Why Don’t Men Initiate Divorce?

New columnist Hugo Schwyzer explains that men are too willing to muddle through a mediocre marriage—and women are less inclined to settle.

Vicki Larson had a piece at the Huffington Post the other day, “Why Women Walk Out More Than Men,” citing research indicating that two-thirds of contemporary divorces are initiated by women. Why, she wonders, are men so comparatively reluctant to file for divorce?

Larson notes the “bad behavior” of men like Sean Penn, Jesse James, Tiger Woods, and Tony Parker, habitual cheaters all, and asks why it was their wives who chose to end the marriages. Is this a case of men trying to have their cake and eat it too, combining domestic comfort and sexual novelty? Larson isn’t sure.

One thing I’m sure of: infidelity is far from the only reason women initiate divorce more often than men.

Though most statistics indicate men are more likely to cheat than women, the percentage of women who are unfaithful is rising. At the same time, the percentage of divorces women initiate is climbing, too. If there were a simple correlation between infidelity and divorce, then we’d expect men to be initiating divorce more often. But that’s not the case.

♦◊♦

The reason women are more likely to leave is less about cheating than it is about their unwillingness to settle.

Men and women are raised with very different attitudes toward marriage. Though marriage rates are falling, popular culture still foists a romantic ideal of connubial bliss onto young girls. When I ask my college students if they’ve ever fantasized in detail about their wedding day, 80 percent of young women raise their hands. (Only about 10 percent of the guys admit to the same.) Yes, young women are more likely to want to delay marriage, but their expectations of romantic fulfillment are as high as ever. Boys, on the other hand, grow up in a “guy” culture that sees marriage as the end of freedom.

Put simply, boys are taught that marriage is about “settling down” while girls are taught that marriage is about finding enduring fulfillment. And it’s obvious who has the higher set of expectations.

♦◊♦

I met the woman who would be my third wife in 2000. I was 33. I had already burned through two ill-advised marriages in my 20s; my drinking, drug use, and infidelity ruined both relationships. At 31, I got sober. I changed my life. After two years of focus on my recovery, I was ready for something completely different, something stable.

Elizabeth was unlike any woman I’d ever been with. There was no destructive, overpowering chemistry. There was no hint of drama. We were intellectually compatible, from similar social backgrounds. We shared the same values and aspirations. She was hitting 30, eager to be married. I was eager to do something right this time. We were engaged within four weeks of our first date and married within a year.

Too many of us confuse being a good man with the willingness to endure.

Elizabeth and I never stopped having those wonderful conversations. We never cheated on each other, never raised our voices in anger to each other, certainly never threw vases or glasses at one another. And of course, we had no “heat” together. The lovemaking was tender but awkward. I couldn’t orgasm without thinking of someone else—and as I found out later, neither could she. By our first anniversary, we were having sex barely once a month.

I never saw it coming. Fifteen months into our marriage, Elizabeth told me calmly that she wanted a divorce. She’d made a mistake, she said, in settling for compatibility and friendship. She wanted more. She deserved more. “And so do you, Hugo,” she added.

I begged her to reconsider. Sure, I’d noticed the lack of passion. Yes, I was unhappy about our sex life. But I was damn sure not going to cheat; after two disastrous failures, I took my marriage vows seriously. Elizabeth and I had a nice house, two nice careers, two nice dogs, many nice friends. At this point in my life, I thought nice was enough. Nice was worth settling for.

Elizabeth wanted more than nice. She wanted passion, romance, and friendship with a spouse. I told her she was unreasonable; she told me I was selling both of us short. She filed for divorce, telling me I’d thank her someday. “When hell freezes over,” I replied.

Six weeks later, hell froze over.

♦◊♦

I moved out of the house I shared with Elizabeth and into a little apartment. A fortnight later, I met the woman who is now my fourth and final wife. We’ve been together over eight years now, and though our marriage is far from perfect, it has the combination of both deep friendship and genuine heat that Elizabeth knew we both deserved.

If I’d had my way, Elizabeth and I would never have divorced. We would have gone on being nice for years and years, each of us vaguely dissatisfied but resolutely committed to what we’d begun. We would have had children. Eventually, one or both of us would have had an affair out of desperation. One way or another, the marriage would have ended. My way would not only have postponed the inevitable, it would have made the inevitable much uglier.

Too many of us confuse being a good man with the willingness to endure. Too many of us think that a “real man” keeps his promises—even when those promises are making him miserable. Good marriages need more than a grim resolve not to leave no matter how bad things get. Men are more likely to forget that than women.

And so, as the statistics tell us, men are more likely to be left.

—Photo by Alex E. Proimos/flickr

About Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo Schwyzer has taught history and gender studies at Pasadena City College since 1993, where he developed the college's first courses on Men and Masculinity and Beauty and Body Image. He serves as co-director of the Perfectly Unperfected Project, a campaign to transform young people's attitudes around body image and fashion. Hugo lives with his wife, daughter, and six chinchillas in Los Angeles. Hugo blogs at his website

Comments

  1. This article is millions of times better than yours:

    http://www.fredoneverything.net/Reimer.shtml

    • No, Joe, it’s not. In fact, the post you link to is nothing but misogynist ramblings (if you have trouble identifying such, things like equating “women´s studies” with “courses in hating men” is a dead giveaway). It’s all about assigning blame.

      In contrast, Hugo’s post is thoughtful and balanced. It’s an example of the kind of discussion we want to have in our discourse about manhood. The other stuff is just noise—harmless at best, hurtful if mistaken for a “men’s movement.”

      • Stupid people love labels Lars. You just stick labels on what you don’t like because you think that accomplishes something. Let’s see, “misogynist ramblings” and “noise”. Those are 2 useless labels from Lars, not arguments. As far as blame goes, the question is whether the blame is deserved or not. If it is, then blame is relevant to the conversation. I couldn’t care less “what we want to have”, you guys seem to want to go unchallenged, so what? There’s a reason many people think feminism is more about hate than anything. Google “hateful quotes from feminists”. There are a ton of mean, hateful things prominent feminists have said about men.

        • Traitorfish says:

          “I disagree” would have been far quicker to write, because, quite frankly, that’s all you actually managed to say.

          • disagree with what? You people are so vague. What is it about this website? Did none of you people take an english class in college? Disagree with what? You want a cookie you &^$(ing half-wit? Disagree with what? He didn’t say anything I could even disagree with. That’s my point!!! You people are driving me crazy with nonsense. None of you say anything, it’s frustrating to argue with people who don’t say anything.

          • Man, that statue guy has huge nipples.

        • “Google “hateful quotes from feminists”. There are a ton of mean, hateful things prominent feminists have said about men.”

          THIS ^^^, seriously, *this* is your explanation for what Lars rightly called ‘misogynist ramblings’???? And for who deserves blame for being hateful??

          THAT, is what my mom would call “tit for tat”.

          When I was 11. How old are you Joe, that you cling to your emotional pain and try to turn it outwards onto the world in an impotent and spiteful way, through the internet?

      • NotARedneck says:

        Nonsense! There is nothing misogynistic about this article – it’s just the facts.

        If the MSM were not so completely about selling advertising, it would be full of such articles, because they tell the truth. However, if you are trying to sell something to women – who control 90% of the spending decisions, you write what THEY want to hear.

        BTW, the article above misses the obvious. Men avoid divorce because they know they will nearly always get butt raped in family court. Currently, there is a lot of misinformation in the MSM (usually from rather poor “research” by women’s studies academics) that attempt to minimize this, but men are getting the straight facts from the web.

        In my experience, the only time a man initiates divorce is when his wife says “I don’t want the kids! Give me my 50% of the equity in the house and assume my debt and I’m gone.” Divorce is then barely affordable for most men but worth it, in the long run. Otherwise, there seldom is any future for most divorced men. So they put up with a lot.

        • I know an awful lot of divorced women who would be intrigued to know that they were supposed to have “butt raped” their husbands in family court. Perhaps they filed in the wrong court?

    • Talk about a chip – that dude has a big one on his shoulder.

  2. This article reminded me of a friend of my husband. Not long after DH and I got together friend’s wife decided that she had enough of him and actually went looking for someone else. I will add here that they both lived with her parents. Neither one filed for divorce at this time…Even when she found someone else, he still did not file for divorce. Even when we told him his marriage was over and he should just cut his loses, he never filed. He was adamant about trying to save his marriage….even when she moved the New Guy in the house with them and made Friend sleep on the couch so she and New Guy could have their bed. It has been a while, but I still don’t think it was him that filed for divorce but her. He was determined not to get divorced. To this day we don’t understand what kept him there.

  3. “Too many of us confuse being a good man with the willingness to endure.” That seems to be the pivotal observation of the piece, and it’s a good observation, Hugo. It applies to (not) ending relationship, it applies to how men often behave in a relationship (“i’ll let her have it her way if she’ll just shut up”), and it applies to how many men behave on the job. Men in our culture are notoriously bad at saying “no”—and even worse at doing it to women.

