Why Do Women Initiate Divorce? (USA)

August 23, 2011
In 2000, two law professors, Margaret Brinig from Notre Dame University and Douglas Allen from Iowa, conducted a surprising study. The two professors studied 46,000 divorce cases filed in four states – Connecticut, Virginia, Montana and Oregon – to find out why women file for divorce. The results of that study, published in “These Boots Are Made for Walking: Why Most Divorce Filers Are Women,” proved to be surprising. Women are 66 percent more likely to file for a divorce than a man, Brinig and Allen say. However, the reason why has proven unexpected.

Domestic Violence Not a Factor

Contrary to expectations, divorcing in order to escape domestic violence was not prevalent, according to this landmark study by Brinig and Allen. In Virginia, for example, only 6 percent of the divorce cases showed violence as a cause for the divorce.

Infidelity Not a Major Factor

The Brinig and Allen study, reviewed in the New York Times by fathers rights advocate John Tierney, found that adultery on the part of the husband was also not a major cause of divorces filed by wives against husbands. Infidelity on the part of the wife was not significant either.

Exploitation Not a Factor

While the wives’ feelings of being “too good” for their less financially or socially successful husbands was cited in 20 percent of the divorce cases studied, Brinig and Allen still found that even this reason – “I’m tired of him living off my back financially” – did not account for a significant majority.

“Because I’ve Outgrown Him”

Women today often decide to divorce their husbands because they have simply outgrown them, according to author Carol Ann Wilson in her book “ABCs of Divorce for Women.” Wilson, a professional counselor for women in financial issues, says that many more women are simply realizing that they have new career and personal growth opportunities. Wilson says that wives who married young especially develop new perspectives over the years, perspectives that outdistance their husbands’ ability to keep pace.

“Because I Don’t Need Him”

In this age of continuing independence for women in general, divorce often is an escape for women who simply do not want in a marriage anymore. Some women just don’t feel they need marriage any longer to feel complete or be successful, according to author and researcher Ashton Applewhite in his book “Cutting Loose: Why Women Who End Their Marriages Do So.”

“Because I Will Win”

Statistically, author Margaret Brinig says, women who filed for divorce most often felt confident they would receive advantageous custody agreements. “The question of custody absolutely swamps all the other variables,” Brinig said. “Our study found that children are the most important asset in a marriage and the partner who expects to get custody is by far the one most likely to file for divorce.” Brinig adds that not only are women certain they will get custody, they divorce specifically in order to “gain full control over the children.”


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