7 life events that can lead to divorce

We asked Elizabeth Ochoa, PhD, marriage counselor and chief psychologist at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, to weigh in on life events that can sometimes lead to divorce—and how to protect your relationship from their harmful effects.

Illness - When one spouse develops a serious or chronic health condition, it can change the entire dynamic of a relationship. “Illnesses create debt and pain and loss of self,” Ochoa said. “It can mean one partner isn’t able to maintain his or her part of the deal, which requires the other partner to step it up. Some couples will be better at dealing with that than others.”

Which spouse gets sick may have an affect on a couple’s future, as well. A recent study from Iowa State University found that divorce rates were 6 percent higher among relationships in which wives had an illness such as cancer, heart disease, or lung disease. Divorce rates didn’t increase when husbands were in poor health.

“Anecdotally, it might be harder for men to take on a caring role if the wife is unable to perform a lot of responsibilities that she’d normally do,” Ochoa said. “But I think it depends on how the tasks of the marriage were divided up between spouses. If the husband is the one who stays home and runs the household, it might be an easier adjustment.”

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