    A friend advised me that “the only thing a bad relationship does is stand in the way of a good one.” That’s good advice. It goes without saying that it came from a woman.

    • Very good point indeed…But I gotta say, man I wish I could find one of those guys who are bad at saying no to women…lol So far I haven’t met many with that problem at all!

  4. I think two things are at play here: men are deeply afraid of being alone and once one marriage ends, they will try to jump quickly into another long term one. Also, I think they resist the financial hit they will have to take if they end a marriage.

    • NotARedneck says:

      Men “jump” to another relationship, because it is often the only way to put a roof over their head and food in their stomach. The statistics indicate that women are much more likely to marry – because it is usually a good deal for them. Wives of previously divorced men are the exception and such women complain a lot about their predicament. However, the rate of marriage among women would not be so high (and be more like the marriage rate of men) if many divorced men were not willing to give it a 2nd, 3rd and 4th try.

      Women trust a man who has been vetted by other women, so they seldom consider the financial ramifications until it’s too late..

  5. Why bother getting married when you can have a loving monogamous relationship without the burden of marriage and divorce?    There are few benefits for men and many risks, it’s a bad gamble.

    Family law is biased against fathers and children, so there is a deterrent for men to divorce and often a reward for women (sole child custody = power and $$$$).

  6. Thanks for the comments!

    I ought to add, in case readers are interested, that Elizabeth also remarried, and recently (or so I am told through mutual friends) had a baby boy.

    And I have thanked her.

    Lars, your friend’s advice is exactly right. Love that.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      Great article Hugo. I have an upcoming piece on men and divorce that is related (“Do Men Get Screwed in Divorce?”). I agree with you that the women I know, including my wife, are looking for fulfillment. I am not sure about guys thinking about enduring so much as sometimes being unwilling, through our stubbornness, to call it quits. I think of a close friend of mine who had a very attractive and crazy wife. He is a doctor and they have three daughters. His wife cheated on him three times over the course of a decade. Each time I told him to get the F out of the marriage, that it was over and she was not going to change. He kept going back for more punishment…until one day he finally realized that she didn’t love him and wanted a divorce. He could have saved himself years of agony if he had been able to see the truth at the start. But he just wasn’t capable until he was ready. He felt he needed to endure.
      @tmatlack

  7. Hah, interesting take. I’m not sure if it completely explains the phenomenon but it’s probably a factor.

  8. Hugo, this is excellent. This goes a lot deeper and is more explanatory than the ususal bservations about inequalities in the family law courts over child custody and alimony or whatever as becing the reasons that men stay in unhappy marriages. Those observatiosnare all true, but very partial in thier explanantory power. This on the other hand gets to the heart of the matter.

  9. I really appreciate this, Hugo!

    I’ve been steeling myself for the past couple of weeks to have my Elizabeth conversation. (And, these few weeks follow months of indecision and trying and therapy.) I really appreciate reading this from a man’s perspective. I feel terrible – mostly because he’s a little older and I feel like I’ve robbed him of time he could’ve spent with someone else. But, I know it’s the right thing to do.

  10. I have found that male friends in my life have had that “willingness to endure,” but only because they did not want the “end” to ultimately be their fault in anyones eyes by being the one to file for divorce. This somehow allowed them to save face in their eyes. Even when the disharmony was clearly a big part on their side of the relationship. But in their eyes that was not as big as actually filing for divorce and thus they could go around blaming everything on the ex wife because they “tried” by being willing to stay. No amount of perspective from me has been able to create any insight into their part in the dissolution/destruction of the marriage.

    • Natalie–
      I was one of those guys. For 20 years. It took her infidelity (time #2) for me to call it quits and move out. And the benefit of waiting that long was simple–I could walk away at that point and have other relationships, knowing I did everything I could to make it work. So, I didn’t have a lot of guilt.

      Don’t get me wrong, it was not easy (separation, child custody, final divorce). But having the “moral high ground” is important psychologically for men, at least for me. Of course, years later (after all the divorce drama is over) I sat down and went over where I messed up (from choice of career (career military, with all that entails) to staying too long).

      I remarried, and at times that hasn’t been a cakewalk, but I know now that I can not only stick to it, but work to actively improve it…and know when it isn’t worth improving.

  11. This is a wonderful start to this conversation, but I read a similar article on zeldalily.com that added a few more layers to the issue. Most notably how children can influence that want to stick-to-it(willingness to endure) and not end up the father that failed.

    • Well, the way family law is administered almost everywhere gives the woman an absolute veto in a divorce, but in most other areas of the marriage. The father is facing the nulcear option.

  12. ‘Good marriages need more than a grim resolve not to leave no matter how bad things get. Men are more likely to forget that than women.’

    Couple of issues with this, though.

    First, what constitutes a good marraige is culturally determined. One very common measure of a successful marriage is how many sons it produces. another is simply whether or not it lasts for a lifetime. Neither of these is an inherently less valid measure than how much romantic bliss it produces.

    Second: so if this standard of success is cultural, it simply may be that that boys are growing up in a different culture than girls. There’s probably not much disagreement on that. so it may not be that men have forgotten anything, just that we have a different and incompatible set of expectations.

    But back to this cultural divide with its sets of incompatible expectations. It may help explain why young women tend to confuse and conflate the status of girlfriend and wife on some points, such as exclusivity, amounts of time spent with same sex friends and so on. For them it’s not a conflation at all; it’s all romance and these are just the expectations in a romantic relationship, of whatever kind.

    • Jim, in the dominant American culture in which the vast majority of our readers were raised, happiness is a central ideal — if you look at the history of marriage in this country, since the mid-19th century, the “companionate” ideal has dominated over issues of child-rearing and so forth. (See Stephanie Coontz’s great history of marriage.)

      And this wasn’t a disconnect between two different visions of happiness. The point I’m making is that men are more willing to settle for a low-grade unhappiness, chalking it up to the inevitable, than are women. Elizabeth and I both wanted to be happier; we both found greater happiness outside of our marriage. We had the same goals, the same wants — but only one of us had the courage to demand that we pursue them.

      • I take your point, but the “companionate” ideal is itself a rather fluid concept. that was part of your pointtoo, I think. However while the notion that romantic fulfilment is the goal of marriage may describe the situation for readers of elite literatue since the mid-19th centruy, but it can hardly have been the norm for the broad masses of working people.

        Or if it did, it somehow did not motivate women in that era toleave their marriages. of course fulfilment or lack of it was not what kept women married, hard economic necessity did, and for men too for that matter, since it was nearly impossible to maintain a home or homelife without someone doing the physical for it on a fulltime basis. Fortunately market forces have driven innovations that have most of that labor redundant. That kind of work used to drive women to early graves at almost the same rate as their men’s work was kiling them.

        The companionate ideal was just that, an ideal. But it was reality that people had to accomodate themsleves to, not the ideal. Thank god we have devleoped the wealth and persnal freedom to realize it.

        There is a real difference in the way men and women are socialized to see marriage. Men see it as a second job, just as much as it is in truth for both men and women. And as a job, it just is. Thank God if it’s tolerable. What else can it ever be? After all , what did you see growing up all around you?

      • Hugo–
        First, I enjoyed the article. Good stuff.

        Secondly, spot on about how American culture (especially) has changed. Just do some family history; rarely will you see a working age man or one with property (regardless of age) not remarry in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially if children were involved.

        Marriage in that era (mid to pre Victorian) was based as often on property and community than on romance. The mid to late Victorian increase in women’s literacy, along with the entire ‘Romance’ industry, emerged to create what we have now–RomComs where it ends in a wonderful wedding ceremony. Not in a great marriage, not even with great kids or great sex. Nope. A ceremony of commerical excess, preferably with the True Love running down the eisle to stop the ceremony. Bam, you get a kiss and the credits roll.

        I always want to say “yeah, but I want to see what happens in 4 years, with a crying toddler teething at 2 am, and you’ve got a major business deal happening at 7:30” or “what happens when Matthew McC gets a beer gut?”

    • Female Feedback says:

      “One very common measure of a successful marriage is how many sons it produces.”

      Wow,

      • I meant worldwide. It’s horribly oppresive and thank God there is not at least a movie and TV drama literature detailing the personal devastation – have you ever heard of Raise the Red Lantern? The drive for sons underpins the whoel action of the movie.

        The same holds true in India. A desire for sons is typically cited there as the reason for abortion of fetuses identified as female.

        Those cultures represent more than 2 billion people. If that doesn’t equate to “common” for you, I suggest that your frame of reference is quite Eurocentric.

        • Female Feedback says:

          I thought Hugo was talking about divorce statistics in the US?

          Yes one of the reasons there is so much poverty in India, China, Africa is the male-centrism, male control of resources, male higher deity, male governance, etc. Violence, including violence between men (such as, at the extreme, the enormous amount of killing of males done by Genghis Khan), is also thought to derive from this. Equality with women is very much in men’s interest, unless they think they can be Genghis Khan maybe.

