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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dustbunny105 14th-Nov-2009 08:05 am (UTC)
her husband is six times more likely

... Seven times, isn't it? If the percentages are twenty-one and three, a husband is seven times more likely to leave, yes? Isn't that how math works? Am I just tired and/or stupid?

I don't know if it's just how much I fail to be shocked at this, but that seriously held my attention more tightly than anything. Mayhap I should go to bed.
misscrystal 14th-Nov-2009 08:55 am (UTC)
Well, they may have rounded up/down to get the 21 and 3, so the 6 times figure might be more accurate to the original, unrounded numbers.
That's just a guess on my part =/
misscrystal 14th-Nov-2009 08:46 am (UTC)
They needed a study to figure this out? See: Men are Assholes Vol. 354
hourglasscreate 14th-Nov-2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
fatpie42 14th-Nov-2009 09:05 am (UTC)
This may sound harsh, but I'm not sure I care. At all.

Put it this way. First of all before I say anything else, I think it's worth noting that the figures are very very low for either sex. 3% is tiny, but 21% is a very small proportion too. (I'd also be interested to know which sex more often calls for a divorce anyway. It may well turn out that men are douches in regards to divorce in general, not just when their spouse is suffering from a terminal illness.)

Having noted that these are small figures, it's also worth asking what stage into the disease they were. Cancer can take a long time to process itself. The spouses of someone suffering from cancer may find themselves in need to (platonic) comfort elsewhere and eventually their spouse may end up in a hospice, away from them and going through the final period of their life. It doesn't actually say in the statistics at what stage the divorces took place.

Finally I'd like to note (and I realise this is not a defence but an explanation) than men often have a higher sex drive than women. This is not to say that the men who divorce their spouse over cancer are nice people, but that explains why there is a larger minority of men doing it than women. In both cases though it is a very small minority anyway, so what this means is that 79% of men stick with their spouse through cancer and 97% of women. Bully for them! :)
homasse 14th-Nov-2009 09:31 am (UTC)
Too often, we excuse men with things like "Oh, boys will be boys" and "men just have a higher sex drive," and all other sorts of excuses for asshole behavior.

And it's not "Bully for them!" for sticking with a sick spouse because that's what you're supposed to do. It's called not being a selfish asshole.
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
omgangiepants 14th-Nov-2009 10:42 am (UTC)
Holy shit some of the sexism in this thread is insane.
amypond 14th-Nov-2009 10:18 pm (UTC)
recorded 14th-Nov-2009 11:44 am (UTC)
harsh but: can't they at least wait until their spouse dies?
hourglasscreate 14th-Nov-2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
Yeah. One of the biggest assholes I know actually did right by his wife when she was dying of cancer. If a jerk like that could do it, anyone could.
salienne 14th-Nov-2009 12:28 pm (UTC)
I agree that this is an issue both for men being conditioned to be selfish assholes, and for women being conditioned to be selfless angels.

That said--what the fuck? What's sad is how little that (almost) 21% surprises me.

*Sigh* It is so hard not to instantly distrust every single guy I meet nowadays, general trends or singular exceptions or not. :/
iolarah 14th-Nov-2009 01:24 pm (UTC)
If my stepdad hadn't died of a heart attack two years ago, I would have called him and congratulated him on yet again being a bit of an anomaly and sticking around when my mom got leukemia. He was awesome. He stuck by her, cooked for her, drove her to her doctor's appointments (some of which were two hours away), sat with her when she had pharesis in the hospital, and supported her when she decided to try experimental trials. He was really good to her.
hourglasscreate 14th-Nov-2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
Wait a second, you're misreading that. 79% of the guys out there do the right thing. The point is that many more men than women do the wrong thing, not that the majority of men are dicks.
dearmisterecho 14th-Nov-2009 01:36 pm (UTC)
All I know is that in this book we had to read for my American Women's Lit. class, one wife was cheating on her terminally ill husband, and everyone was all *GASP*y at my suggestion that she just divorce him, since everything had gone to shit anyway. HOW DARE THE WIFE LEAVE, SHE'S HIS ~ANCHOR~
salienne 14th-Nov-2009 01:52 pm (UTC)

If more women left and less men left--if women weren't socialized to be selfless angels and men to be selfish assholes--these statistics would be a lot more situation-dependent and a lot less gender-dependent.

Divorcing under difficult circumstances isn't always a bad thing. The problem, imo, is the HUGE discrepancy between the two (primary) genders.
everythingonit 14th-Nov-2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
So, if they can't have sex with it any more or get it to make meals, then it's time to hit the highway huh?

Don't let a woman do that. It's fuckin' ridiculous.

It's like when the John Edwards story broke, it seems like people were more conerned with the possible love child aspect and not that he he abandoned his wife to campaign/get some while she was laid up with cancer.

hourglasscreate 14th-Nov-2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
Wow what a surprise.

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
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
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.
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