New study: the majority (69%) of divorces are initiated by women

Is it OK to tell women they are wrong?
Is this “I’ll do what I want” attitude compatible with life-long married love?

This new report from Live Science gives us some numbers about who initiates divorces most frequently.

It says:

Women are more likely than men to initiate divorce in the United States, but they are no more likely than men to initiate breakups in a dating relationship, a new study finds.

“The breakups of nonmarital heterosexual relationships in the U.S. are quite gender-neutral and fairly egalitarian,” study author Michael Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, said in a statement. “This was a surprise because the only prior research that had been done on who wanted the breakup was research on marital divorces.”

Previous research had found that women are more likely to initiate divorce, at least in the United States, Europe and Australia. In the new study, Rosenfeld compared divorces to nonmarital breakups, in an effort to understand the driving forces behind each type of breakup.

To investigate, he looked at data from the 2009 to 2015 waves of How Couples Meet and Stay Together, a nationally representative survey spearheaded by Rosenfeld and his colleagues. The new study includes 2,262 adults, ages 19 to 64, who reported having opposite-sex partners in 2009. By 2015, 371 of the participants had broken up or gotten divorced.

Women initiated 69 percent of the 92 divorces, Rosenfeld found. But there was no statistically significant difference between women and men when it came to nonmarital breakups, regardless of whether they were living together, he said.

So I am seeing a couple of problems in young, unmarried women that might explain this.

Feminism is bad

First, there is the feminism. Feminism was the driving force behind no-fault divorce. Today, young unmarried women are being taught to view marriage as stifling to their freedom. So if they do get married, they are often resolved that marriage should not affect their freedom in any way. That is just not the way marriage works, though – both spouses need to be equally ready to have their freedom infringed upon by things that HAVE TO GET DONE. Lots of things that have to get done will not be fun, thrilling or amusing – and that’s why it’s good to be prepared to do them before you marry.

My friend Dina says that she only knows one happily married couple from among her friends. The most frequent case she sees is wife is working in order to pay for big house, two cars, etc. and wife is denying husband sex, which makes him disengage from the marriage. A working wife tends to not be as responsive to the needs of husband and kids as a non-working wife, probably in part due to work stress. There is an epidemic of sex-withholding by women, and it causes men to disengage from marriage because they feel unloved. Although women tend to rebel against the idea that the man’s bad behavior is their fault, and that there is a “contractual” nature to marriage, that is how marriage works. You cannot stay married, women, by just doing whatever you feel like, and NOT doing whatever you DON’T feel like. Men will disengage when their needs are not supplied, and that’s no fault of theirs. It’s your fault. Denying relationship obligations causes men to underperform.

Feminism is often linked closely to “independence”. There is a lot of confusion over what the word independence means among young, unmarried women. A man uses that word to mean “lack of financial dependence on parents, the state, etc. because of good decisions in education, career and finances”. But a woman means “not having to care about the needs of a man and the leadership of a man, or the needs of children while still getting what I want from men and children”. That’s not compatible with life-long married love.

Emotions are bad

Second, emotions. In my experience, young, unmarried women are less likely to have reasoned out their own life plan in a practical step-by-step manner. (Although, all the women I advise have, but they are exceptional) Instead, they tend to do whatever makes them feel good moment-by-moment without any realistic plan. Peer-approval and culture play a large part in determining their goals and what they do day-to-day – and these day-to-day choices do not lead to achieving their goals. “Live in the moment”, they often tell me. If you try to talk to them about roles and responsibilities in a marriage, they will withdraw and rebel. But marriage is about each spouse doing his or her job, and feeling content about what the couple is building together. You can’t make life-long married love from emotional craziness and pursuing fun and thrills. You can’t make anything out of emotional craziness and pursuing fun and thrills.

How to pick a woman who won’t divorce you

Young men, I advise you to choose wives who have had to do things that they did not feel like doing. That can involve things like getting a STEM degree, getting a job in STEM, moving out of her parents’ house, getting a “boring” job that helps her pay off her debts, keeping commitments when she doesn’t feel like it, and caring for other people and even animals.

Basically, the more the woman has ground down any narcissism and hedonism she may have, by having to do nasty calculus and horrid lab work, the better. The more accustomed she is to constraints, responsibilities, expectations and obligations, the less likely it is that she’ll divorce you for unhappiness. And all of this goes for men, as well. STEM degree, STEM job, save money, serve others, give to charity.

Marriage is not the time for people to be carried away by their emotions. It’s an enterprise, and it works when both people are rational, practical, hard-working and self-controlled.

My editors

My friend Dina edited this post. She has a hilarious line she tells me whenever I ask her why some feminists think that I am so demanding. She says “You are demanding, but nothing you ask me to do is as bad as what I had to do at work today”. Her job is a billion  times harder than mine. She has a BS and MS in a STEM discipline, and has been working full-time since she was 18. She owns her own car, her own home, and has loads of investments. Whatever I want from her (e.g. – play Orcs Must Die! 2 with me) is pretty minor. She is a tough girl, and that’s what you want in a wife. Marriage is not happily ever after for the woman, it’s actually a lot of work for her. Hard work  before marriage prepares her for the responsibilities, expectations and obligations of marriage.

