Money, Feminism and Divorce?

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I listen to the radio pretty much all day long. Especially since being home on maternity leave, I hate silence so I usually keep it on in the background. Last night, while doing the dishes (because our dishwasher is broken…sigh) during some talk-radio, life-lesson-type of program, they started talking about why divorce rates are so much higher today.

This radio program started discussing various reasons behind divorce and, according to them, they feel the number one reason marriages are splitting up nowadays is because women are taking more of a financial lead in their marriages, making more money, protecting themselves financially and ”no longer need their husbands to support them, or their families, anymore”.


My first instinct was, interesting. I guess I hadn’t thought about that before. While it’s true the role of the woman in the average North American household has changed dramatically in the past 50 years is this really the number one reason behind divorce today? Because woman make more money?

I have a hard time believing divorce rates are higher today than they were 50 years ago because the woman in the house suddenly, according to this show, has more ‘power’ or say in the running of the household expenses.

I think divorce rates are higher because of a breakdown of financial communication and laziness.


I’m strictly talking about money. Especially in today’s world of plastic, we all know (to well) how easy it is to swipe now and think about it later. Our grandparents didn’t have this luxury. When they were young newlyweds they actually had to use cash or cheque, and have the cash in-hand to pay for something. I’m not suggesting they didn’t frivolously spend and buy a new toaster or hot curlers for their hair instead of budgeting for food or gas, but they paid with money they already earned.Communication about money in their marriage was almost forced. Even if the woman was a homemaker who was given money from her husband to maintain the house (food, gas, clothing), she quickly found out if there were money issues going on if she wasn’t getting her household cut to buy things the family required. Secrecy was a rarity.

Fifty years ago, if you wanted to discuss something, especially finances, you were required to see the person and discuss your issues face-to-face or at the very least on a land line. You didn’t have the luxury of hiding behind e-mail or text messages. You had to discuss the matters in person or over the phone and if you wanted to work things out you needed PAPER and a PEN, again, excel and fancy budgeting programs didn’t exist.

My Opinion

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Source: Pinterest

While divorce happens for many reasons, I don’t think it’s fair to say that women now leave because they’re more financially stable. While this may be true, I think the real reason women leave is because they don’t want to face the music and deal with financial issues the hard old-school way. Leaving and starting over on her own is, unfortunately, often easier than putting the HARD effort into the marriage that is required to make things work again.

Then again, who would honestly answer that question on a questionnaire? Especially when a divorce is happening, because as you may know, it’s always the other persons fault anyway. It’s difficult to get a true reason in the heights of emotion. I just think the points brought up by the show were off a little and it’s not their fault; it’s because no woman, especially a financially stable one, blazing her way through her new-found path to freedom, would want to honestly say ”I gave up” or ”I didn’t want to put the effort in”.

I know marriages breakdown for many reasons and require two people to fail. I’m strictly arguing the points of this show which were female centered.

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  1. Interesting. I would tend to agree with you Catherine. I have been reading that divorce rates had been on the decline the past few years because of the recession and people not being able to afford them, who knows?

    • That also doesn’t surprise me, if (God forbid) my husband came home and wanted a divorce I don’t think we could afford to haha. He’s stuck with me!

  2. I think is has more to do with people not respecting just how big of a commitment marriage is. Regularly you hear of people rushing into marriage only to have it fail a couple of months later.

    Another thing is that even with the smallest relationship problem, people are ready to throw in the towel without giving things a proper go.

  3. I think the underlying reason is that people don’t realize and put forth the effort into a marriage that is required. Many people see marriage as a way to erase problems. It’s not. Many see it as a surefire way to guarantee closeness with your new spouse. It’s not. Many see it as a way to open the door to change the things you don’t like about your spouse. This certainly won’t work. People need to realize that marriage isn’t easy, that there is a lot of give and take, and that it’s a partnership. I think that the failure to realize and act appropriately regarding those things are, have been, and will be the underlying reasons why so many marriages fail.

  4. Big issue to take on, I applaud that 🙂 I think your reasoning here sounds pretty good. I think there’s probably a number of reasons for more divorce now, and this is probably one of them. I think another might be that it’s easier to get divorce now — less stigma and whatever. So peopel unhappy marriages dont’ have to hang around like they used to.

    • Like one of my Twitter followers pointed out, since the 70’s you no longer need a reason to get divorced…she worded it best, divorce 50 years ago vs today is like comparing apples and oranges.

  5. People are just not in it for the long haul these days. If things are going downhill, most of us rather get out of the situation than work through it. Finance is a big issue and I also agree that families have much more debt these days. It just put additional pressure on a relationship and amplify any problems.

  6. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but perhaps you are on to something. My grandparents had a strong marriage, and even though my grandma was the homemaker, my grandpa sat down with her every Friday to discuss money, and they also went over the grocery ads together and bought groceries together to save the most money. How often does any of that happen now?

