Men More Likely to Abandon Sick Partners

Seven times as many women stay when serious illness strikes
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2009 12:11 PM CDT
Men More Likely to Abandon Sick Partners
A woman in hospital. Men are 7 times more likely than women to leave ill partners.   (Shutterstock)

Relationships fail seven times more often when illness strikes the female partner than when it strikes the man. Researchers don't know why, but theories abound: “There is an immediate shift in a relationship when an illness is diagnosed,” a counselor tells the Times of London. Gender roles change more radically for men when partners become “patient and carer.” And there is often less sex and intimacy, “something many men struggle to accept.”

Marriages in which one spouse had a chronic, debilitating, or fatal disease like multiple sclerosis or cancer came under researchers' scrutiny. The numbers could be misleading, some say. In the same way that serious illness can be transformative and strengthen a relationship, it can also be a wake-up call to the patient. “To outsiders it might look as if the husband is leaving her,” a professor says. “But she may be saying ‘That’s it. I’ve had enough.’” (More cancer stories.)

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