Women in Texas who have a stroke or develop cancer or heart disease may have a higher divorce risk than women who do not get sick. However, if men develop these conditions, the risk of the marriage ending in divorce does not increase.
A number of studies support these conclusions. In 2015, a study published in “The Journal of Health and Social Behavior” reported that only the wife’s illness was a predictor of divorce. Another study conducted by Purdue and Iowa State University researchers examined the effects of a stroke, lung disease, heart problems or cancer on more than 2,700 relationships. Researchers concluded that women who suffered from heart problems or a stroke had an increased likelihood of divorce compared to women who developed cancer, but none of these effects seemed to be the same for men. Overall, women do not enjoy the health benefits of marriage that men do.
One reason might be because women tend to perform more caregiving duties than men do. When they are no longer able to do so because of illness, men may look elsewhere. However, these studies tend to be done with older couples who may adhere to more traditional gender roles in a marriage. There could be a shift with younger couples. Same-sex couples also appear to have a more equal dynamic in place if one becomes ill.
Spouses who are unwell may need to be particularly mindful about protecting themselves in case of divorce. For example, the person may be unable to work, and the other spouse might need to pay spousal support. The person may also be concerned about ensuring that health insurance remains available. The illness of one spouse could also affect negotiations over custody and visitation. A sick spouse who was the main caregiver before becoming ill might not be able to adequately care for the children.