When people marry in New Jersey, they often pledge to stay together "in sickness and in health." In practice, however, severe and chronic illness can have serious, negative effects on a marriage. According to multiple studies, those impacts are distinctly gendered. Women who become seriously ill are more likely to face divorce while married men who suffer from illness do not show the same increased likelihood of separation.
It should be noted that most research conducted on this topic has involved older couples who may be more likely to adhere to traditional gender roles. The likelihood of divorce for young people who become seriously ill has been studied far less frequently or thoroughly. While women with cancer have an increased risk of divorce, this likelihood is less than that of wives who have had strokes or heart attacks. Researchers say that these findings parallel others, noting that while women often work harder after marriage, men find that their health is improved in their relationships.
In addition, women who become ill often turn to a larger community for support, including family and friends. On the other hand, men often rely primarily on their wives for support through illness. This means that when women fall ill, they are unable to continue their previous caregiving role and need additional support themselves. This change can disrupt a marriage.
When a person is struggling to get through a serious illness, divorce may be the last thing they want to consider. However, an ill spouse going through a divorce can work with a family law attorney who can protect their rights. Legal counsel could negotiate issues like property division and spousal support.