When Wisconsin couples get married, their marriage vows may contain a promise to stick together “in sickness and in health”. However, there is some evidence that suggests that not all spouses are up to this challenge.

A study showed that when wives become seriously ill, there is a greater likelihood of the marriage ending in divorce than when a husband is the one to suffer a health crisis. These findings were true for incidences of cancer as well as strokes and heart problems.

Researchers offer several explanations for why there is a gender imbalance in leaving a marriage after a spouse become seriously ill. One of the explanations is that living with a chronically ill spouse can be extremely stressful. While women often have strong social support networks, men don’t always have friends and family who can offer support and practical assistance. Over time, husbands may become extremely unhappy and decide that it’s time to leave the marriage.

Another consideration is that this study was conducted with older couples. Older men tend to have better chances of remarrying than women of the same age. This reality may keep women from leaving a marriage, as they may not feel comfortable living out the rest of their years alone. Another consideration is that older couples may have adopted more traditional gender roles, and as younger couples age, the gender disparity in seeking a divorce after a spouse falls ill may dissipate.

Individuals who are faced with divorce while living with a serious medical condition, may benefit from speaking with an experienced family law attorney. Such an attorney can often provide assistance in negotiating a settlement agreement that covers property division and other applicable issues.