Women are more likely than men to end a marriage—that's something that's already been established. But a new study casts that fact in a rather odd light. Researchers had thought that was the case with divorce because that's the case in general. Not so. "The only prior research that had been done on who wanted the breakup was research on marital divorces," Michael Rosenfeld tells Live Science. The Stanford sociology professor, who presented his findings yesterday in Chicago, looked at 2,262 American adults in heterosexual relationships between 2009 and 2015. During that span 371 participants split with their partners, either ending a marriage or a dating relationship. Women unsurprisingly initiated 69% of the divorces, but the genders were split evenly in who ended the dating relationships, regardless of whether the couples were cohabitating.
If women were initiating divorce more often because they are more attuned to relationship troubles, they would also be more likely than men to end a dating relationship, Phys.org reports. Rosenfeld theorizes women are actually more likely to initiate divorce because of what Time calls "arcane conventions of spousal roles." In the study, married women reported being less satisfied with their relationship than married men. But both halves of dating couples reported about the same level of satisfaction. Rosenfeld points out married women still earn less money than their husbands, do more housework, and spend more time caring for children—factors that could lead to increased desire for a divorce. Meanwhile, he says dating relationships "lack the historical baggage and expectations of marriage," making them perhaps more fulfilling to women's desire for gender equality.