ONTD Political

Men more likely than women to leave spouse who has cancer

11:14 am - 11/14/2009
Men more likely to leave spouse who has cancer - Divorce rate is 21 percent, compared to 3 percent when husband gets sick

A cancer diagnosis can strain any relationship. But when a woman gets news of a life-threatening illness, her husband is six times more likely to leave her than if the tables were turned and the man got the bad news, according to new research.

The study included diagnoses of both cancer and multiple sclerosis and found an overall divorce rate of nearly 12 percent, which is similar to that found in the normal population.

But when the researchers looked at gender differences, they found the rate was nearly 21 percent when women were the patients compared with about 3 percent when men got the life-threatening diagnosis.

The researchers suggest men are less able to commit, on the spot, to being caregivers to a sick partner, while women are better at assuming such home and family responsibilities.

"Part of it is a sense of self-preservation," said study researcher Dr. Marc Chamberlain, director of the neuro-oncology program at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). "In men that seems to operate very highly and they don't feel this codependence, this requirement to nurture their significant other who has this life-threatening illness, but rather decide what's best for me is to find an alternative mate and abandon my fatally flawed spouse."

Chamberlain is also a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Life-threatening illness

The findings, announced today, come from a study of 515 patients who had enrolled in 2001 and 2002 at the SCCA, Huntsman and Stanford University School of Medicine. The researchers followed the participants until February 2006.

The men and women in the study (about evenly split) were divided into groups by diagnosis, with 214 having a malignant primary brain tumor, 193 with a solid tumor not related to the central nervous system, and 108 patients with multiple sclerosis.

Similar results were found for all diagnosis types, in which divorce was much more likely if the woman was the patient.

Cancer strain
Chamberlain realizes the enormity of a cancer diagnosis. "We find ourselves as a caregiver with someone with cancer, and that cancer isn't just affecting that patient but it affects profoundly that entire family," Chamberlain told LiveScience.

For instance, the patient may have been the sole provider or income or the person who maintained the home. In addition, with brain tumors and multiple sclerosis, Chamberlain says, a patient's personality can change. "That's not easy for caregivers."

Even so, sticking together could be what's best for the patient, the researchers found.

"We found patients who were divorced or separated had a much higher rate of hospitalization during their illness, which I think reflects lack of social support," Chamberlain said, adding such patients also were much less likely to participate in clinical trials, to seek alternative treatments or to even complete treatment regimens. They were also more likely than those who stayed in marriages to die at home.

The results will be detailed in the Nov. 15 issue of the journal Cancer.


I swear, the way society teaches men that they can be selfish assholes pisses me off so bad.
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bord_du_rasoir 14th-Nov-2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
21% of men do X = men are X

You cannot logically generalize about men based on 21% of men.

Furthermore, 50% of all marriages end in divorce.

Therefore, it's illogical to attribute all the divorces that take place during the years in which a spouse has cancer/MS to the diagnosis of cancer/MS itself. Given the high divorce rate, many of those marriages were likely to end anyway.
___closetome 14th-Nov-2009 04:22 pm (UTC)
Given the high divorce rate, many of those marriages were likely to end anyway.

lol ily for injecting sense into this post
sitakhet 14th-Nov-2009 04:59 pm (UTC)

It could very well be that things that they were unhappy with were made worse by the stress of the MS/Cancer and then suddenly they realised that they wanted a divorce like 10 years ago.
sombermusic 15th-Nov-2009 02:11 am (UTC)
Might still hold true even then. I can see the wife having to put up with surviving cancer AND a whiny-ass husband who's put out that he's no longer center of attention, and thinking "Fuck this, I'll go have cancer by myself."
omgangiepants 14th-Nov-2009 10:20 pm (UTC)
cookie_nut 14th-Nov-2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
I remember this happened to my cousin and her husband. He abandoned her and his kids, who were raised by her family. :/

So this doesn't surprise me, I've seen it happen.
urplesquirrel 14th-Nov-2009 05:10 pm (UTC)
You know, I have a lot of issues with my dad. Anyone knows me can tell you that. My dad has a huge douche streak.