          • Do you have any evidence to support your uncited BS, stereotypes and man-bashing?

          • He was, and all that other about other models was an aside, except that I think it held for a lot of people even here until quite recently, sometimes in living memory in alot of families. My point was that marriage ofr love is an exercise of economic privilege available only recently to most people.

            Male control of resources didn’t cause poverty in either China or india. Depletion of resources due to overpopulation over many centuries did that, at least in China, and it takes two to tango when it comes to overpopulation – it’s not a male preserve. also China does not have a male deity and religion in general has for centuries been considered a morla failing and a character flaw, and generally subversive of good social order.

            If anything the lesson of Chinese history is that male governance has been the engine of social uplift and wealth creation – irrigation, protection form invasion form the north, social order and the suppression of banditry. The system was (hell, still is) authoritarian and often bloody. Where women particiapted in government they excelled, as minoritites must, and that included bloodiness and tyranny, and often they were acclaimed for it.

          • Female Feedback says:

            Jim-

            Yes, overpopulation produces poverty, so does lack of parenting for the 22 or so years it takes to raise a child of either sex to full adulthood. Male control of resources produce poverty because women are forced to have sex with men to survive – not only through rape but because women have no direct access to resources themselves – and many men take no responsibility for the children, neither the resources nor the parenting they require. This means sex has no consequences for men and produces overpopulation.

            I am not aware of a religion in China that involves a female deity. Buddhism is a male-centric religion, for example.

            Since there’s been no female governance or true joint governance in China you can’t really compare how that would have been more peaceable and productive than the male governance. Yes, you’re correct that the minority women tended to go along with the violent, authoritarian, patriarchal cultures. But other studies show that societies where women have status closer to/equal with men, are indeed more peaceable and productive. The Nordic countries for example are healthier and wealthier per capita (including male longevity that is closer to that of females, i.e. a narrower longevity gap between the sexes than it is in a country like the US, which still has a 5 year gap).

      • NotARedneck says:

        “I thought Hugo was talking about divorce statistics in the US? ”

        There is a correlation between the percentage of male children and divorce. Basically, the higher the percentage of male children, the less likely that women will divorce their husband.

        Working from their biases, women’s studies types tried to attribute this to two factors:

        1) Men were happier with sons.
        2) Women got divorced to protect their daughters from sexual abuse.

        Like all WS “research” no credible evidence was provided.

        I have my own theory: Women gain custody of children because it provides them with financial support. This is fine if the children are reasonably behaved but adolescent boys, without the control of a father in the home, are a burden that is not compensated sufficiently by child support. Easier to wait a few years until they are 18 and then file.

        Of course, some women continue to collect the c/s and “encourage” their kids to live with their father.

  13. The Ego Epidemic: Narcissism Is On the Rise

    According to the American research, there has been a 67 per cent increase in it over the past two decades, mainly among women.

    An estimated ten per cent of the population suffers from narcissism as a full-blown personality disorder.

    The symptoms include: a grandiose sense of self-importance; the belief that he or she is special or unique and in some way better – either intellectually or physically – than others; a requirement for excessive admiration; a sense of entitlement, whether to fame, fortune, success and happiness or simply to special treatment; enviousness of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her; an inability to empathise; an inability to admit a mistake; and haughty behaviour or attitude.

    http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/the-ego-epidemic-narcissism-is-on-the-rise/

  14. I am having a hard time embracing the message of this article. If fact, I am somewhat surprised that a site dedicated to “make the world a better place” is even running this. I understand that it comes from a good place, I mean, no one should stay married if they are miserable with their spouse, but …

    This post seems to encourage divorce. What you are effectively saying to all men who are having marital challenges (who doesn’t?) is “yes, the grass really is greener, go ahead and get divorced… it worked for me!”

    Marriage takes dedication and hard work. We cannot turn and run the second it gets hard or when it become more work than it was in the honeymoon years (or months) – that is inevitable. Or even if you are not as happy as you once were – work hard on it and try to be happy! If that doesn’t work, then divorce may be appropriate (in years, not months).

  15. Hugo, you know I respect your work immensely. But, in this, I think you’ve overlooked a major factor: the role domestic violence plays in far too many marriages.

    In battering relationships, the last thing an abuser wants it to lose power over their wife.* In marriages that aren’t healthy, the reason many men don’t initiate divorce is because marriage is a way to control their partner. It is no coincidence that a huge percentage of women killed by current or former partners are killed after they’ve threatened to leave, or after they’ve attempted to leave, their marriages (or live-in relationships).

    Considering how widespread domestic violence is, I wonder what role that plays in the overall statistics for who initiates divorce.

    *Of course, this should go without saying, but to head off trolls at the pass: Of course I know that men can be battered, and women can batter. That said, the vast majority of physically abusive relationships involve male perpetrators of such violence, as documented by law enforcement and anti-violence programs alike.

    • @Jenn: Absolutely. What got left on the cutting room floor was the critical point that this is about low-conflict, non-violent marriages. Absolutely, infidelity, battering, and emotional abuse are predominantly directed from men towards women, and that plays a major part in these statistics. I was taking that as a given, asking what I thought was the less well-discussed question: why, ABSENT domestic violence/abuse/infidelity do women still initiate more divorces, as the evidence seems to suggest — and as the example I shared indicates?

      We tend to believe (as Eric seems to) that divorce is only justifiable in the case of abuse or infidelity. Mere unhappiness isn’t enough. We mythologize grim determination, imagining it to be a very high virtue. A willingness to keep working is indeed laudable and necessary, but wisdom suggests that there’s a difference between a marriage going through a bad patch and something that is simply beyond reviving.

      I often quote Darryl Hall and John Oates:

      “It ain’t a sign of weakness to give yourself away
      the strong give up and move along
      the weak give up and stay.”

      There’s something to that, particularly because it does take a certain strength to say “It’s time to leave. This is finished. I deserve — we deserve — more.”

      • My view of divorce is not limited to abuse and infidelity, but the “unhappiness” or irreconcilable difference must have been worked on by both parties for an extended period of time, before you decide they are actually irreconcilable.

        It is important to note that my view of marriage and divorce is greatly influenced by God my religious beliefs. It is possible many differences of opinion here hinge on those factors.

        …oh and I disagree with Hall & Oates!

      • Hugo, I always enjoy reading what you have to say on these topics.

        But it’s a very delicate balance here, and we need to be careful not to ALSO mythologize this whole “Blissful Love” thing, this “Everything is going to be roses and sizzling sex and perfection” thing.

        I think you’re on to something, that the perspectives and expectations that dominate around marriage, and divorce, are gendered, and women may be more likely to believe the fairy-tale-wedding myth, while men are more likely to believe the a-good-man-never-leaves and marriage-means-settling myths. But it’s important not to get too carried away in either direction, even we know that the audience is primarily of one demographic (here, most likely men.)

    • @Jenn, law enforcement statistics only measure DV that is reported and charges laid.

      There are many deterrents to men reporting DV (embarrassment) and cops arresting women (biased dominant aggressor training)

      National Family Violence Legislative Resource Center http://www.NFVLRC.org Policy Statement on Family Violence

      “Reports from the WHO (Archer, 2006) also make it clear than in many countries around the world, particularly where women have little political or socioeconomic power, women represent the much larger share of IPV victims. However, the most reliable population of surveys indicate that in Western industrialized democracies such as the United States and Canada, where they enjoy higher status, women engage in physical aggression at rates comparable to men (Archer, 2000; Fiebert, 2004; Straus & Gelles, 1990) and are as likely or more likely to be the initiators (DeMaris, 1992; Morse, 1995; Dutton et al., 1999; Straus, 1993; Williams & Frieze, 2005).”

      “Shernock’s (2005) analysis of over 2000 IPV incidents in Vermont revealed that men were categorized as perpetrators 3.2 times more often than women on the initial police report, but subsequently arrested 9 times as often. At issue is the extent to which this pattern of gender bias reflects flawed “dominant aggressor” guidelines and assumptions about IPV based on discredited sociopolitical theories of patriarchy”

      “Victimized males do not have access to services because of the assumption that they are only minimally impacted by IPV, if at all. This assumption, however, runs contrary to an overwhelming body of research evidence. A significant minority of IPV-related physical injuries, between 25% and 43%, are incurred by men (Archer, 2000; Laroch, in preparation; Mirrlees-Black, 1999; Straus, 2004; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000), and men are the victims in nearly a quarter of intimate homicides (Rennison, 2003)”

    • how widespread is domestic violence? what percentage of married women file for divorce because of it?

      • There are no studies on divorce and DV that I am aware of.

        How widespread is domestic violence? Go to the NFVLRC.org, lots of studies based on societal surveys rather than selective shelter data or justice statistics.