  7. That radio show makes me want to barf with its sexist attitude. Women didn’t get divorced back then because it was a culture unaccepted taboo. And women didn’t have job opportunities-so they stayed married out of fear.

    So…basically they are saying in order to “Save marriage” in the US and Canada, women need to be more afraid again. Boo!

    You argue it brilliantly, Cat 🙂

  8. Very interesting, indeed. Thanks for sharing. I liked your take on it… it’s easy to be married these days and have completely separate bank accounts, finances, etc., to the point that there’s no financial communication between a couple. How many times has one of my girlfriends said, “I’ll buy it on my card. It’s best if he doesn’t know how much this cost!” Haha, I actually envy that mentality sometimes because it would mean I could buy a lot more stuff for ME! But maybe it isn’t such a great mentality for marriages in the long haul.

    • Yeah we have combined everything…we both contribute equally to our house so we should decide together how money is spent together!

  9. K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! says:

    I had married in my early twenties and poof 5 years later I was divorced. Looking back it was definitely a “starter marriage”. I feel that a lot of people marry for the wrong reasons, and often are not mature enough to handle the level of commitment and dedication that it takes to make a marriage thrive in all respects. After several years, I recently got remarried and we both knew that we were ready for the responsibility and would do what it would take to make it more than work. As you said being unresponsive, uncommunicative and apatheic in any relationship would be a recipe for a breakdown/divorce.

    • I’m not saying all marriages are meant to be either- there are many reasons why people shouldn’t be together and mistakes to happen just give everything an honest shot!

  10. Hmmmm…..

    I there there are ton of reasons for the high divorce rate, but I don’t see how women becoming more responsible for themselves and earning their own money should be one of them. Surely there is more to the story than that. I’m glad I missed that radio show =)

  11. I’m with Michael. I think divorce rates are up because everyone is spending every last ounce of energy and time at their jobs, and they give little effort and attention to their marriage.

  12. Hm. If their argument is correct and it is the number one reason for divorce, then I have to say kudos to the downfall of marriage. If the reason women stayed in relationships before was because they had no way to support themselves and no power, then they were essentially slaves to their husbands and families. I can’t get behind that.

    (I don’t hate marriage. I’m just saying IF their argument were true then I’d see divorce or choosing not to marry as a process to liberation.)

    • No it’s true, no one should stay in a relationship, ever, because of a dependence of any kind for the other person. I just don’t think this is the case, I think the downfall is because women (in this argument) chose to leave for reasons other than financial control/security. I think they now just have that ‘out’.

  13. I think it is a mix between having a better situation and more financial independence, and a change in values. Watching shows like Mad Men, most men were unfaithful to their wives, and they kept they marriage because it was socially taboo to get a divorce. But also because often, the only alternative for the penniless woman was to go back to her parents’ and be shun from the society. Rates are probably higher today because divorce is wildly accepted and society has turned us into spoiled kids so when we are tired to play with the same toy we look for a new one.

    • There are so many reasons. I honestly don’t think Mad Men is an good generalization for all relationships though- and that crap still VERY much happens today-men and women. Again, like someone commented to me already it wasn’t until the 70’s that you could divorce without reason.

  14. Hey Catherine… Love that first picture… had never thought of marriage in the same way as a job before, but I agree – very similar!

    • Haha well marriages certainly do require effort though I hope I never thing of it as a ‘job!’.

  15. I think it’s also a theory that because women are more financially independent, maybe they don’t feel they have to stay in a bad marriage because they can’t support themselves. But you’re right, I don’t think it’s the cause of more marriages breaking up.

  16. Very interesting and thought provoking post. All of the reasons we could list as to why marriages fail – including women earning more money – are only symptoms of a deeper relational issue. Marriages fail because of selfishness. When you believe you don’t have to consider your partner in life decisions, relationships break down.

    I also don’t buy into the argument that women feel they don’t need the support of their husbands anymore. That support is not just monetary, it’s also physical and emotional. Generally speaking, women are more relational than we men and losing that intimate connection with your spouse, I believe would be a frightening scenario. I guess I’m trying to say that I don’t believe women are all of a sudden waking up saying, “Oh, I make six figures now…guess I’ll lose this relationship and divorce my husband.” I think that would go against their inherent nature. Women, am I wrong on that?

    • That’s exactly how I feel too, I think it’s more of an excuse to run away from a bigger issue that is likely stemming from lack of communication (in whatever area). My husband and I have been together since we were kids in high school. We’ve had to grow up together and learn how to make the relationship work. We’ve put a lot of effort into it and I’m proud of where we are. There’s been give and take and acceptance over the years but we’re solid. We both need each other, and for different reasons…none of which is financial. I can honestly say if our marriage broke down it would NOT be because of money. We’ve been through tough financial times and through it, we’re better than we ever were because we leaned on each other and capitalized on each others skills to improve it.

