Are 70% of Divorces Really Caused by Women Divorcing Frivolously?

by | Nov 3, 2023 | Abuse | 37 comments

Are Women Divorcing for No Reason

Are women getting divorced frivolously, for no reason? 

For some reason, there’s been a big uptick in social media accounts quoting two statistics:

  • Women initiate 70% of divorces
  • 75% of women cite lack of commitment as the reason for divorce

The commentary around this is often that women are fickle. You can’t trust them. They’re so mean to men, because they leave men for no reason. 

Yesterday on the Bare Marriage podcast, Rebecca and I delved deep into this, and shared a lot of what I’m going to share today. But some people find it easier to be able to reference a print article, so I wanted to spell this out in text as well. (But you can listen to the podcast version of this here!). 

When I asked recently on Facebook how the church can better support women going through divorce, one Christian marriage blogger (who seems typical of the group that I used to be a part of) posted this:

How do you judge which single mothers left because of abuse and which left because they were bored? We see 70% of divorces filed by wives, and the most common reason (75%) is “lack of commitment,” not abuse.

In those cases, I think we should be helping single dads, not rewarding the women who chose to split the family up just because it was easier than working on the marriage.

Jay Dee

Uncovering Intimacy, Facebook

Let’s look at what he’s assuming: 

  1. The 75% of women who claim lack of commitment are referring to THEIR OWN lack of commitment
  2. These women are not being abused
  3. These women chose to split up the family because it’s easier than working on the marriage.

That’s pretty typical of the discourse around this.

So I decided to do something radical. 

Wait for it–

I decided to actually look up the study. 

This took me less than a minute with Google search. And I’d like to tell you what the study ACTUALLY says.

When we dissected the problems with how Nancy Pearcey used citations for her book The Toxic War on Masculinity, one thing we said is that you should never use a newspaper clip of a study, because the newspaper story may have gotten it wrong. You need to look up the actual study.

This is an amazing case study that illustrates that, because the rhetoric around this study bears pretty much no resemblance to what the study actually found.

The study was a matched pair sample, where both spouses in a couple answered, so we’re able to compare what both spouses said. 

Here’s a big takeaway: The study asked people what were the factors that led to divorce, and they could check all that applied. 

Just because 75% of women chose lack of commitment, then, doesn’t mean there weren’t other reasons. 

And lack of commitment encompassed lack of commitment on EITHER spouse’s part, not just their own. So the idea that 75% of women who divorce are doing so because they’re not committed is just, well, stupid. It doesn’t even pass the smell test. It doesn’t even match with common sense.

The Highlights of the Factors Leading to Divorce 


Here’s what the study reports:

The next most often cited major contributing factor to divorce was infidelity, endorsed by 59.6% of individuals and by at least one partner in 88.8% of couples. Of those couples who had at least one partner report infidelity as a reason for divorce, only 31.3% represented couples in which both partners agreed that infidelity was a major contributor to the dissolution of their marriage. Thus, the majority of couples with apparent infidelity in their relationships only had one partner mention it as a contributing factor to their divorce.

Shelby B. Scott, Galena K. Rhoades, Scott M. Stanley, Elizabeth S. Allen, and Howard J. Markman

Reasons for Divorce and Recollections of Premarital Intervention: Implications for Improving Relationship Education, Journal of Couple Family Psychology

So 89% of couples had infidelity present in their marriage, and around 60% said that this contributed to the divorce. Wow. Doesn’t look so much like there were frivolous reasons for the divorce now, does it?

Substance Abuse

Addictions were another major factor.

Substance abuse was reported as a major contributing factor to divorce by 34.6% of participants, and by at least one partner in 50% of couples. Of these couples, only 33.3% of partners agreed that substance abuse was a major contributing factor to divorce. Thus, similar to reports of infidelity, the majority of couples who listed substance abuse as a reason for divorce had only one partner cite this reason. Generally, participants expressed that the severity of the substance abuse problem in their relationship was either minimized over the duration of the relationship, or if attempts to address the problem were made, the partner with the substance abuse problem would not improve and/or seek help. After several attempts to address the problem, the relationship finally ended.