    • “In battering relationships, the last thing an abuser wants it to lose power over their wife.* In marriages that aren’t healthy, the reason many men don’t initiate divorce is because marriage is a way to control their partner. ‘

      My marriage was not healthy. My ex-wife was emotionally abusive. I stayed because of my son. that simple. My story is probably a lot more representative of most mariages where men stay in miserable mariages than your model is, given the actual statistics on domestic violence and who initiates episodes of physical violence.

      Also, this formulation: “In battering relationships, the last thing an abuser wants it to lose power over their wife.” is sexist. It assumes that in battering relationships the perpetrator is the husband. That is true in perhaps half the cases. We don’t know because of distortions in enforcement and resultant collection of statistics.

      • Felson & Outlaw, 2007 – THE CONTROL MOTIVE FOR MARITAL VIOLENCE

        The findings indicate no support for the position that husbands engage in more marital violence than wives because they are more controlling.

        In general, our results are consistent with those of Stets and Hammond (2002) in showing that wives are more controlling than husbands in their current marriages. We also found that wives are more likely to be jealous and possessive.

        Although there are some interactions with gender, the evidence is clear that control behavior and jealousy are strong predictors of aggression for both men and women.

        Both husbands and wives who are controlling are more likely to produce injury and engage in repeated violence. Similar effects are observed for jealousy, although not all are statistically significant. The seriousness of violence is apparently associated with motive, although the relationship does not depend on gender.

        Male dominant couples constitute only 9.6% of all couples (Coleman & Straus, 1985)

        Follingstad, Wright, Lloyd, and Sebastian (1991) asked victims about their perceptions of their assaulters’ motivations and asked the perpetrators to report their own motivations
        Women reported being victimized and perpetrating physical aggression twice as often as men. The authors found that there was no significant difference in the percentage of men (17.7%) and women (18.6%) who endorsed using aggression in self-defence.

        Furthermore, a greater percentage of women than men reported using aggression to feel more powerful (3.4% vs. 0), to get control over the other person (22.0% vs. 8.3%), or to punish the person for wrong behavior (16.9% vs. 12.5%).

        GROWING UP WITH A PROBLEM THAT DOESN’T EXIST
        By Mark B. Rosenthal

        http://breakingthescience.org/GrowingUp.php

  16. Hugo –

    This really hit me in a sore spot – the one that hurts when you hear the truth. I am currently in the middle of experiencing this – not at the divorce stage yet, but it feels inevitable.

    I’ve been taught that ‘marriage is sacred’ and ‘good men don’t leave’, and therefor have experienced this several times: My inability or reluctance to walk away. And with kids involved, it gets even stickier, as they usually (almost always) end up with the mother, and she gets the emotional support for being a ‘single mom’, while I become a ‘deadbeat dad’ for not being able to support two households.

    Cheers, and thank you.

    • Thanks, Derek!

    • Derek,
      Why would an amicable divorce produce that outcome? Maybe you don’t feel the divorce would be amicable? Maybe you do? In any case I know of many where the female and the male shared custody and the primary wage earner was the female so she pays/paid said support. And it has not diminished the father in any way. It was always known in social circles that in those relationships the female was making more money.

      • I’m not saying that it will always produce that outcome – but that it can, and has, for many of us. I’m not getting down on the woman, merely speaking from my experience and that of some in my community. And as the sole wage earner (due to her desire to be a full-time mom), it’s not so much about the support (it seems a given that I would continue to support the kids, and in so doing, her) so much as it is my desire to remain with my kids. And I have already experienced the situation I mentioned previously in an earlier relationship, so I’m obviously biased…

        I don’t know, perhaps it’s not inevitable. Just difficult to wade through all of the expectations and false ideals that we put upon each other in relationships – and we communicate differently (even to the point that sometimes I think we speak different languages!), so finding common ground where we can respect and support each other is tough.

        • typhonblue says:

          Well, you now have hugo’s blessing to do this, so…

          Get a lawyer. Start the process of filing for divorce. The first person to file often has a significant advantage.

    • The rates of women paying support is almost negligable and in 90+% of disputed custody cases, mothers get full custody.

      Whether divorce is amicable or not, massive child support entitlements (in reality spousal support) are a huge incentive for mothers to demand full custody.

      Why should she care about the man who she now hates?

      • Dennis,

        I highly dispute your numbers on spousal support. You’d be surprised how many women pay it these days.

        Mothers usually get full custody because men choose not to ask for it. Much easier to just walk out the door alone.

        The idea that ‘child support’ is really ‘spousal support’ is just a sad excuse men make to themselves so they don’t have to take any financial responsibility for the children they chose to bring into the world.

        A LOT of bitter men on this thread. Very sad.

        • You don’t read very well:

          Although recent research on Canadian child custody outcomes in contested
          cases is largely lacking, court file analysis data (Department of Justice, 1990)
          reveal that in 77 per cent of contested custody cases, child custody is awarded
          solely to the mother, and solely to the father in only 8.6 per cent of cases.

          The fact that sole maternal custody is the norm in contested custody cases
          in Canada is obfuscated by the fact that the label of “joint custody” is often
          applied by both judges and researchers to post-separation living arrangements
          in which children remain in the primary care of one parent. From the
          perspective of children, such de facto sole custody arrangements are woefully
          inadequate, often resulting in the loss of one of their primary caregivers. From
          the perspective of both international conventions (U.N. Convention on the Rights
          of the Child) and reports such as that of the Special Joint House of Commons-
          Senate Committee on Child Custody and Access (1998), such arrangements
          undermine children’s fundamental need for both parents actively and
          responsibly involved in their lives.

          Child support is based on levelling incomes, not on any specific needs of children. It is income levelling that goes directly into baby-mama’s pocket…That’s spousal support!

          Note also that the vast majority of men can not afford the 100-200 k$ for a custody battle and even if they can afford it, they will lose 9 times out of 10.

    • Female Feedback says:

      Sounds like it’s important to think about this when you set up the marriage. If you do the male breadwinner/female primary parent thing, your divorce may follow that path as well. If you do a more equal/egalitarian thing where both parents work and both parents do parenting and unpaid work, a divorce may look different (or you may never get divorced in the first place because the family works better).

      • That might make a difference in determining alimony, but it won’t change the rampant family law bias against fathers.

        Even being a SAHD is no guarantee that a father will maintain regular contact.
        All it takes is one accusation of abuse…evidence and conviction not required.

        • Female Feedback says:

          If you provided any source of support for your conjectures, I’d be more interested in this discussion.

          Instead you seem to have an intense agenda of whining about male victimization. This is sometimes referred to in the sociology as being a “baby-man.”

          The only reason I’m responding is to prevent others from falling prey to your agenda.

          • “whining about male victimization”

            Sexist shaming language based on tradtional gender roles doesn’t help the conversation.

            “This is sometimes referred to in the sociology as being a “baby-man.”

            Does the sociol;ogy have a corrssponding term “baby-woman”?

            if you are truly interested in this topic, you can aks at Fathers and Families.,at their website. They document abuses that both fathers and some mothers face in the family court system.

          • Female Feedback says:

            Sorry, Jim, but although I am very much a supporter of good quality, emotionally available fathering, such as that espoused by Hugo (the author here), by Stephan Poulter, Kyle Pruett, Jeremy Adam Smith, William Pollack, DaddyDialectic, VoiceMale magazine, Lloyd DeMause etc, “Fathers and Families” & Glenn Sacks have a male privilege agenda. I believe some of the dads there deserved to lose in court. I would have hated having someone like Sacks as a father and I’m glad there is protection against this.

          • NotARedneck says:

            “The only reason I’m responding is to prevent others from falling prey to your agenda.”

            Then how about some facts. I don’t care that you know some woman who pays support. The facts support Denis – completely.

        • Female Feedback says:

          Denis-

          You’re not immune to shaming or else you wouldn’t be whining so much. You are stuck in victimization because you are unable to acknowledge the actual sources of harm to you and because you don’t accept equality with women or have the emotional availability, ego strength and other adult psychology required for equality with women (or for parenting, for that matter).

        • @Female Feedback

          You don’t know sh’t.

          Do you have anything intelligent to offer or should I just write you off as an ignorant ideologue?

    • Female Feedback says:

      Derek-

      You’re not trying counseling?

      Also it is true that marriages that are not egalitarian & equal status are suffering more now; conscious and subconscious expectations of marriage have changed. Have you thought about trying to adjust your family a bit so your wife has a job as well and you do more childcare and parenting? You don’t say why it is you want a divorce, but for many, many problems, getting into a more equal status situation can help, in my experience. On average, equal status marriages have more sex, healthier children, etc.

      I probably don’t have to tell you that divorce is really traumatic for children. They may not be able to say it, because they are dependent and afraid to tell the truth, but it haunts them for decades and really hurts their own future relationships and parenting.

      Good luck.

      • Yes, we are looking into it – but if one partner really wants out, there’s not much that counseling has to offer, in my opinion. My own current marriage includes supporting her being a full-time mother, as per her wishes, while I serve as the wage-earner.

