Hard times may bring spouses closer together, or increase tensions between them. The latter seems to be the case when a husband faces unemployment.
A recent study found that unemployed men were both more likely to initiate divorce proceedings themselves, as well as more likely to have wives who chose to leave them.
Women, on the other hand, were less likely to begin divorce proceedings if they were unemployed. Additionally, whether or not a woman worked outside of the home did not have any impact on her husband wanting to leave the relationship.
The researchers assumed that working women had more resources allowing them to leave unhappy marriages, and they expected this to be true for men as well. Surprisingly, the study showed just the opposite.
One possible reason for the differences in behaviors is how society views gender roles. Although career-minded women have faced growing acceptance in the workplace, the perception that men should be breadwinners for the family still largely remains.
The study’s lead author, Liana Sayer, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University explained the phenomenon of what she calls an “asymmetrical revolution”. “The role of women has changed a lot, but we have seen far less movement in the roles of men,” explains Sayer. “If a man is not bringing in some money, it seems to be unacceptable.”
Interestingly, the study indicated that more than unhappiness in the relationship, unemployment for men predicted the likelihood of divorce.
It is possible that unemployed men may face low self-esteem from doing what is still often perceived as women’s work in the home and not meeting the expectations society places on them to provide financially for their families. Low self-esteem may lead to depression, resentment, or other problems that may increase marital tension.