Shelby B. Scott, Galena K. Rhoades, Scott M. Stanley, Elizabeth S. Allen, and Howard J. Markman

Reasons for Divorce and Recollections of Premarital Intervention: Implications for Improving Relationship Education, Journal of Couple and Family Psychology

So substance abuse was a factor in 50% of divorces. Again, that’s HUGE.

A different meta-analysis that was conducted in 2009 found that alcohol use was maladaptive in marriage. There was speculation in the literature that people were turning to alcohol to cope with issues, and that this may actually reduce stress, but this meta-analysis confirmed that alcohol use was maladaptive. It also found that men were more likely to be substance abusers. 


Then there’s the super serious one: abuse. One quarter of divorces involved domestic violence. The study reports:

Participants often expressed how the abuse in their relationship developed gradually, with intensified cycles of abuse and contrition, until the severity of the abuse intensified to insurmountable levels.

Shelby B. Scott, Galena K. Rhoades, Scott M. Stanley, Elizabeth S. Allen, and Howard J. Markman

Reasons for Divorce and Recollections of Premarital Intervention: Implications for Improving Relationship Education, Journal of Couple and Family Psychology

A study out of Queen’s University (my alma mater) found that women are 1.75 to 5.7 times more likely to divorce if they are abused.

And a Finish study of almost 330,000 women (with 23,000 of them divorced) found that domestic violence played a big role in divorce.

The risk of crime victimization for partner assault was already elevated from 2 to 3 years before divorce, peaked in the year prior to divorce, and then mainly leveled off 1–2 years after divorce. Hospital data show that the time of the greatest risk was from 6 to 12 months before divorce, when divorce is usually filed for. Women with younger children experienced elevated risks of physical violence shortly before divorce and remained at higher risk of menace than women without children for a year after divorce.

Elina Einiö, Niina Metsä‐Simola, Mikko Aaltonen, Elina Hiltunen, and Pekka Martikainen

Partner violence surrounding divorce: A record‐linkage study of wives and their husbands, Journal of Marriage and the Family

Women who are abused are more likely to divorce, and women who do so are also at greater risk of short-term violence, then, as are their children. Quite simply, people who spout the idea that so many women are divorcing for no reason are ignoring the life-threatening situations many women and children are in, and I find that disgusting.

This could have been easily fact-checked merely by reading the study instead of distorting stats so that they agree with what you want to believe.

She Deserves Better!

Because we all deserve a big faith.

Your daughter deserves better than what you likely grew up with in church.

What would it look like to prepare the next generation without toxic teachings about modesty, sex, or consent, and instead set her up for a big faith?


This original study found that health problems factored in to 27.8% of divorces. Back in 2009, there was another ground-breaking study that looked at how gender affected divorce rates post-diagnosis of a major life-altering illness, such as multiple sclerosis or cancer. 

Here’s what it concluded: 

There was, however, a greater than 6-fold increase in risk after diagnosis when the affected spouse was the woman (20.8% vs 2.9%; P < .001). Female gender was found to be the strongest predictor of separation or divorce in each cohort.

Michael J Glantz 1, Marc C Chamberlain, Qin Liu, Chung-Cheng Hsieh, Keith R Edwards, Alixis Van Horn, Lawrence Recht

Gender disparity in the rate of partner abandonment in patients with serious medical illness, Journal of Cancer

Let that sink in: When women are diagnosed with a life-altering illness, one in five of them will be left by their husbands. When men are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, only 2.9% will be left. 

For people to claim that women are getting divorced because of lack of commitment, when these are actually the real numbers on the ground, means people aren’t interested in truth, but in propaganda.

What’s the Final Straw Causing Divorce?

The study found other reasons for divorce as well, but it then asked people about the final straw–the thing that actually made the relationship fall apart at the end.

In this case, they were only able to choose one option (so if people were reporting on this study fairly and accurately, they would have gone with this list rather than the first that was “check all that apply.”).

And what were the three biggest reasons?

  • Infidelity (24%)
  • Domestic Violence (21%)
  • Substance abuse (12%)

Add that up, and 57% of marriages have one of those major deal breakers. Again, these problems were present in greater numbers than the final straw numbers would suggest, but they were named as the final straw in 57% of marriages.