        I also work from home, so I do a fair amount of parenting and child-care because I’m in the house all the time, with a flexible schedule. I’m an active father, and a loving one. I’m not the abusive, alcoholic, addict or neglectful dad, I’m a guy who loves his kids and wishes to see them every morning, noon, and night – which wouldn’t happen if we were separated.

        And to clarify – I don’t want a divorce. I don’t want a separation.

        And having been through one (common-law marriage) divorce, with her retaining full custody and me being vilified and punished by the courts for not being able to keep up with payments (not through lack of trying on my part), as well as knowing a number of other men who have experienced a similar situation, I’m not convinced that the legal standing of the father is strong in most cases. And I’m not talking about extreme situations.

        In any case, I do know that divorce really affects kids, because I’ve lived it – and that might be why I’m very reluctant to see that as the answer. What I was speaking to was the illusion that Hugo refers to – that being a good man means being willing to endure. Which I am – not because I’m an idiot, but because I believe that the connection we shared is still there.

  17. I have no doubt that the sentiments described in this article apply to at least a few cases, but its hard to believe that they actually explain the phenomenon, especially in light of this quote from the Huffington Post article that started the discussion:

    “Two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women. One recent study found that many of the reasons for this have to do with the nature of our divorce laws. For example, in most states women have a good chance of receiving custody of their children. Because women more strongly want to keep their children with them, in states where there is a presumption of shared custody with the husband the percentage of women who initiate divorces is much lower”

    These exact findings could be read the other way around: in states where men have a good chance of *losing* custody of their children, they are *less* likely to initiate divorce. Whereas, in states where there is a presumption of shared custody, both sexes initial divorce at comparable rates.

    If the underlying problem really had to do with a large number of men substituting “grim resolve” for happiness, and a large number of women striving for “something more” then the underlying divorce laws shouldn’t make a difference: divorces initiations by sex in all states with a shared culture should be comparable. But this isn’t the case, divorce laws purtaining to child custody make a difference and a culturally-based argument about how men and women are raised cannot explain this.

    • Mike, thanks for making sense. The real question is, why do the articles on this website so consistently focus on casting men in a bad light regardless of whether there is a rational reason for it? Why don’t they try to be fair? Why don’t more men point out what a bunch of shamelessly biased pricks the authors are?

  18. Shouldn’t we be weighing the fact that too many men dont work hard enough to try and keep the marriage together. How come when women want to work it out, men seem to run for the hills just because it is too easy. Men don initate the divorce because they are too scared and too much of a puss to not cheat and make the marriage better. So what do they do? They cheat and quit and wait for the woman. Divorce is TOO easy.

    • Female Feedback says:

      Thanks, Scott.

    • @Female Feedback

      Do you not demand evidence of uncited misandry or is it simply acceptable when it is in agreement with your world view.

    • Your knee-jerk ‘YOU HATE MEN!’ reaction is blurring your vision. The article states that more men cheat than women already. Also that men are less likely to initiate divorce. It also points out famous examples of men that cheated rampantly, like Tiger Woods, Sean Penn, Jess James, etc. that chose not to file for divorce. Therefore it’s a logical conclusion that perhaps they were too ‘wussy’ to file, or so cowardly as to effectively ‘check out’ of the marriage but expect the woman to do the divorce ‘heavy lifting’.

      It’s just an observation really. Like my observation that you are a bitter, bitter person that could use some counseling. Just a thought.

    • NotARedneck says:

      Yes. Blame it all on men. We have broad shoulders.

      BTW, any statistics on actual proved cases of spouses cheating are biased by the fact that it is far easier for a man to be caught than a woman. If a woman wants to cheat, she has a relatively easy time to find a man to cooperate and he will provide a safe place to do it. Men who cheat must usually look much harder to find a woman and will need to be putting themselves “out in the market” to a greater extent. Then, they will likely get no financial assistance.

      Sometimes I think that women who are caught cheating, want to be caught since there are really no consequences.

  19. The answer is obvious. Men get financially raped in divorce, due to women being treated as superior beings entitled to sponge. The woman gets to decide whether to have the child or not, meaning she has the power to financially enslave the man for 18 years or not; and the man has no voice in the matter. The woman is almost always given custody, all other things being equal. The child support is based upon a percentage of income instead of what is needed to raise a child. The woman gets to spend the support with no supervision, so if she spends it all on herself, the courts could care less. The woman gets alimony and property, even if she has done nothing during a long term marriage except sit around and watch TV. And you ask why the man is reluctant to leave? Follow the money.

    • Sure it’s obvious, but the mandate of the male-feminist TGMP is to never, never, never blame women for anything.

      • Men have much fewer choices than women in controlling their own reproduction.
        Women can have all the sex they want and still decide not to be a parent.
        Ultimately, women make the choice and men are stuck with the consequences.

        Although recent research on Canadian child custody outcomes in contested
        cases is largely lacking, court file analysis data (Department of Justice, 1990)
        reveal that in 77 per cent of contested custody cases, child custody is awarded
        solely to the mother, and solely to the father in only 8.6 per cent of cases.
        The fact that sole maternal custody is the norm in contested custody cases
        in Canada is obfuscated by the fact that the label of “joint custody” is often
        applied by both judges and researchers to post-separation living arrangements
        in which children remain in the primary care of one parent. From the
        perspective of children, such de facto sole custody arrangements are woefully
        inadequate, often resulting in the loss of one of their primary caregivers. From
        the perspective of both international conventions (U.N. Convention on the Rights
        of the Child) and reports such as that of the Special Joint House of Commons-
        Senate Committee on Child Custody and Access (1998), such arrangements
        undermine children’s fundamental need for both parents actively and
        responsibly involved in their lives.

        • Denis it is inappropriate to copy and paste that much information without giving credit to the author and /or publication

    • Female Feedback says:

      Doesn’t the man have a choice in whether to have the sex that creates the child? If you don’t want to have a child, use a condom or get a vasectomy or don’t have sex in the first place with a woman who does not include you.

      The woman is not usually given custody any more; that is a gross overstatement for which you provide no support. If you can show parenting skills and you chose an economically autonomous woman, and respected her job during the marriage, you can get 50/50 custody. Of course, you probably won’t get divorced in the first place because your marriage will be stable and happier.

      • Doesn’t the man have a choice in whether to have the sex that creates the child?

        -Women also have a choice, but they make the final decisions about procreation and men are forced to pay. Maybe women should also be held financially responsible for their children and put in jail if they cannot support them? That sounds like equality.

        “get a vasectomy”

        -Unfortunately, most doctors would not recommend this for young men.

        “don’t have sex in the first place with a woman who does not include you.”

        -If only men had ESP and could predict the future.

      • “Doesn’t the man have a choice in whether to have the sex that creates the child? If you don’t want to have a child, use a condom or get a vasectomy or don’t have sex in the first place with a woman who does not include you. ”

        Wow. Did you plagiarize that off a pro-life site? Because that is the exact same thing they say to both genders about the sex that creates a child.

  20. Do you like to gamble?

    50% of first marriages, 67% of second marriages and 74% of third marriages end in divorce

    • This statistic used to imply to me that the serial marrier has a fundamental flaw that led to failed marriage after failed marriage. Now I know better (having just gone through my first divorce after 19yrs of a marriage which probably should have ended at 5).

      What this statistic may actually indicate is an increasing unwillingness to endure baloney in one’s marriage. Once you’ve had food poisoning a few times, you learn to recognize the bad fish long before you’ve finished off the whole sandwich.

      To me, the whole point of Hugo’s piece is about male veneration of lifelong marriage. We don’t think we hold this opinion, but we do. It’s manly to put up with her moods and just tough it out. Even worse, if she cheats, maybe it’s OUR fault for not satisfying her. Baloney (I mean, do your best out there men, but that might not be the whole reason).

      So if you’re a guy out there who’s in a bad marriage, but staying in it for the glory of the suffering, know this: your situtation is not unlike someone who refuses to have a root canal for religious reasons. When you’ve had enough of that toothache, you’ll stop it. And the next time you have a toothache, you’ll have that sucker rootcanaled even faster.

  21. A lovely essay. Your writing is fluid and seems effortless. Though, I probably know better. Funny that I kept rooting for you both to have it work out. But in the end, it DID work out, because hell froze over and you have to thank for that.

    Destiny, hormones, I don’t know, I think it all plays some part. Hopefully, we either go into marriages adult enough to make the best decisions, or we become the people we should be, and really want to be.

    I look forward to more thoughtful and thought provoking essays from you!

  22. ‘Too many of us think that a “real man” keeps his promises—even when those promises are making him miserable.’

    If you aren’t going to keep a promise that makes you miserable, in what sense is that promise different than a lie you might make true if it makes you happy? A real man does in fact keep his promises, as does a real woman or any other honest person. Whether breaking your promise makes you happy or not is irrelevant.

