Monday, October 26, 2009

Female-Instigated Divorce

In some of the discussion generated by this post, I stated that I am "extremely radically opposed to vacuous female-instigated breakups and divorces." My sister then wrote:

I notice that you are "Extremely" opposed to the ones instigated by girls. I don't think that's right. Guys are JUST as depraved as girls. I am extremely opposed to girls not instigating break-ups for the right reasons. You should (in my view) be radically opposed to MALE-instigated divorce. Why are you putting down the girls here?
While I quite agree with her point that men are certainly as intrinsically sinful as women and are not morally superior to them, the radical relational disintegration that we see in modern America is not as much of a balanced issue as one might expect. It is true, that I am quite opposed to male-instigated breakups and divorces. However, these are far less common than female-instigated ones. According to Alfred Cohen's Statistical Analysis of American Divorce, originally published in 1929,

Women's freedom or the modern emancipation of the wife from dependence on the husband is asserted to be a leading cause of divorce by most judges. Their opinions are supported by evidence that 71 percent of all divorces at the present time are granted to wives. That the wife instigates the suit in divorce court has been preeminent in American family history. In 1867, when the divorce rate in the United States was only one-fifth its present size, wives were then granted 64 percent of the total divorces.
And, in the past century, little has changed regarding the instigation of divorce. Stephen Baskerville writes:

In the largest federally funded study ever undertaken on the subject, Arizona State University psychologist Sanford Braver demonstrated that few married fathers voluntarily leave their children. Braver found that overwhelmingly it is mothers, not fathers, who are walking away from marriages. Moreover, most of these women do so not with legal grounds such as abuse or adultery but for reasons such as “not feeling loved or appreciated.” The forcibly divorced fathers were also found to pay virtually all child support when they are employed and when they are permitted to see the children they have allegedly abandoned (1998, chap. 7).

Other studies have reached similar conclusions. Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen found that women file for divorce in some 70 percent of cases. “Not only do they file more often, but . . . they are more likely to instigate separation.” Most significantly, the principal incentive is not grounds such as desertion, adultery, or violence, but control of the children. “We have found that who gets the children is by far the most important component in deciding who files for divorce” (2000, 126–27, 129, 158, emphasis in original). One might interpret this statistic to mean that what we call divorce has become in effect a kind of legalized parental kidnapping.
While I am opposed to male-instigated divorce, the simple fact of the matter is that American divorce is and has been an overwhelming female-instigated thing. In 1867, 1.78 times as many women instigated divorces compared to men. In 1929, 2.34 times as many women instigated divorces as men. Presently, 2.45 times as many women instigate divorces as men. That seems a bit lopsided to me. While, this overwhelming sea of female divorce might possibly be ameliorated if there were reasonable grounds for divorce, such as infidelity or abuse, the statistics clearly show that this is not the case. Most divorces are instigated by women and most of the divorces instigated by women are instigated for unreasonable and/or vacuous reasons such as "not feeling loved or appreciated" or wanting control of the children. This means that most female-instigated divorce is either based simply on emotion or is initiated out of a desire for control. Getting divorced is bad enough. Getting divorced for the wrong reasons is even worse. Given that women are instigating divorces overwhelmingly more often than men and mostly for unreasonable reasons, I am radically opposed to such destructive irresponsibility.

And destructive it is! Divorce is not simply the termination of a single romantic relationship. It's effects are far-reaching and horribly destructive. In his book, Fatherless America, David Blankerhorn calls the modern American crisis of fatherless children, "the most destructive trend of our generation." In his study, Is There a Fatherhood Crisis?, Stephen Baskerville writes,

Virtually every major social pathology has been linked to fatherless children: violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, unwed pregnancy, suicide, and psychological disorders--all correlating more strongly with fatherlessness than with any other single factor, surpassing even race and poverty. The majority of prisoners, juvenile delinquent inmates, high school dropouts, pregnant teenagers, adolescent murderers, and rapists come from fatherless homes. (Daniels 1998, passim)
Not only does is divorce a rejection of God's plan, an affront to one's partner and a sacred violation of one's vows, but it is horribly destructive for one's children, who must go on living life as fatherless. It is horribly destructive for society who not only has to deal with the initial fallout from a destroyed marriage, but also is directly harmed by the actions of fatherless children who go wrong because of growing up fatherless.