Who Do Couples Hold Responsible for the Divorce?

Here’s another interesting data point: The study participants were asked if each spouse should have worked harder to save the relationship. Here were the results:

“[A]t the couple level, 70.6% of couples showed a pattern in which the women believed their exhusbands should have worked harder to save their relationships while their ex-husbands did not believe they, themselves, should have worked harder. Only 11.7% agreed that the husband should have worked harder and 11.7% had the husband endorse that he should have worked harder with the wife disagreeing. Conversely, only 35.3% of couples displayed the pattern in which the men blamed their ex-wives for not working harder while their ex-wives, themselves, denied that they should have worked harder.

Only 11.7% agreed that the wife should have worked harder and 17.7% had the wife endorsed that she should have worked harder with her husband disagreeing. Further, 35.3% of couples agreed that the wife had not needed to work harder to save the marriage, while only 5.9% of couples agreed that the husband had not needed to work harder.

Thus, most participants believed their ex-partners should have worked harder, but at the couple level, there were more couples in which both partners agreed that the wife did not need to work harder than there were couples in which both partners agreed the husband did not need to work harder.

When asked who filed for the divorce, 63.5% of participants indicated that the woman filed for divorce and only 25% participants indicated that the man filed for divorce.”

Shelby B. Scott, Galena K. Rhoades, Scott M. Stanley, Elizabeth S. Allen, and Howard J. Markman

Reasons for Divorce and Recollections of Premarital Intervention: Implications for Improving Relationship Education, Journal of Couple and Family Psychology

Did you catch that? In the very study that people are using to claim that women divorce for frivolous reasons, couples were more likely to agree that the husband should have worked harder than they were to agree that the wife should have worked harder.

This very study found that most blame the husband for the divorce, not the wife.

Another study conducted by Avvo, a legal services firm, found this in their study of 2000 divorced people: 

When asked who was responsible for the end of their marriage, 64% of divorced women blamed their spouse, as compared to just 44% of men saying the same. More men than women say both spouses should share the blame, with 42% of men agreeing, and only 29% of women saying the same. These findings are just a few examples of how gender plays a role in defining views and values attached to marriage and modern relationships.


Men regret divorce more often than women

Again, couples who divorce are more likely to say that the husband bears the greater responsibility for the relationship falling apart.

What Does Life Post-Divorce Tell Us about Reasons for Divorce? 

We can also look at what happens to people after they divorce to help tease out the reasons for divorce.

That Avvo study found that:

When it comes to having second thoughts, fewer women than men express regret over being divorced:  73% of women report having no regret over being divorced while 61% of men say the same.  Further, 75% of women say that’d rather be alone, successful and happy than be unhappy in a relationship overall, versus 58% of men believing the same.


Men regret divorce more often than women

When we look at how marriage affects people, we do see a gender discrepancy. If we look at physical health, mental health, and happiness outcomes, men fare better in an unhappy marriage than they do if they divorce; women, on the other hand, fare better divorced than they do in an unhappy marriage. For women, an unhappy marriage drains them and doesn’t offer benefits, but for men the same is not the case.

Thus, women are more likely to be happy post-divorce than men are, which likely also explains why women are less likely to remarry than men are

Why Is it Women Who File for Divorce? 

Quite simply, women often are the ones to file because they’re also the most vulnerable when custody issues and financial issues aren’t finalized. In marriages where the husband is abusive or addicted or unfaithful, women are overwhelmingly the ones to file. But were they the ones that actually ended the marriage? Looks like it was more likely to be his actions that did it.

If you believe you may be a victim of abuse, please contact your local Domestic Violence Hotline

  • Canada: 800.799.SAFE (7233)
  • United States: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673).
  • United Kingdom: 08 08 16 89 111
  • Australia: 1 800 737 732
  • New Zealand: 0800 456 450
  • Kenya: 0-800-720-072
  • Nigeria: 0800 033 3333
  • South Africa: 0800 428 428

Are College Educated Women More LIkely to File for Divorce?