    I am recently divorced, in a divorce initiated by my wife. One of the problems in the marriage was that I did not feel that I was getting enough sex; she brought me off about every other week, I gave her an orgasm through cunnilingus about three times a week. I would have been happy (or at least a lot happier) with handjobs, she just didn’t feel enough like it to do it. But I’d sworn that “the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife;” (1 Cor 7:4) as she’d sworn the other way around. So I kept taking the initiative and offering. Her failing to keep her promise did not release me from mine. Let alone just unhappiness releasing me.

    BTW, I think if she had seriously kept her vows in the marriage, we both would have been happy.

    • SunaDokei says:

      And how was that working out for you, going down with your highly principled ship of marital commitment?

      You say if she had kept her vows seriously, then you both would have been happy. But if this transpired as you have described, then you were clearly married to a selfish person who was not willing to change (supposing you spoke to her about it, and didn’t expect her to read your mind.)

      I would not stay with a husband who treated me like your wife treated you, and I’m having a hard time seeing your decision to suffer for basically no reason as virtuous in any way.

      There’s a wide gulf between giving up at the same sign of trouble and chaining yourself to a hopeless situation for no reason. Admitting failure doesn’t lessen you.

      • SunaDokei says:

        Should be, *at the /first/ sign of trouble

      • Not well. But, of course, my point is that it making me happy is not the point of a promise. If my promise is to go down with the ship, I go down with the ship.

        Yes, I did talk to her about it, many times. And she did do things for me, like cleaned and reorganized my messy home office that I asked her to leave alone. It wasn’t that she was selfish, it was kind of like she had an image of who I was and what I’d like that was immune to my actual words.

        We’re friends now. I’ve also been told that I shouldn’t remain so close a friend, that I shouldn’t see her so often, that I would get over her better if I stayed away. Most of my other friends don’t invite her to things despite my arguments with them. And probably I would recover faster if I stayed away; certainly it would make things easier with my circle. But that’s principle again.

  23. Hugo has a deep seated need to justify his serial monogamy. His “fourth and final” wife is most likely not. It wouldn’t surprise anyone that the fifth is on the horizon.

  24. I’ve heard this argument before.

    I’m a woman, and I think that if men were walking out of two-thirds of marriages we would be calling them selfish pigs, not saying they are more “evolved” and “unwilling to settle”. Isn’t there a double standard here? Also, why not mention here that second and third marriages have even higher rates of divorce than first marriages? That’s the hard truth. So is this quest for “something better” really leading to better relationships?

    • There is a slight double standard here. I read Hugo’s blog regularly and he does seem to buy the feminist belief that women are deep, men are shallow. Aside from that, I do think he believes in human happiness, for what it’s worth and he definitely has high hopes for companionate marriage as an institution. For my part, I don’t see companionate marriage enjoying, in the long run, any more success than it’s predecessors. Not to say it should never be entered into. But one person being all that more to another person? Doesn’t sound tneable for most people. Serial relationships and infidelity exist for reasons apart from character or lack thereof.

    • Of course there is a double standard. Our society has many. Thank you for having an open mind.

  25. @FF

    “I am not aware of a religion in China that involves a female deity.”

    I’m treferrng to the widespread worship of Guan Yin. But it’s not uniiversal by any means.

    ” Buddhism is a male-centric religion, for example. ”

    It sure is. But no religion has ever been universal in China, other than the civil religion (actually quite secular) of Confucianism.

    “Since there’s been no female governance or true joint governance in China you can’t really compare how that would have been more peaceable and productive than the male governance. Yes, you’re correct that the minority women tended to go along with the violent, authoritarian, patriarchal cultures. ”

    There’s nothing patriarchal about it – it’s just the unavoidable imperatives of wielding absolute power in a very large society. It works the same way in a nunnery or an elementary school, female dominated insititutions. It makes no difference if you are Catherine the Great or Peter the Great.

    “But other studies show that societies where women have status closer to/equal with men, are indeed more peaceable and productive. ‘

    Historically those societies have eihter been pastoral, where raiding and war is endemic, or else like Polynesian cultures, where the same was true until colonial intervetion. Societies where women had significant political power such as the Five Nations (Iroquois) or the Comanche, were war machines. And it makes snese that a society that devalues mens’ lives and holds them expendable will be quite warlike. But then again the very male-dominated Zulu were quite a war machine themsleves. so gneder power relationships seem to have a only a minor influence.

  26. “Men and women are raised with very different attitudes toward marriage. . . Yes, young women are more likely to want to delay marriage, but their expectations of romantic fulfillment are as high as ever. Boys, on the other hand, grow up in a “guy” culture that sees marriage as the end of freedom.

    Put simply, boys are taught that marriage is about “settling down” while girls are taught that marriage is about finding enduring fulfillment. And it’s obvious who has the higher set of expectations.”

    But it’s not about expectations as much as it is the gap between expectations and reality. Boys are taught to expect a negative (loss of freedom), but what they get in marriage is a much sweeter deal than what their wives get. Yes, I’m talking about housework and childcare. Women, on the other hand, get the bait and switch, the positive romantic fulfillment replaced by the drudgery of domestic labour.

    You know, the division of labour is a conflict for every (hetero) couple I know, and every guy I know exploits his privilege in this regard, and yet your post renders it pretty much invisible. If I was in an unhappy marriage, being the maid might be what would nudge me towards divorce, while having someone take care of the mundane details of my life might encourage me to “settle” for a less than ideal arrangement.

    From Barbara Ehrenreich’s Maid to Order:
    “To make a mess that another person will have to deal with — the dropped socks, the toothpaste sprayed on the bathroom mirror, the dirty dishes left from a late-night snack — is to exert domination in one of its more silent and intimate forms. One person’s arrogance — or indifference, or hurry — becomes another person’s occasion for toil. And when the person who is cleaned up after is consistently male, while the person who cleans up is consistently female, you have a formula for reproducing male domination from one generation to the next.”
    http://www.barbaraehrenreich.com/maidtoorder.htm

    • “Boys are taught to expect a negative (loss of freedom), but what they get in marriage is a much sweeter deal than what their wives get. Yes, I’m talking about housework and childcare. ”

      Yes, but you’re conveniently forgetting to mention the major upside for wiomen that outweighs all the downsides for them and any upsdie for me: marriage is typically so financially advantageous to women that it amounts to contract prostitution.

      • That that that upside/downside rain speaks of only holds if the couple involved really want that. Just I’ve heard wives talk about their short end of the stick (being expected to keep up the affairs of house and home) I’ve heard husbands talk about their short end of the stick (being expected to keep out of the affairs of house and home).

      • Have you ever heard of the problem w/o a name? Obviously the unhappiness of domestic servitude cannot be offset by money.

    • When traditional sex roles are in place, women do most of the housework and men make most of the money. Which is worse? It’s hard to say, but what isn’t hard to say is that you are failing to acknowledge the difficulty of the male role while throwing a pity party for the female. It’s equivalent to a guy who complains that he always pays the mortgage but refuses to acknowledge the work done by the wife to take care of the house and kids. It’s just stupid. Also, domestic labor isn’t that big of a deal. I’m happily single and I spend a few hours a week cooking and cleaning. It’s not that big of a deal cleaning up after a guy. How long does it take to pick up a set of clothes a day and wipe off the mirror? 15 seconds for the clothes, 30 for the mirror. It’s not that big of a deal. The guy would be perfectly happy picking the clothes up once a week and wiping the mirror once a month, messes don’t bother most of us that much. Women have a lower tolerance for messes so they end up doing most of the cleaning. It’s never gonna change and it’s hardly a human rights tragedy.

      • 1) Recent studies have shown that women are “usurping” that traditional manly role of being the primary breadwinner. The changes in these statistics do not correlate with a proportional uptick in male domestic service.

        2) Way to stereotype. I tend to be about 10% messier than the males I’ve dated. Am I just an outlier or are you just generalizing way too much and reinforcing negative social mores?

        3) Despite the difference in messiness, I tend to unwittingly conform to their expectations because it’s “my job” to do so. This is never voiced outright, but the pernicious attitude is there and reinforced in a dozen ways.

        4) “Doesn’t take a lot of time.”
        a) Not the point.

        b) Picking up clothes, wiping down mirrors, washing the dishes, cooking the food, doing the laundry (washing, drying, folding/hanging, ironing), vacuuming, taking care of kids (feeding, clothing, bathing, putting to sleep)… It’s a lot more than 45 seconds a day.

        c) If it doesn’t take that much time, why don’t men do it (generalizations are fun!) when their partners express that they would like them to do it?

        • John Sctoll says:

          @UH:

          “1) Recent studies have shown that women are “usurping” that traditional manly role of being the primary breadwinner. The changes in these statistics do not correlate with a proportional uptick in male domestic service.”

          Of course what you failed to mention that overall men and women have virtually equal ‘free’ time, to do the the things they like to do like hobbies etc.

