to describe illness experiences in divergent ways, suggesting more discordance between spouses. When constructions of illness were concordant (e.g., both spouses minimized or immersed in the illness), as was typically the case with same-sex couples, spouses described very little interpersonal strain and conflict around care work. Yet, when constructions of illness were discordant (e.g., one spouse minimized the illness while the other was immersed in the illness), as was typically the case with different-sex couples, spouses often described misunderstandings and relationship strain around the provision and receipt of care.

The results of the study found that, in general, lesbian couples were more likely to have concordant illness experiences than gay couples or heterosexual couples.

What to do if you are going through this type of situation

If things have changed in your marriage since you or your spouse became sick, you may be wondering what to do and where to turn. Of course, you may be aggravated and frustrated at the circumstances and want to immediately call it quits, but if there is any feeling of wanting to save your marriage, you should try marriage counseling. This may be able to help you solve disagreements and improve the overall quality of your relationship.

If your relationship does not show any signs of possibly changing, you and your spouse should sit down and make the decision on when to contact a Columbia divorce lawyer. If you choose to work with McCabe Russell, we will initially recommend divorce planning, which is a simple process of getting all the paperwork and information together before filing for divorce. This makes things a lot easier for a couple, as they are given the opportunity to ease into the idea of deciding how their lives will look after the divorce. Several different factors are discussed, such as finances, child custody, property division, and more.

A divorce attorney has the necessary experience and skills to provide you with insight and advice about the divorce process. Our team knows that divorce is emotionally and physically exhausting, and it was not an easy decision to make. Therefore, we offer you compassion, understanding, and a listening ear throughout the entire process.

Should you get a postnuptial agreement?

A postnuptial agreement is a contract that is created after a couple is married. It goes over the couple’s finances and assets and what will happen to them in the case of divorce. If you believe that your marriage may be approaching divorce and you would like to establish a postnuptial agreement, there is never a wrong time to start the process. Here are a few of the benefits of entering a postnuptial agreement:

  • Protects your finances and assets
  • Protects your children’s financial stability and assets
  • Makes the divorce process much easier
  • Provides a clear understanding and agreement of what you expect after divorce
  • Gives you peace of mind

A Columbia divorce lawyer from McCabe Russell, P.A. can provide you with assistance in understanding how a divorce works, how to start the divorce planning process, or how to develop and enforce a postnuptial agreement. We will not only protect and fight for your rights, but we will also help you sort out all necessary details going forward, ensuring that you never feel lost or alone while going through the divorce process. If you are ready to begin discussing, consider scheduling a free case evaluation today by completing our contact form. Our firm offers legal services to families in Fulton, Bethesda, Rockville, and Columbia, and we look forward to hearing from you soon.