Here’s the second big statistic error that I’ve seen all over social media, which again suggests that people need to study basic stats and actually look at studies.

One particular female influencer is frequently decrying higher education for women because they are so much more likely to leave their husbands–since 90% of women with college educations are the ones who initiate divorce, compared with 70% of women overall.

Here’s how one manosphere blog explained it (and I’m not going to link because I don’t want to give him traffic):

 “The point of this article is to highlight the fact that, according to statistical data from sites like Wikipedia, college-educated women are more likely to initiate divorce than non-educated women….the statistics definitely show that college-educated women and career-focused women tend to dump or divorce men in higher numbers.”

Does the data show that college educated women are more likely to dump their husbands?

Nope. Not at all. It actually shows the opposite.

Here’s the data from the U.S. Census Bureau from 2019, showing women’s divorce rate by level of education:

  • bachelor’s degree or higher: 25.9%. 
  • associate’s degree: 30.1% 
  • some college education: 36.3%, 
  • high school diploma: 38.8%, 
  • less than a high school diploma: 45.3%

When you factor in Master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s, the divorce rate goes down even more. 

The more education women have, the less likely they are to divorce. 

Another study looked at women who married in the late 1970s and followed them, found that: 

In sum, education appears to benefit women by both maintaining stable marriages and dissolving violent ones

Derek A. Kreager, Richard B. Felson, Cody Warner, and Marin R. Wenger

Women’s Education, Marital Violence, and Divorce: A Social Exchange Perspective, Journal of Marriage and the Family

So let’s make this clear: 

Saying “when college-educated women divorce, 90% are likely to initiate that divorce, so women are more likely to be the ones who initiate the divorce the more education they have” 

Is not the same as saying:

“College-educated women are more likely to leave their husbands.” 

Do you see the difference? Overall, college educated women are the least likely to divorce. But when they DO divorce, they’re more likely to initiate. 

To Sum Up: Women Aren’t Divorcing for No Reason

When people divorce, women initiate the majority of the time, yes. But 57% of the time it’s for horrific reasons, and in even more marriages than that we have infidelity, abuse, and substance abuse. 

More people admit that the man is to blame than the woman.

This does not mean that women are blameless when it comes to marriage dissolution. But we need to be honest that right now, marriage is a better deal for men than it is for women, and there are systemic issues that are making marriage worse for women than for men, and are making women happier post-divorce than men.

If people are honestly interested in lowering the divorce rate, they could start examining those actual systemic reasons that marriages are ending. But if they just want women to get in line, they can keep quoting distorted stats and ignoring actual ones to try to guilt women into staying, and to exonerate men for bad behaviour.

The choice they take will reveal what their actual goals are.

70% of divorces initiated by women

What do you think? Have you seen people quoting the stat online that women divorce for no reason? Let’s talk in the comments!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Angharad

    I’ve heard these claims so much recently, and they’ve never made any sense to me based on what I see around me, so I’m not surprised to see how the actual survey results have been twisted/misrepresented. The ‘real’ results are much more in line with what I would expect, for two reasons:

    1) Women with higher education normally marry later, when their characters are more fully developed and when they have a better understanding of people – so they are presumably more likely to marry someone who is a good fit for them and also more likely to spot ‘red flags’. And because college educated women have usually not been taught that their only value is as wives and mothers, there is presumably less pressure on them to get married, regardless of the suitability of the person they are marrying.

    2) If their marriages do hit problems such as abuse or infidelity, they are likely to have more knowledge of their rights and of how to navigate the process of separation and divorce. They are also presumably more likely to feel confident in their ability to get a job and support themselves and their children when compared to a woman who got married at 18 or 19 and has never worked outside the home.

    And of course these influencers want to keep presenting education as something which makes women more likely to behave ‘badly’ by seeking frivolous divorce. The less educated a woman is, the easier it is to dominate her. But they know that admitting this is the real reason they are anti-education for women would sound bad. So instead, they dress it up as being concerned for the woman’s spiritual welfare. Yuk!

    • Angharad

      Oh, and is anyone else finding the common theme to the two common complaints about women a bit odd?

