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"Not so,” say some men. “If you get really sick or disabled, I’m outta here.”
A study published in the journal Cancer reported that, of the 515 married patients with serious cancer or multiple sclerosis followed over 5 years, the divorce rate was about the same as among the general population, 11.6%. The difference was that women were 6 times more likely to be the ones being left. Women tend to stay when there’s a chronic condition; men tend to leave. There are lots of theories about why this happens; one that’s floated is that it isn’t in a man to be a caregiver — it isn’t natural.
There are some assumptions here I don’t know if I buy:
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1. Men leave because they don’t know how to be caregivers.
So ask. Educate yourself. Get outside yourself. We’re as helpless as we choose to be. There are lots of things we get challenged to figure out. I just talked with a client who expressed deep pride in her ability to move her computer and printer to another place in the house without waiting for her spouse (who worked 100 miles away) to reattach all the wires. She didn’t know how, but she figured it out. I think about the things I don’t even attempt because David’s The Man and those things are “his job”. Shame on me if those are things I could do but give away instead.
2. Men and women have different roles.
In a traditional society, that’s fine. But in today’s crazy world, the password is “get ‘er done.” It doesn’t matter who cooks, who makes the most money, who puts the laundry away, who picks up the kids from daycare, and who bathes them at night. The way to survive craziness is to be adaptable. The reality isn’t the same reality as it was 50 years ago: some women are breadwinners while their men are househusbands; more women are in the workforce now as two income families are the norm and not the exception.