Australian National News

Easier for women to make the break

By Social affairs writer MICHELLE GUNN
5jul99

WOMEN are more than three times as likely as men to initiate separation from their spouse, and are less likely to have regrets about it, according to a new report on divorce.

The study of 650 divorcees found communication problems, infidelity and "drifting apart" were the most common reasons given by couples for the failure of their marriages.

But, contrary to the popular view of long-suffering wives, women are overwhelmingly the ones doing the separating.

Nearly two-thirds of wives (64 per cent) – compared with one-fifth (21 per cent) of husbands – surveyed indicated it was they who had made the decision to break up.

The report, by The Australian Institute of Family Studies, says this finding is consistent with other studies that suggest a woman's responsibility for children and domestic tasks makes her more inclined to leave an unsatisfactory relationship.

This is especially so in the case of an abusive relationship.

One in five women surveyed nominated abusive behaviour, such as physical violence or alcohol and drug abuse, as the main reason for their divorce, and 88 per cent of these women said they had initiated the separation.

Asked: "If you had your time over would you still have separated?", 83 per cent of women said yes, compared with 67 per cent of men.

The report found communication problems (27 per cent), incompatibility (21 per cent) and infidelity (20 per cent) were the main reasons for divorce, far outstripping financial problems (4 per cent), family interference (0.2 per cent), work pressures (1.7 per cent) or problems with children (2 per cent).

Authors Ilene Wolcott and Jody Hughes say this reflects the importance of "emotional closeness" and companionship in modern relationships.

It also suggests people continue to have higher expectations of self-fulfilment in marriage and less tolerance for unsatisfying relationships.

The data, collected as part of the Australian Divorce Transitions Project, shows more than half of women and almost half of men said they had sought help or advice about their marriage before divorce.

About a quarter of men and one-third of women said they had made some preparation for living without their spouse while still in the marriage.

Of these people, 40 per cent of women and 34 per cent of men had made financial preparations for separation.

While divorce is often distressing and traumatic, the majority of both men and women five years later said they were satisfied with their personal and emotional lives and their standard of living.

They were also satisfied with their children's wellbeing.