    • Jim Jones says:

      It’s interesting how feminists (and other intellectuals) can find ‘domination’ everywhere they look. Domination implies an intent to exert dominance. The inequality in marriage persists out of self-centered laziness and the fact that many women care more about cleanliness than their spouses do.

      Generalizing from my experiences with male roommates, many men just can’t be bothered to care until the floor is too cluttered to walk on or something starts to smell.

  27. Great video:

    Sex Differences: Why Won’t Men Commit?

    http://www.youtube.com/user/1menaregood1#p/a/u/1/Va-YTf5Caj8

    Men Are Good.

  28. Are you out of your mind?

    I initiated at least two of my divorces. And it felt good.

    There comes a point when you just can’t take it anymore. There comes a point when you’re sick of hearing about her issues, and why they don’t like her at this one particular store at the mall, and how all of the women who frequent this store talk about her, and they don’t like her shoes, and they think that her hair was better when it was longer, and then they talk about it, but there’s always this one friend who–and I’m not saying I did this, but she’s a terrific lay–and suddenly, no, there’s this line you’re not supposed to cross.

    What is that line? I can’t have sex with someone who’s good in bed because I’m not married to her? Who made that rule?

    Men, initiate that divorce. You’ll end that throbbing headache when you do.

  29. Too many of us confuse being a good man with the willingness to endure. Too many of us think that a “real man” keeps his promises—even when those promises are making him miserable. Good marriages need more than a grim resolve not to leave no matter how bad things get. Men are more likely to forget that than women.
    Is it that men forget or are they socialized to believe that grim resolve is the only option (as in not that they forget but are told that there are no other options)?

  30. Wow, this is a sad story. I endure. I endure every day for my two daughters. I had an affair for two and a half years that tore me apart and I debated whether to leave my wife for her or stay and endure niceness.One year later, Im still enduring. You endure for the kids. My kids are happy. Though mom and dad are barely physical and quite remote. Its probably not as bad as that, but it sure feels like it. I hate guys like Mark Sanford who left his wife for that Argentine woman. I should havedone the same. The kids’ll get over it. Dunno sometimes. I think the writer of this piece, and his wife, would have stayed together longer if there were young children involved. Indeed, THAT Is why men stay married: for the kids. And because we are hard wired to do our best not hurt women. We prefer to take the pain, admit it.

  31. kryptogal says:

    It’s very bizarre reading a criticism of men who choose to “endure” in their marriages written by a man who has been divorced three times before the age of 35. I don’t mean to be rude, Hugo, but I hope you can at least appreciate the humor. You’ve been married FOUR times before the age of forty!! I guess it should come as no surprise that you’re a big proponent of trading up.

    I too, am a serial monogamist (though luckily I’ve only been married once), so I identify with your need to convince yourself that THIS time it’s “for real” and to defend your previous divorces/break-ups, since they led you to where you are now, in your “final” marriage. I have the same inclinations. But I must say, reading this article was sort of like reading a satire of my own thoughts taken to a logical extreme, thus revealing my own self-delusion.

    I too was once married, and we divorced because I couldn’t endure the boring sex life, and I knew I could find more satisfying sex and passion elsewhere, which I couldn’t resist. And I’ve been with my current boyfriend for four years, all of which have been extraordinarily fulfilling on a sexual and companionate level, much better than my marriage. But unlike you, I don’t celebrate this. In fact I am ashamed. I was selfish, that’s all there is to it. I put my desires for sexual gratification above all the other interests that marriage promotes, above my ex-husband’s wishes, above my parents’ feelings, etc. And while I don’t think my divorce did *too* much harm, since we had no children and I assuaged a lot of my guilt through the alimony I paid my ex-husband, it still isn’t something I would ever hold up as a social good. To me, the lesson is simply that I shouldn’t have married in the first place, since I was obviously incapable of upholding my vows. And I consider it a failure of character that I did not do so.

    You state that women have higher expectations of marriage than men, and that men are more likely to view it as “settling” and not be bothered when the marriage isn’t romantic and emotionally fulfilling. I agree. But you then argue that the (typical) female perspective is SUPERIOR to the(typical) male perspective, which is where you lose me. Essentially, you are saying that there is a disconnect between expectations and reality when it comes to marriage. But then instead of advocating for modifying those expectations to meet reality, you advocate that it is better to keep one’s expectations high and to modify the reality by divorce. That seems insane to me. Expectations are just ideas in one’s head. Reality is reality. Since happiness is a function of expectations equaling or exceeding reality, then doesn’t it make sense to lower one’s expectations if they don’t concur with reality??

    You didn’t want your third divorce, which occurred because your ex-wife thought she could find a more satisfying sex-life elsewhere, but now you’re okay with it because it turned out that you ended up meeting someone better. But what if you hadn’t? Would your analysis be the same? What if you never found someone again or your next relationship involved even worse sex? What of the 56-year-old woman whose husband divorces her because he finds a more satisfying sex life elsewhere, who is now largely considered undesirable and never finds another mate? Is your analysis still the same? What happens if in another 8 years your sex life cools off substantially and your current wife decides to leave you for someone with whom she has better chemistry? Is your analysis still the same?

    And more to the point: is it really tenable for people to base their marriages on sexual satisfaction, when all evidence points to the fact that we are not naturally monogamous over the long-term? It seems to me that in marriage, one GIVES UP some level of sexual satisfaction in return for more practical benefits: creating a family, wealth consolidation, security, social stability, regular (if not passionate) sex. In this way, the (typical) male perspective on marriage is simply more accurate than whatever visions of romance women have been sold by DeBeers and the wedding industry. And the solution is for us to adjust those skewed expectations of marriage, not to encourage people to divorce. Family dissolution is already a tremendous social problem; I can’t believe you’re essentially encouraging MORE divorce. Your arguments strike me as deeply socially destructive.

    Alternatively, if we are going to continue to conceive of marriage as being primarily about romantic love, then we can expect to continue to watch it decline and eventually disappear. It’s simply not a sustainable model. It’s this simple: if marriage is about sex and romantic love, then marriage serves no purpose, since those things can be had freely without marriage. If, on the other hand, it’s about organizing and stabilizing familial relationships, legal obligations to family members, and ownership of property, then it might remain a viable institution. But social institutions that don’t serve an actual purpose don’t stick around for long. There is just as much (or more) love, companionship, and sex in my current relationship with my boyfriend as there was with my ex-husband. But the difference is that if I break up with my boyfriend, I owe him nothing, while breaking up with my husband meant I incurred weighty legal and financial obligations to him. So I am curious, just what do you think marriage is for?

    In advocating for a hedonistic, personal-happiness-first model of marriage, it seems to me that you are actually advocating for the abolition of the institution altogether, since civil society would have no legitimate reason to be involved in regulating relationships with such goals.

    • What an incredibly honest, relevant, and potent response. In my humble opinion, this post has refuted not one, but every one of Hugo’s points of argument in this blog. I understand this entry is dated, but I find it unfortunate that this post did not receive a proper rebuttal from Hugo. As far as I’m concerned – this response is succinctly successful in unraveling the original argument.

  32. Rain, what I had to cut to fit the word limit was a sentence I ought to have worked in to the effect that this phenomenon stood even when we’re talking about faithful, non-violent unions where there is a roughly egalitarian split in housework and childcare.

    kryptogal, My ex wife didn’t leave me because we didn’t connect sexually. Our lack of sexual connection was a symptom of a deeper incompatibility. Sex waxes and wanes in any marriage. Flames grow weaker. But if the flame was never there in the first place, then trying to deny that “heat” is as vital as any other need shortchanges everyone.

  33. ” this phenomenon stood even when we’re talking about faithful, non-violent unions where there is a roughly egalitarian split in housework and childcare.”

    Which phenomenon? Men not initiating divorce? How men and women are socialized differently? I assumed at first you meant the former, but I don’t see how you could possibly know. First there’s the problem of identifying and defining egalitarian splits in domestic labour. From the housework studies I’ve read about, something even “roughly” egalitarian is quite rare. Then of those egalitarian relationships, you’d have to find ones that have divorced. From those, you’d then be able to find out whether the man or woman initiated the divorce. I don’t think that kind of work has ever been done yet.

    So I guess I don’t understand what you said there.

  34. Maybe its because men stand to lose a lot more when they divorce (financially and otherwise — married men live longer)….

  35. Hugo,
    First of all, thank you for finding me and reading my HuffPost piece. I just stumbled upon your article while looking for another article in the GMPM; glad I did.

    In reading what you wrote, it seems more an issue of marrying the wrong people than marriage=settling. Who would argue with “settling” with the right person? (Of course, when Lori Gottlieb suggested that in her book, “Marry Him!,” it got a lot of women upset). That’s choosing wisely, not “settling.”

    In my article, I did take not of other reasons for divorce besides infidelity, as well as the fact that women cheat and behave “badly,” too (and for the record, the “bad behavior” was a quote from the National Marriage Project, not mine).

