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Gender gap for divorce: Why do women initiate it more often than men?

Women initiate most divorces. It's been that way for a long time in the U.S. and the percentage is striking. Research shows that 60 to 69 percent of divorce proceedings are begun by women.

Yet it's women, not men, who are more likely to suffer a decline in their material standard of living after divorce. Women are also less likely to get married again than men.

Why is there such a counterintuitive gender gap in seeking a divorce? In this post, we will address that question.

Sensitivity and gender dynamics

Researchers have offered several different reasons why women initiate divorce more often than men.

For one thing, women generally have higher emotional sensitivity than men. This higher level of sensitivity tends to make women more likely to be dissatisfied in a relationship.

Marriage also tends to reinforce traditional gender roles that put women at a disadvantage. Women often get stuck with an overly large share of housekeeping chores and suffer from an imbalance of power with a male partner.

There may also be tactical reasons why women file for divorce more than men. For a woman who is the primary caretaker of children, filing first may strengthen a case for temporary custody - which could turn into full custody.

Aggression and personality disorder

There is, however, another provocative factor that may incline some women toward divorce. Research suggests that men are more likely to engage in the types of manipulative, self-regarding behaviors that constitute narcissistic personality disorder.

Men are twice as likely as women to exhibit extreme narcissistic behavior. Such behaviors are characterized by lack of empathy and various power games that try to keep other people on the defensive.

To be sure, there are plenty of sensitive men who do their share of household chores. And there are plenty of women who exhibit narcissistic personality traits.

Overall, however, the role of gender in choosing to get divorced is an important topic that is eliciting interesting research. It is certainly something to be aware of, if you are facing divorce yourself.

Get the counsel you need

If you are entering the divorce process, it's also important to get knowledgeable legal counsel. The decisions you make now will affect you for years to come, do you will want to make sure your interests are protected.

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