  17. Justin@TheFrugalPath says:

    I feel that it’s because it’s more socially acceptable. It seems odd if people don’t have two or three marriages under their belt when they hit 40. I suppose financial independence could have something to do with it. But many people are just sunk in debt, so they’re not really independent.

  18. Men were the breadwinners of the households back in the day and with more and more women breaking through the glass ceiling and becoming CEO’s, Managers and Leaders making higher salaries it can bring a host of issues. Longer hours at work, tired ,feelings that their partner should be making more than them as they are male or that they are in charge of the ship forgetting that a marriage means 2 people a husband and a wife not a captain and worker. Money is the top reason relationships fail and it’s not always about debt and budgeting .. but why the marriage breakdown happens depends solely on how the couple communicates and respects each others careers, the marriage and their commitment to “for better or worse” no matter how much power or money they make. Great post. Mr.CBB

  19. Haha, that picture is seriously awesome.

    I dunno. I agree that relationships are a lot of work. I’ve always been a believer that love is not enough (having been through a layoff early in our relationship was a real toughie and we nearly broke up).

    Quite frankly, I would probably be slightly better off financially if I was single. But hey, the price of love…

  20. *sigh*
    While potentially providing an “easy way out” I would say that financial empowerment is also providing a needed way out for many. The crap that has gone on and still goes on as a result of a lack of ability to survive on ones own is terrible.

    Excellent article!

  21. The divorce rate has stabilized the last few years so it seems funny that they were discussing it like it’s news.

    There are many reasons divorce is much more common than 50 years ago including the fact that most women can support themselves. Most married women didn’t work and weren’t able to get credit in their own name.

    But there’s also a cultural change where there is no longer a stigma to being divorced. My grandparents divorced after 45 years of marriage; it was clear before they divorced they hadn’t been happy for decades and felt they had to stay married. I’m glad they were able to finally divorce and find happiness with new partners.

    • Why would they discuss something good?! I get that divorce is inevitable for some people- I’m glad your grandparents found happiness!

  22. I’m trying to understand the host’s comments. Maybe they’re saying that because people have income independence they aren’t relying on a spouse as a lifeline to money?

    It’s either that or they’re incredibly shallow.

  23. For me, I think it’s about what your grandparents did. Things were far more transparent back then and it’s far, far easier to hide problems like bad debt from your other half nowadays.
    Maybe money is the number one reason for divorce because it’s “your” money and “my” money and not “our” money.
    BTW, great post, thanks and retweeted

    • You’re so right. I still can’t believe how many couples in long term relationships have separate accounts! Recipe for disaster if you ask me.

      • That’s embarrassing, my wife and I have both a joint account for bills and separate accounts for the rest, but kudos to you, it’s given me something to think about.

        • Any reason why you have separate accounts?

          • Without sounding like a total chauvinist pig, it’s basically because that way I control our money and that’s out of necessity.
            My wife is a wonderful woman, but budgeting is not her strong point and times past we have managed things on a joint basis and it has backfired badly. She’s not a spendthrift in the way you might imagine, everything she spends is justifiable, it’s just that she absolutely cannot keep to a budget and doesn;t understand what I mean by cashflow.

  24. I’m pretty sure infidelity (whether it be cheating physically, mentally, emotionally, financially) would be more of a reason.

    From my limited experience through people I know, people just DON’T talk about money, and there is a lot of financial infidelity because it’s easier to NOT talk about it. I am truly blessed to have a wife who has been “all in” since day one, and we always talk about where our money, family and hopes and dreams are. I agree, communication is key.

    • I agree totally. Money is a difficult subject- a lot of this has to do with honest ignorance and lack of willingness, it’s a lot of work! Hubby and I spent over an hour after our shopping trip today organizing money (food/christmas etc) and finding out exactly where we stand. I too am SO glad we’re on the same page.

  25. Interesting post. I think that being more financially self sufficient note makes out easier for women to consider divorce. Not saying that it’s an easy decision, but when you have your own paycheck coming in, you wouldn’t be add stuck in an unhappy marriage as someone who is financially dependent on their partner.

    • I agree with you but to say that being financially independent is the main reason is a bit far fetched I think. There are so many more reasons that, I feel, people are unwilling to accept or discuss like sheer laziness for lack of better term- people give up when the going gets tough.

  26. I think you have a great thought going; however, I tend to agree with the radio broadcast but not because the woman is making more money. It is more like the attitude of arrogance that comes along with it. I am an independent woman and there are times when I have made more than my husband; there were times when I seriously had to have discussions with myself about my new found attitude, it simply slipped in without my knowledge for a moment. Although, I do not like admitting to it, it is like being poor all of your life and coming into a windfall of money; you become like an unknown person, even to yourself.

    You may not agree; but, this was a reality for me several times in my 21 year marriage. The reason we are together today, happily married, is because I was willing to look at myself honestly and make the necessary adjustments to my attitude and love my husband.

    My two cents…


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