Main | Thursday, November 12, 2009

'Til Death Do You Part (Or Not)

A new study by a Seattle oncologist shows that when married men get a cancer diagnosis, 3% of the their wives leave them during the course of treatment. But when women get cancer, 21% of their husbands leave them. That's seven times as many.
When the man became ill, only 3 percent experienced the end of a marriage. But among women, about 21 percent ended up separated or divorced. Among couples who split up, divorce occurred, on average, about six months after the diagnosis, although there was wide variability in the timing. It is not known whether the illness prompted the breakup or whether the couples in the study who divorced were already experiencing marital problems before the diagnosis. If couples are happy before the diagnosis, it appears that men are more likely to abandon wives who become seriously ill. If couples are already troubled before a partner becomes ill, the finding suggests that women in unhappy marriages are less likely to proceed with a divorce if their husbands become ill.
Sanctity of marriage, in sickness and in health, what God has joined, blah blah blah. Dan Savage nails it on this: "If homosexuality were a choice, like conservative Christians insist, wouldn't most women have chosen it by now?" I think we should name this phenomenon after Newt Gingrich, who famously served his uterine cancer-stricken wife divorce papers while she was still in the hospital. What's should the expression be? Pulling a Gingrich? Naw, too many possibilities there.

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