But I will give him credit where credit is due. When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, he did not abandon her. He stuck with her to the very bitter end and did absolutely everything to care for her, because he loved her and it was the right thing to do.

It makes me beyond angry to know that there are men out there who would've abandoned my mom in her last years.
hourglasscreate 14th-Nov-2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
But there are also women out there who would have abandoned her in her last years too. The point of this article isn't that men abandon their wives! oh my ghod they are all evil! but that in these circumstances they are more likely to abandon their spouses than the women are.
hohaiyee re: cancer14th-Nov-2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
1. John Edwards

That be the shallow stupid slut who slept around on the wife who had supported him through out his political campaign, while she was battling cancer, AND, not only did he cheat on her, he did it without protection so he totally could have caught something and gave it to her in addition to her cancer. What a swell guy!

2. It's also because in marriage, women are pressured to 'settle for less' before they hit 30, after which we are pressured more to lower our standards towards any employed man who is not a drunk (not visibly so...). Men on the other hand, society don't pressure them to married until much later, and when they don't get married, they don't get challenged unless they don't have a girlfriend or a string of girlfriends proving their sexuality. Therefore, when men do get married, there is a higher chance that he'll be married to a woman who is good to him, than there is of a women being married to a man who is good to her.
evil_laugher Re: cancer14th-Nov-2009 10:23 pm (UTC)
John Edwards was my first thought. So disappointing...
stoichiometric 14th-Nov-2009 06:41 pm (UTC)
i always hate reading things like this. :( you'd think you'd stay with a person when they need you the most.
ninasafiri 16th-Nov-2009 09:35 pm (UTC)
This. All the sexism talk is interesting, but the thought that your SO would leave you when you need them most is heartbreaking to me - on both sides of gender.
lovebats 14th-Nov-2009 07:58 pm (UTC)
i have a neighbor and his wife came down with some mysterious ailment (possibly MS) and as she was getting worse she told him that if he wanted to leave and take-off with their child, she wouldnt hate him for it. i was dumb-founded.

i never want to get married.
peacenlove2332 14th-Nov-2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
alot of this has to do with gender socialization... what society feels men and womens roles are. it's seen as "acceptable" (not really, but it's just not as shocking) for a man to leave but it is the worst thing ever if the woman leaves.

ahh I miss my women's studies class
amypond 14th-Nov-2009 10:20 pm (UTC)
Hey, hey guys. Some of the misandrist comments in this thread are unbelievable. This isn't the solution to equality. :(
jenn_sensfan15 15th-Nov-2009 12:54 am (UTC)

hot damn
omgangiepants 15th-Nov-2009 09:24 am (UTC)
Jesus Christ almighty, THANK YOU.
bellonia 15th-Nov-2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
amypond 15th-Nov-2009 05:01 pm (UTC)
blunder_buss 16th-Nov-2009 09:57 am (UTC)
This does not surprise me in the slightest. When my mum was sick with cancer for about two years, people constantly asked him, "Why don't you just leave?"

Right. As if it was just a simple thing to leave your wife of 20+ years because she was really ill. And some of them had the gall to act surprised when my dad essentially told them to fuck off.

It also doubley pisses me off when people say women are better carers because we're more nurturing blah blah. No, assholes. I took care of my mum when she was sick because she's my fucking mother. She took care of me for years when she raised me, and this is what we called being grateful and appreciative and returning the favor instead of being a self-absorbed asshole. It's not special womanly nurturing to extend common human decency.

But really, this is hardly limited to life-threatening illnesses like cancer. So many people with mental illness are abandoned by their spouses because they're just too hard to deal with. I saw a letter to Savage Love about some guy whinging about his wife finally found the right medicine to curb her suicidal urges thanks to depression/schizophrenia, and all he could whine about was that the medicine ruined her libido.

Frankly, I wonder more and more why people bother to get married. It's obvious so many just can't live up to their own vows. (Wow this got long.)
makingmywayhome 17th-Nov-2009 12:25 am (UTC)
I knew a couple through my parents' church and the woman was diagnosed with MS. Not a year later, the man had moved out.
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