How Can a Major Illness Affect a Marriage and Divorce?

Posted on in Divorce

Wheaton divorce lawyer for serious illnessIf you or your spouse have been diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness, this can affect many aspects of your life and your marriage. Some of these major changes in your marriage might eventually lead to a divorce. Understanding how an illness can affect a relationship can help you determine the best way to proceed if you feel that divorce is your best option.

The Facts About Divorce and Major Illnesses

Multiple studies have analyzed the statistics surrounding the effects of chronic or terminal illness on marriages and divorce rates. In particular, the findings suggest that:

  • As expected, higher ages result in an increased likelihood of illness.

  • Husbands experience higher rates of illness than wives.

  • The onset of an illness for a husband does not increase the likelihood of a divorce.

  • The onset of an illness for a wife increases the likelihood of divorce by 6% when compared to a healthy couple.

  • Upon being diagnosed with a chronic illness, women suggested that they had more physical or psychological distress than men, which could be a contributing factor to divorce.

The Effects of Major Illness on Marriages

While many of the findings about illness and divorce rates are fascinating, they do not provide conclusive answers about when a marriage may break down. What researchers do know is that serious illness does not just affect the person diagnosed; it also affects everyone else in the home, especially the other spouse. For example, a serious illness can test a marriage in the following ways:

  • Caregiving—If the healthy spouse is tasked with being the primary caregiver for the ill spouse, then that spouse faces a great deal of stress. In particular, many men might be unaccustomed to caregiving. This can lead to marital problems if a husband feels overwhelmed at the tasks in front of him or if a wife is dissatisfied with the care she receives from her husband.

  • Finances—If a spouse’s illness makes it such that the other spouse must take on the responsibility of financially supporting the household, a role that they might not be accustomed to, then it adds additional challenges. Also, the healthy spouse might be expected to juggle other responsibilities, including caring for the sick spouse or the couple’s children, along with being in charge of the family’s finances. The ongoing stress of managing these responsibilities can lead to the breakdown of the marriage.

  • Family Life—The healthy spouse will usually be required to do more of the parenting of a couple’s children, and in some cases, they may even feel like a single parent. This may lead them to decide that they and their children would be better off if they got divorced.

  • Social Withdrawal—The support systems that healthy married couples normally rely on might be less accessible to couples facing a major illness. When spouses must deal with major life changes on their own, this can lead their marriage to break down.

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Lawyer

If you and your spouse are dealing with the stressful effects of a major illness, and you believe it would be in your best interests to get a divorce, the Wheaton divorce attorneys at Andrew Cores Family Law Group can help you understand your options. Call us at 630-871-1002 to set up a free consultation today.


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