      1) Women ‘selfishly’ withhold sex.

      2) Women ‘selfishly’ leave marriages for ‘trivial’ reasons.

      Who are these women, who are giving up amazing, enjoyable, mutually pleasurable, life-enhancing sex just to spite their husbands? Or who are walking out of marriages with kind, loving, trustworthy men who treat them as equal partners?

      Because it couldn’t possibly be due to any failure on the man’s part to make sure that his wife enjoys sex and is treated by him with respect…could it?!

      • Diana

        How can one spouse (husband or wife) “make sure” the other spouse enjoys sex when the other spouse chooses to never initiate it, be open to spontaneous sex, or prioritize time for it?

        It takes two to tango Anghrahad.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Diana, very, very few women say no to sex for no reason. There is not an epidemic of women saying no to sex which would otherwise be good.

          When women say no to sex, there tends to be a reason. If sex has never, ever been good for her and he has made it into an obligation, she will naturally not want it. If he’s been using porn and treating her like an object, she will naturally not want it. If she has sexual trauma in her background and hasn’t had trauma therapy, she may naturally not want it. If she feels taken for granted in the marriage and the relationship is one of major disconnect, she will naturally not want it.

          There is a reason.

          Address the underlying reasons. I’ve written a whole series on how to do that here.

          And Diana, I know this must be a pain point for you, and there seems to be a lot of anger. But you have already chased away one of my most valued commenters by being very harsh with her, and I really, really miss Jane Eyre and I mourn how badly she felt. Please do not start with another of my favourite commenters who has been here faithfully for years.

          • Sarah O

            I don’t know what the exchange was with Jane Eyre, but in case she’s still reading I have appreciated her commentary over the years – even though we have disagreed a couple times. I hope she comes back and is ok. She has been on quite a journey.

        • Aron

          It’s not hard to prioritize your partner’s pleasure in sex and certainly not difficult to find out what makes sex enjoyable for your partner. Why on earth would anyone be interested in tangoing with a partner who is only interested in themselves and wants to use their partner’s body as a masturbatory tool? They can dance solo, but a TANGO is a dance of seduction!

        • Nessie

          Regarding the “two to tango” mentality… I understand that may not be how Diana meant it in this situation, but it reminded me of this post which has some good points to think through regarding abusive divorces.

        • Angharad

          Diana, like Sheila says, very few women are going to refuse sex continuously for no good reason.

          Yes, there will be some who will never enjoy sex – especially if they are carrying trauma from past abuse. But so many men are complaining about ‘selfish’ wives who suddenly take sex out of the equation after years, even decades, of marriage as if their wives are deliberately depriving them out of vindictiveness. And my question is always the same. If the sex has been as good for their wives as it was for them, then WHY would their wives suddenly start refusing? It makes no sense that huge numbers of women are denying themselves something really good – and especially not if you are branding that denial as them being ‘selfish’! And if they have NOT been enjoying it – what does that say about the husbands who have inflicted unpleasant or even painful sex on their wives for decades?

          You can’t have it both ways – if sex is great for the wife, it makes no sense that she ‘selfishly’ avoids having it. And if it’s not great for her but she’s been having it for years at her husband’s insistence…who is really the selfish one?

      • Nessie

        Yes! It makes no sense.

        The majority of women I know give and give and give… certainly most of us have a streak of selfishness at times but that is humankind- not just women- and still women are the ones who sacrificially serve at church events, in their communities, and so on. The reason a “Strike at Putney” would impact churches so much is precisely because women on the whole *aren’t* selfish. But if you repeat something often and loudly enough, eventually people begin to believe it because it has worn them down. It’s part of how abusers operate.

        1 Thessalonians 5: 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, *encourage the disheartened, help the weak*, be patient with everyone. … 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; *hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.*

  2. Lisa Johns

    I will add that a the stats about substance abuse also apply to a porn addiction: the severity of the problem tends to get minimized a LOT, and the partner with the addiction will (often) not improve or seek help (not in any serious way, anyhow.) I think we need to address porn as a substance!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I absolutely agree–it just wasn’t one of the 12 options that people could choose in that particular study. I wonder if people chose infidelity if it was porn use? I would imagine they did, which is likely why the infidelity numbers were so high.