This is a subject that I am passionate about because it is destroying our society, wounding countless people, affecting many people I know and even affecting me personally. My grandparents, after being married for over 35 are in the process of getting divorced. My grandmother instigated the divorce out of a malignant desire for control. Since the whole fiasco began, she has been adamantly avoiding our family and won't even see us on holidays. Also, the toll it has taken on grandpa's health has been immeasurable. The past two years have physically aged him more than past fifteen years before that. It deeply pains me to see his suffering because of her wrong actions.

While it would be unreasonable to unfairly unilaterally blame either sex for the problem, there is clear evidence that the chronic American divorce epidemic is primarily female-instigated, and is typically instigated for vacuous or power-hungry reasons. There is clear evidence of the horrifying impact it has had on the personal, social and national health of Americans. So, while it is true that I am opposed to male-instigated divorce, that is not the bulk of the issue we face today. Female-instigated divorce is a major issue in our country, and it is clear that the blame for so many divorces primarily lies with women. I blame Germany for instigating World War 2, because they are responsible for their evil attempts to dominate Europe. Similarly, I blame American women for instigating the divorces that they do, because they are clearly responsible for a vast majority of the divorces in America, and consequently, they are responsible for the social fallout of such divorces. That is why I am extremely, radically opposed to female-instigated divorce.


  1. There's a well-known study called “These Boots Were Made For Walking” by two economists which found that the main driver for instigating divorce, in practice, is whether the instigator believes she (generally it is a she, as you note) will get custody over the children. So it would appear that the main practical reason most divorces are instigated by women is because the legal system hands them full custody over the children most of the time (Baskerville's book says it's around 85% of the time – that number may be coming down, but it's still pretty overwhelmingly mother custody throughout the US). If the rules on custody were changed to presume joint custody barring negative indicators like abuse and so on, the divorce rate would likely drop significantly. In my view, that's the real reason the women's groups like NOW are dead-set against any move towards joint custody.

    Apart from the legal system, I think it's more generally the case that women are the relationship enders in our culture. That's also the case for non-marital relationships – women tend to do the leaving and the breaking-up much more than the reverse. The explanations I have seen for that vary, ranging from a greater sensitivity among women to the needs of the relationship, or a lower tolerance for relationship doldrums and so on than men have, to simply having more needs in a relationship, or having the relationship play a much more central role to their overall sense of being happy. But I think that this tendency also applies in marital break-ups – women tend to be less happy in their relationships than men do, it appears, or more easily become unhappy with them.

  2. We really need to reform the divorce system so that men have a fighting chance

  3. Why joint custody. That's weak. Joint custody doesn't even work well.

    A better solution is presumptive full custody to men. Children from single father families are known to do better than children from single mothers.

  4. Anon, I like your "go for the throat" approach, that is how to get things done.

    The real problem is, men don't want their kids to the same degree as women. I have been called a SoCon and other dirty words for pointing it out, but the fact is, WAY more men abandon their kids than women do.

    Family courts and family law are simply responding to the facts on the ground. Men are way more flaky when it comes to their kids than women. Even among non-abandoning fathers, few even bother to fight for equal custody.

    The problem of fatherless children is only indirectly related to female instigated divorce. A father who wants to be an active father, will remain so, even during after after female-instigated divorce.

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  6. It is more likely that a woman will be the one who files the petition or complaint; however, it is my impression that the decision to no longer try to keep the marriage going is made about half by men and half by women.

    The spouse with lower income is more likely to file, since a major function of the divorce action is to divide and equalize assets and shift income from the higher earner to the lower earner as child support or alimony. Women still tend to have lower incomes than their husbands, and so account for more of the filings.