My friend Lindsay, who also has a STEM BS and MS and a resume, edited an early version of this post. She gave up her college teaching career to get married, have kids, and homeschool the kids. She sent me this story of a woman who abandoned her husband and 4 kids for a convicted rapist and serial killer. I think this story captures the radical feminism and emotional craziness that I am warning about in this post. Avoid women who run away from responsibilities and prefer men who meet their emotional needs without holding them accountable. Listen up, single women: you can’t choose a bad man because he makes you feel good (by not demanding anything from you) and then expect him to perform husband and father duties. That’s just causing your own divorce through your own poor choices.

8 thoughts on “New study: the majority (69%) of divorces are initiated by women”

  1. There’s one aspect of the statistics that isn’t being mentioned here. It’s very telling that women are breaking up marriages at higher rate than men, but not breaking up non-marital relationships at higher rates. In a dating relationship, a woman doesn’t get any financial incentive for breaking up with her boyfriend. She just loses her boyfriend and maybe roommate. But in a marriage, she stands to gain tremendously because the court system will award her alimony and child support. Thus, she has every incentive to leave a marriage she doesn’t like at the moment. I suspect that has a lot to do with the fact that women are walking away from marriages more commonly than they walk away from dating relationships.

    The other factor that may affect these statistics is that modern women are more likely to hate the drudgery and commonness of marital life with its many responsibilities, while they’re more likely to tolerate a similar kind of man if they have the “freedom” (i.e. lack of responsibility) of a dating or cohabiting relationship. If they’re only dating, they feel they can walk away at any time, and thus aren’t “stuck.” But since they have accepted ideas that marriage is stifling if you aren’t completely happy, as soon as the marriage isn’t great any more, they start to feel hemmed in and need to seek “freedom” from the marriage.

    1. Thank you for this great comment. I really appreciate your thoughts.

      You are absolutely correct about both points, and I would say that no-fault divorce laws actually deter men from even marrying now. So many men have had the experience of seeing a good man cleaned out financially, and – much worse – separated from seeing his kids from more than a few hours a month. It’s a nightmare. Making no-fault divorce lucrative financially just makes that fear worse, although I think a clever man can reduce that risk by who he chooses to marry and when he chooses to marry. Women need to realize the incentive that these laws put on men to not marry and act to repeal them.

      About your other point about marriage being seen as drudgery, this is something that I have had to experience firsthand (as you know). There just doesn’t seem to be enough older women teaching younger women to reject chasing fun and thrills. Dina calls it “chasing bubbles”. Women spend their fertile, attractive chasing bubbles that society tells them are better than marriage. That is the time they should be bonding to a good man and securing his allegiance by helping him. Then when she loses her looks, he will still adore her for her help and for raising kids well. It’s much harder to get that bond when a woman wastes her 20s on freedom from responsibilities, then tries to take that disrespectful, dismissive attitude to the roles of wife and mother.

  2. WK, my anecdotal evidence on this topic: As part of my job duties I will have to review divorce decrees. In a typical year I will review about 12 – 15 of them and it is somewhere around 85% initiated by women.

    1. Thanks for weighing in. And I thnk the statistics show that the divorce rate declines as the woman ages, since it is harder for her to remarry the older she gets (looks fade).

  3. I’m a bachelor and have been aware of this stat for a while. When I get harassed for why I’m not married I bring this up, among other things, and the responses are like a robotic telemarketing call.

    “Well, just don’t marry that kind of woman!”

    “Well, how do I know she’s not that kind of woman?”


    I would add that among marriages where no divorce occurs, the threat of divorce means that the husband is never truly the head. The state is, because it can break it up at the request of one person against the wishes of another.

    That’s another fascinating stat. Overwhelmingly, divorces are initiated by one against the wishes of the other. In other words, more often than not one of them wants to work it out. If you’re that person, you’re powerless.

    1. I think it is possible to reduce the risk by choosing carefully when you marry, weekly church attendance, virgin, loves her very moral father, etc.

      But this is unfixable: “I would add that among marriages where no divorce occurs, the threat of divorce means that the husband is never truly the head.”

      That is the problem. You cannot be the head when the government is handing her a shotgun to blow the whole thing to pieces. You have to find someone who repudiates no-fault divorce completely and hates it.

      You are right that most divorces are unilateral, and usually the man has no idea.

      1. There are possible counterbalances to the state’s involvement, but it really comes to this: There have to be enough repercussions for her if she frivorces that it’s not a credible threat or a possibility. She can still do it, but the consequences would not be worth it. Getting her father’s word that he will have your back and having it impressed on her that it’s not an option can go a long way.

        One way to possibly reduce the risk of marrying a woman like that is by having as small and discreet a wedding as possible. If she’s willing to forgo a lot of things that society has taught her to expect in that arena, it shows she’s getting married for you, not just to have “her big day” or to fit in with married couples around her.

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