  3. A.M.

    Would someone who God actually listens to your prayers please, please pray for Him to help my mom? She loves Jesus and she loves like Jesus, and her life’s horrible.

    I’m sorry this comment is so long. If you don’t have time to read it, please just pray for God to truly heal A.M.’s mom in this life.

    She has serious health problems that have kept her exhausted and in pain every day for 10 years, the last 5 years have been even worse, the last month has been even worse, and right now is even worse than that.

    She put her whole life into loving and caring for my dad and all of us kids, and it’s ultimately brought her nothing but heartache. My dad doesn’t care at all about what she’s going through. He comes to her when he needs something from her, but otherwise ignores her, and if we mention her pain, he walks away, tunes us out, cuts us off, or gets angry. He hasn’t asked how she’s doing once since I told him things had gotten even worse. I guess after making his co-workers and friends think he’s a nice, caring guy, he doesn’t have any energy left to pretend he has a heart with his wife. Last year, when my brother got her really sick for a month, on top of all her other health problems, Dad didn’t once ask how she was doing. He did ask her when dinner was ready. Yes, she struggled through cooking when she shouldn’t have had to get out of bed so we could all eat. My brothers don’t care about her. My brothers and dad have been telling lies about her behind her back for years. She hasn’t had enough time to herself to be able to have any friends since she married Dad. I’ve lost count of how many health professionals we’ve reached out to.

    No one cares. No one helps. Everyone in her life makes it worse, including paid healthcare professionals. She calls out to God and He doesn’t answer.

    Her suffering just gets worse and worse, no matter what she does to try to heal. No matter how she calls out to Jesus. If there’s anybody He does listen to, please, please ask Him to listen to her. Ask Him to take away her pain, heal her, bring real good into her life, give her a chance to really live. Please, she’s such a kind, sweet person. She’s the only person I’ve ever known who actually loves like the Bible says to. Someone out there has to care!

    And if you don’t care, please just say nothing. Please don’t make it worse by saying or praying something about God giving her patience or endurance in her suffering. She’s already got plenty of patience and endurance and perseverance. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t still believe in Him or love her so-called “family” after all she’s been through and is going through.

    • Tim

      That’s so sad AM. Will pray for your mum.

    • NobleLily

      Sounds like her pain is probably stress-induced. Maybe she needs to get away from her home life for a long sabbatical? I will pray that God would open up a way for her to leave for a long time of true rest.

    • JG

      Most definitely praying for you and your mom.

  4. EOF

    Why would men in churches initiate divorce? They have the churches and Christian authors telling their wives to obey, serve, and be a personal prostitute for the husband — while also telling women that God hates divorce! Women are told they are gossiping and being disrespectful if they try to get help and tell someone what their husbands are doing. Men are told to keep leading the home.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if non-Christian men joined churches and pretended to be Christian just to get the kind of slave-wife that complementarians insist Christian women must become.

    Women are trapped and terrorized in their own homes, and the church just stands there applauding the husbands.

    • Jo R

      “It wouldn’t surprise me if non-Christian men joined churches and pretended to be Christian just to get the kind of slave-wife that complementarians insist Christian women must become.”

      You dropped something: 🎤

  5. Laura

    It’s so funny that one of the manosphere blogs was referencing Wikipedia as a reliable source to back up his propaganda. While Wikipedia has useful information, college professors do not want students to get their sources from them.

    My main reason for filing for divorce over 21 years ago was sexual abuse which I could no longer tolerate. Post divorce, I was much happier but still had lots of baggage to sort through and still afraid to date again. Even though I longed for marriage and children, it was just hard for me to try again until I was 40. I’m 47 and in a great relationship now. I’m also working on my masters degree.

    • Nathan

      From comments above:

      A case can be made (given the options) to categorize porn as abuse, addiction or infidelity.

      • Lisa Johns

        Absolutely! I think women married to porn users experience all three to varying degrees throughout their relationships.

    • Lisa Johns

      I noticed and sniggered about the wikipedia reference as well…

      Congratulations on both the relationship and the master’s degree!

