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Serious illness can lead to divorce, studies say

If you're suffering from a serious illness, that last thing you need is for your spouse to take off and leave. But recent studies indicate divorce rates increase when a spouse is seriously ill - particularly if the ill spouse is the wife.

According to CNN, a study published in a journal called Cancer reveals that seriously ill women were far more likely to get divorced than their male counterparts. In the study, 21 percent of sick women got divorced, compared to only three percent of men who were ill. Research also apparently suggests that while men may be prone to leave a marriage when his wife is sick, women are more likely to stay if the tables are turned.

CNN's article details a woman who was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. Her husband was supportive at first, but gradually drifted away, leaving her parents to do most of her caretaking. By the time she decided to end the marriage, he had already consulted with an attorney.

So, why does that happen? Shouldn't serious obstacles bring people closer together? They do for some couples, who can feel they grow closer and more secure in their marriages. But for some, particularly men, illnesses are threatening in more ways than one.

Men are typically not used to the "caregiver" role, and that can make husbands uncomfortable and alienated, particularly if they are performing duties only nurses used to do. And since men tend to lean on their spouses for moral support even more than women, who rely some on friends and others, men can begin to feel very alone.

And, in a sad and ironic twist, they may actually end a marriage because of a fear of abandonment.

Source: CNN, "When spouse gets sick - who leaves?," Meredith Bryan, 21 July 2011

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