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Gender role shifts in marriages could increase divorce risk

Gender-equal marriages are becoming more common in Illinois and other states, but this isn't always the norm. In some situations, couples begin married life together in traditional roles that change over time. And this is when there's the potential for issues that may lead to divorce, at least according to a Swedish study.

Researchers found women who started marriages in traditional gender roles where they were either not working or earning significantly less than their husbands were more likely to get divorced if their earnings increased. One possible reason for the study's results is that women sometimes spend the early years of marriage raising children or relocating to support their spouses. Over time, however, some wives reach a point where their income equals or surpasses their husband's earnings.

Upsetting the "status quo" may place added stress on a marriage where gender roles started off traditionally, especially if husbands aren't willing to lend a hand and help wives juggling a career while caring for children. While this isn't always the case, some husbands may feel threatened if a spouse is suddenly earning more. This sometimes contributes to controlling behaviors and other actions that could increase marital tensions. Other times, a husband begins working less as their wife earn more without increasing their household contributions. Behaviors of this nature may lead a working woman to become resentful.

It's often advised that couples make an effort to establish a healthy, equal power dynamic as early as possible when a marriage begins. But if a shift in roles and earnings has contributed to a couple's decision to untie the knot, a divorce lawyer might suggest counseling before proceeding with divorce negotiations. If such efforts are unsuccessful, a lawyer may make an attempt to work out arrangements with asset division and other issues without turning to the courts unless necessary.

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