  6. Sara A

    I have seen people quote/twist the statistic that “ Most divorces are initiated by college educated women” to “Most college educated women are going to get divorced.” And then they use that to say higher education sets women up for divorce. Seems very reminiscent of L & R twisting of Gottman’s findings of “most stonewallers are men” to “most men are stonwallers.”

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It absolutely does. It’s a misunderstanding of stats.

  7. CMT

    If there is an epidemic of women divorcing for no reason, a tiny qualitative study of people’s perceptions of the factors in their divorce isn’t going to prove it. Did anybody running with this weird interpretation do the math? 52 participants, 36 of whom divorced from another of the participants, means a grand total of 34 couples represented. And of those 34, almost half were only partially represented. No world-shaking findings are coming out of that, no matter how well-done the study was.

    And anyway, why not run with this finding: a large minority (45%) of participants felt that “marrying too young” was a significant factor in their divorce. Average age at marriage for those folks? 23 (compared to 29 for those who didn’t give that reason). Any conservative evangelical types want to look at that and discuss the wisdom of encouraging everyone to get married young??

    • Lisa Johns

      I would be interested in knowing the age differences between the men and women in that sample: were the men considerably older than the women, to give an average of 23, when people felt that “too young” was a problem? (It seems to me that 23 isn’t egregiously young — not like 17 or 18.)
      Anyway, the point that Sheila was making was that the claim that women were initiating most divorces, and for frivolous reasons, was not what the study said. And she is correct: the study doesn’t say that, no matter how small it was. Her conclusion was valid, and the study, like most, invites more studies.

      • CMT

        “I would be interested in knowing the age differences between the men and women in that sample”

        Me too. Funnily enough, I was 23 and my husband was 29 when we go married (we are going strong over a decade later, thankfully!)

        I don’t know if I was “too young” but I definitely wish I had known some things before getting married that I have since had to learn. How to advocate for myself and set boundaries, for example. If things had been different for our relationship, I might also feel that marrying young was a bad decision. In retrospect, 23 feels SO YOUNG. And some of the folks in the study would have been even younger than that.

        • Lisa Johns

          I got married at 25 and still didn’t know those things — I’d say that’s a background issue more than an age issue, though. Like, did your parents model/teach you good boundaries and how to recognize red flags?
          I didn’t learn those things till I was about 50. 😆
          So I was way too young to marry!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, it was a really small study, but it was also matched pair, which is great. That’s why I looked up OTHER studies for this article that also looked into abuse, illness, etc (I also had other ones for substance abuse but didn’t include it). Still, it is the most widely quoted study even though it’s such a small sample size.

      • CMT

        Nothing wrong with small per se. The authors rightly acknowledge that limitation. My point is more that this study isn’t capable of answering a question like “do women in general lack commitment in marriage more often than men in general?” It’s not even trying to.

        • Lisa Johns

          That’s true!

  8. NobleLily

    I listened to your excellent podcast today. I was not aware of the currently popular memes promoting this idea, but I wholeheartedly agree with your advice to young married couples having difficulty to seek help sooner rather than later. I SO wish that this research and mutual marriage teaching had been available 30+ years ago! Indeed, it probably was, but I was so insulated in my reformed church circles that all I listened to was complementarian teaching. I had no idea that another biblical alternative was available! And of course secular marriage teaching was considered “too feminist”. I can definitely vouch for the fact that bad habits become ingrained after a few decades, and virtually impossible to change, no matter how much marriage counseling. So yes, young couples, get help now while the problems are still in the “bud” stage, before you’ve raised children with the same bad attitudes and habits.

  9. J.W.

    This episode sure hit home for me. I was accused of leaving for ‘no reason’ by my ex and his supporters. His words..”You can’t leave! I haven’t hit you or had an actual affair!” Of course our story runs longer than I have room for here (porn, deception, & every other form of abuse), but after 15 years of marriage, the last 5 completely sexless, years of counseling, classes, books, etc…I received a peaceful & vivid release from God. Every book, class, & counseling appt (even if he’d initiate them) was met with a lack of effort, completion, follow through, or healthy/biblical change on his part. He literally said…”I thought all of that would change your mind.” Meanwhile, I was mom, dad (since he was so disconnected), wife, & FT employee 24/7 for our blended family…while working on myself, growing, healing & making every reasonable effort to save our marriage. I now know that I was existing in survival mode for years.