    Still, I found this paragraph of yours telling:

    “I begged her to reconsider. Sure, I’d noticed the lack of passion. Yes, I was unhappy about our sex life. But I was damn sure not going to cheat; after two disastrous failures, I took my marriage vows seriously. Elizabeth and I had a nice house, two nice careers, two nice dogs, many nice friends. At this point in my life, I thought nice was enough. Nice was worth settling for.”

    Because taking your marriage vows seriously and doing the right thing would mean that if you were unhappy with the sex and passion, you wouldn’t cheat — you’d divorce first and then screw someone else. I’m not sure why people don’t understand that. Cheating never makes a marriage better (although, yes; for some people, it gets them to wake up and refocus their energy on their spouse. Lovely. But if that spouse should ever discover the betrayal, there will very ugly, unhappy repercussions).

    Anyway, glad you found “the one.” Although I just wrote about multiple marriages (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vicki-larson/once-mrs-twice-mrs-three-_b_814728.html); the divorce rate is very high.

  36. Of course it’s complicated and there are lots of factors at work. Divorce is an event that happens a thousand times a day with people all over the country. But, I think the article is onto something about expectations going in to marriage. There’s a good argument to be made that women are generally likely to have higher expectations of marriage than men do, or maybe demand more from marriage than men do. Maybe for wives there is a bigger letdown after the honeymoon period than there is for men, so the disappointment hits them harder than for men. It may be that married women define themselves by their marriage more than their husbands do, so a larger part of their lives is affected by a bad marriage than it would be for their husbands.

    In the end, it could just be that marriage as it is practiced in large numbers in the US today is something that works for men more than it works for women. There seems to be an assumption here that men and women experience marriage the same way and it’s just that women give up first, but that’s not necessarily the case.

  37. Men are the victims of this feminist culture which places all the blame on men’s shoulders. Even women are waking up to this hypocrisy as this video proves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plkeKMTDM9g

  38. I totally agree with you Hugo. Great article, and oh-so true.

  39. I was in the same boat, and actually was very unhappy for years. I felt as if I was drowning, suffering and my ex played with my emotions. I initiated my breakup and mentioned divorce many times before I walked out with my daughter. This article really touches me because this was me. There was no passion, or heat, that was the worst feeling. I slowly felt like I was losing me and I did, for a while. Was I selfish; yes I wanted to be happy, did I harm my child; yes. I feel happy now and I would not want my daughter to see us slowly dying. That is not how relationships are supposed to work. You cant have a perfect relationship but I think that settling is signing your life away. My ex is so complacent and that what kills me, he seems to not want to reach for the stars and I do. I am finally rediscovering myself. The result of our continued union would be cheating, I was very close. I am a good mom and always be there for my daughter, and I seriously think this has made me a better woman. Thanks Hugo.

  40. If I could do one thing to save marriage today, it would be removing all of the bullshit, Oprah-change your man crap is in the media. Don’t get me wrong, I love weddings and grew up in a religious conservative family that cherished marriage above all else but if you believe that walking down the isle is going to be the answer to all of life’s questions you are sorely mistaken.
    A short time ago I saw the second twilight movie, and though it wasn’t all bad, I really didn’t like the bit at the end when the two guys sat there talking about their feelings for half an hour – guys don’t do that you see, it’s just a female pornographic fantasy, like the pizza guy who scores a 3-way in male porn.
    All I’m saying is that it seems today that ridiculous female expectations of men are acceptable but most men know that porn is just fantasy. Until women start to realize that Oprah is completely full of shit and men haven’t changed in 100,00 years they are going to be on the hunt for the ‘perfect guy’ and miss out on decent, normal guys that come along.
    Let’s keep heterosexuality going, it’s the reason we’re all here.

    • Lolabunny says:

      Oh my god.
      Men talk about their feelings to each other in my Country. And for real, equating it to a “pornographic” fantasy? What the heck? lol.
      That is not ridiculous that women expect men to be in tune with their emotions and feeling and that they will be emotionally intelligent. And men keep changing, all the time.
      I am here because of heterosexuality? Nah, my father is bisexual..

  41. In my limited experience, when the women initiates the divorce/break-up it’s only after the man has practically forced her into it. I think men are less comfortable being seen as the “bad guy” who abandons his wife and kids, and would rather be passive-aggressive and force a preemptive strike by the wife.

    • BS, if you look at statistics, women initiate first and gets guy by surprise in majority of cases. Guys role is normally to be more aggressive, to think he would be passive aggressive in this case is dumb, and research supports it if you google it. Author hit a nail on a head, guys ready to settle down, while women want romance and friendship. Two words that doesn’t work well together. In fact nice guys who try to start with friendship, most of the time fail and get no romance.

      • Lolabunny says:

        Get them by surprise because men believe women will actually keep putting up with bullshit eternally.
        Of course women want romance (ignites passion) and friendship. If your partner can’t be a friend they are useless. Women get bored with sex too fast in general, they need new stimulation, more romance, passion. Women didn’t create marriage and weren’t born to be with one man only for the rest of their lives, with the plus that females in nature are always looking for a better male (better genes/sperm) to mate with.
        And are these nice guys handsome? or just nice, but ugly guys who still want a pretty girl? No romance for them then, I guess.

  42. Hugo. I’m sorry any of us go through this. I’m not going into one-upmanship, but I can’t wait till I get to my disclosure article where my abuse as a child was heinous leveraged against me. I was shown at gun-point by two sheriffs who sneak-attacked me in my own shower…oy vey…too much to tell and its all sick-making. $140,000 in lawyer fees alone, I was horse-dragged through life.

    Well written article sir! I feel relief when I read such things…that I’m not alone in many aspects.

  43. I think more women initiate divorce more for several reasons…

    1. Women gre up listening to stories of divorced women that took their exhusband for everything he was worth. They got part of his retirement, house, house contents, children, car etc… It gets worse if the divorced woman went on to find a man that had more money or was better looking. Divorce is then viewed as a positive that enriches a woman and creates options and opportunity. It is fortunate for males the courts are more interested in justice and equity now as my exwife found out to her horror. (No princess you are not getting everything just because you are female.)

    2. Women are wrapped up in how they feel . Instead of problem solving or addressing why they feel a certain way its easier to pull the plug and feel better instantly. This only postpones the real issues for the next relationship she will enter.

    3. She has a larger number of female friends, relatives and co-workers that are divorced. She then gets to here a nonstop litany of male bashing and gets negative advice.

    4. Hollywood glamorizes divorce by showing the postives. Female audiences want to see strong independent women that left their horrible husbands and went on to live in Shangrila finding true love in the process. Hollywood rarely shows the downside of divorce.

    • hear a nonstop litany (need to spell check)

    • Lolabunny says:

      Actually most women initiate divorce out of boredom. Bored of their men, bored with their sex lives. It doesn’t help that most men in North America are not fit, are usually not vain enough and ugly, are freaking bad in bed and not as giving (women give much more – oral sex, handjobs, dirty surprises, etc. – and make their men come much more, almost 80% of the men achieve orgasm all the time, while only 30% of women achieve orgasms all the time with their partners, intercourse is a given but it doesn’t focus on the woman’s pleasure, men believe sex ends when they ejaculate, etc. …not to mention again that women take much more care about their appearance and that also contributes to more visual stimulation for men, women do not receive the same back from their men), don’t believe household chores are 50% their responsibility and so on.
      Women want novelty. And that is biological. That is what keeps a woman’s (or any other female of any specie) sexuality healthy. The passion that novelty (more romance or new partners) brings is necessary, and if not there, women feel they are better off just having no sex at all.

  44. wellokaythen says:

    (This has been up for a year and a half, so I may have already said this.)

    The question of child custody has to play a big role in many cases. The divorce structure most often means that a man who gets divorced will get less time with his children, so a man who asks for divorce is asking for something that means he will be less able to see his children grow up. A woman who asks for divorce generally has less danger of “losing her kids” to the divorce.

    We could actually test this with the statistics. If there are no children in the marriage, are the percentages the same? Are men without kids more willing to ask for divorce than men who have kids? I honestly don’t know.

  45. Yeah, let’s take marriage advice from a guy on his fourth wife. It’s a good thing you don’t have any kids from a previous marriage, bro. I’m sure people with habits like yours will totally allow for stable households raising children who don’t grow up and commit crimes.

  46. One thing that is overlooked here is that women have a huge financial incentive to divorce where as men do not.

  47. Because Most of us men are the committed one’s.

Trackbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hugo Schwyzer and The Good Men Project, Eric – BHF. Eric – BHF said: I just left a comment disagreeing with a post about men and divorce on @GoodMenProject by @hugoschwyzer, what do u think? http://ht.ly/3Ol5Z […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hugo Schwyzer, Laura Novak. Laura Novak said: Hugo Schwyzer: Why don't men initiate divorce? — The Good Men Project Magazine http://t.co/dZKlGfr […]

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