    People who knew us from working at a church together couldn’t believe we got a divorce because he was SOOOOO great at said (toxic) church. My reply has been, ‘if he was ‘that guy’ at home, we wouldn’t be divorced, & now God gets the rest of our stories, just separately.’ I was also MUCH happier and healthier alone. My entire world healed and now thrives. I am in a wonderful, healthy, stable, sex-filled (with orgasms – yay), mutually committed relationship. My step kids, & my own are adults now, & we have beautiful supportive relationships all around. Sadly, for my ex, he has not stayed in contact with my kids…the ones he also promised to love, honor, and cherish when we blended families. Thank God they have risen above the poor examples of manhood they were raised around. Only God could have sealed that glorious outcome after all we had been through with their dad (he was WAY worse) and then my ex. Beauty from ashes, for sure!

    I also want you to know that I heard about you from Adam Young, and “The Place We Find Ourselves”. Once I did, I binge listened to every episode within just a few months! It’s so so good. Thank you Sheila and team for what you do!!! You are helping SO many people.

    • Lisa Johns

      Thank you for sharing that! How marvelous that your story turned out the way it did!

      “Porn, deception, and every other kind of abuse…” Oh how I can relate to this. But yeah, he never hit me or had an actual affair (that I know of…) so I’m definitely the bad guy in the demise of our marriage. It’s pretty infuriating!!

      • JW

        Thank you for your support and your own vulnerability in sharing. I definitely felt alone for a long time so this blog/podcast and your comment reminds me that I am not. Praying for you!

        • Lisa Johns


  10. Ashleigh H.

    Many of the ideas that educated women are more likely to divorce are rooted in older research findings that showed this primarily occurred when there was a discrepancy in education and the woman had the higher level. However, this trend is declining in more recent cohorts where gender norms have shifted over time (Shwartz and Han, 2014).

    As in most things, though, there are some confounders here beyond education alone. In relationships where traditional gender roles are valued by both partners, when men were unemployed and women took on positions to help financially, women actually did MORE housework to make up for the perceived masculine identity losses of their partner (Sherman, 2009). When a couple rigidly holds to traditional gender norms and roots their identity in these norms, the deviations from these norms, whether expected (woman has more prestigious career or higher education) or unexpected (man is laid off or woman has an illness as discussed in your article above), typically the woman will take on the emotional and household labor to reinforce the traditional norms. Out of love, she takes on the responsibility to make her man feel like a man, but over time this is exhausting. You can only carry the weight of the family on your shoulders for so long. I think many women simply get to the point where they realize they are already operating as a single person or single parent, so they might as well become one.

    We all have to agree that both men’s and women’s identities cannot be dependent on circumstances or particular statuses. The onus cannot simply be on women to be “more humble, more serving, or more submissive.” These ideas are not only damaging to women, but to men too! Men are fully capable of being grown adults if we expect them to be. They are fully capable of engaging emotionally, building mutual intimacy in a marriage, and contributing to household responsibilities. Why do we expect so much of women and so little of men and why do we put our identities in shifting circumstances? We are equally called to an identity in Christ, serve, think of others above ourselves, and work unto the Lord.

    References (I realize these are older, but both are considered important pieces on this subject)

    Schwartz, C. R., & Han, H. (2014). The reversal of the gender gap in education and trends in marital dissolution. American sociological review, 79(4), 605-629.

    Sherman, J. (2009). Bend to avoid breaking: Job loss, gender norms, and family stability in rural America. Social Problems, 56(4), 599-620.

  11. Regan

    I can personally attest that online infidelity and p*rn addiction / other addictions are not legally applicable to put “at-fault” on a divorce order. Therefore, many individuals – such as myself – whose husbands have virtually abandoned them for relationships online and p*rn, are forced to file a non-fault divorce – which is absolutely, unexplainably devastating.


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