Men, Beware: The "Great Divorce" Is Here

Women are initiating over 69 percent of divorces, and inequitable division of labor is increasingly a reason why.

Woman feeling trapped by husbands bad behavior, turning the page- same chaos yet so much calmer Anna Tarazevich, Jacob Lund, crystalsingphotos, Pexels, Odua Images | Canva

I got divorced in 2018 for many reasons, but the unequal division of labor was a top one.

You might think me petty. You might also think, Why on earth would you leave a man who loved you and was faithful to you because he didn’t help with the kids or around the house? But in doing so, you’d also be part of the problem.

You see just by using the word "help" in regards to housework or childcare you assume that housework and childcare are a duty or obligation that I, a woman, should be taking on solely.


You assume that my gender automatically assigns me certain tasks and responsibilities at 100 percent, and you, a man, at 0 percent. So your "contributions" (whatever they may be) are a gift, a compliment, not to be expected but celebrated when they are.

My ex-husband, to many people, was a "great" father — and in comparison to other men who don’t take active roles in the care of their children, he was. It’s easy to seem "great" when the bar is on the floor. You’d seem "great" if you took your children to the playground every once in a while. If you fed them meals. If you gave them a bath.


But what about clipping their nails? What about buying them school supplies? What about answering school communication? What about unpacking their backpack every night and making sure they do their homework? What about packing their lunch? What about researching new baby/kid products and purchasing the best one? What about scheduling doctor’s appointments and taking them? Or any of the other millions of tasks a mother might do on the daily and the ongoing care of children and home?

RELATED: How To Negotiate A Truly Fair Division Of Labor With Your Spouse

I was a married single mother, the default parent.

My then-husband’s sole job, as he expressed it, was to "provide." But he wasn’t the sole provider. I also worked 40+ hours a week at a job making nearly as much as he was.


While he "relaxed" after his "tough day at work," I was cleaning baby bottles, pumping breast milk for our infant twins, packing their lunches and snacks, reading daycare communication, setting out changes of clothes, folding laundry, catching up on work e-mails I hadn’t been able to get to while I’d been pumping at work, feeding the kids dinner, bathing them, reading them a bedtime story, putting them to bed, and then cleaning up the kitchen. Before bed, I’d set an outfit out for myself and pack my work bag. When I finally collapsed into bed, my then-husband was still on the couch, relaxing.

You might be thinking, That was all your choice! You shouldn’t have had kids if you didn’t want to take care of them!

I wanted children. I actually had to go through IVF to even get the children I had. My then-husband wanted children too, so much so that he told me after our very first date that if I didn’t want kids, I needed to tell him because he wouldn’t continue to date me if I didn’t want them.

See, I thought that when we had kids I would have a partner, a teammate in the raising and care of our children. Instead, I had an extra burden.


In fact, according to one study, "[h]aving a husband creates an extra seven hours a week of housework for women." 

My then-husband made my life harder. Considerably. He set his dishes next to the sink. He left wrappers around that I was always picking up and throwing away. When he brought the mail in, he set the pile of envelopes, unsorted and unopened, on the counter. His work clothes needed to be laundered in a specific way. He also regularly contributed to increasing my stress level by being abusive as well as a secret drug abuser.

He was only abusive because you were a nagging shrew of a wife! You might be thinking, but what a bind I and so many other women are stuck in. "If you’d just told me, I would have done it!" my then-husband and many other husbands have said. But then if we ask, we’re a nag. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

My then-husband and I had multiple conversations about the division of labor in our relationship and how I was exhausted doing it all on my own. He railed whenever I said things like "all on my own."


"I do the yard!" he told me.

"That’s once a week," I’d say in response. "All of the tasks I do are every day for hours every day." He’d shut me down. Call me names. Stonewall me. It didn’t matter how I brought it up. He did enough, and I was "asking for too much."

In couples therapy, this conversation came up whenever we weren’t also addressing more serious issues (like his substance abuse and verbal abuse). He overestimated his contribution to home and childcare duties. He, and many other husbands like him (probably you too), thought he was doing equal housework.

The compromise he offered was that he would do his own laundry. Notice how his idea of "compromising" meant he did his own laundry. Not trading off who did it. Not sharing our children’s. His.


That took maybe an hour off my plate every week. Based on the data, that still left me with about 15 hours per week of caring for our home and 13 hours of caring for our children, for a total of 28 hours per week. 28 hours per week of unpaid labor outside of my full-time job.

I asked him if we could hire housecleaners: "We both work. Why don’t we pay someone to clean for us?" I said.

"Why would we pay someone to do what we can do ourselves?" he said back.

I asked him if we could hire a yard service, considerably cheaper than hiring housekeepers, which would free him up so we could share childcare duties over the weekend. He "enjoyed" doing the yard and didn’t want that "taken away" from him (I learned later that was also his favorite time to use drugs), so he compromised by suggesting each of us have two hours every weekend to do whatever we wanted. It was never enough.


While his leisure time throughout the week included playing video games and watching TV, mine whittled down to reading in bed for a few precious minutes before exhaustion overtook me.

RELATED: No, You Weren’t Blindsided With Divorce — You Just Didn’t Notice The Signs

When I moved out after filing for divorce and became a single divorced parent for the first time, I did less work (and his child support never put any extra money in my pocket, btw. All of it was eaten up by daycare costs).

I only had to care for myself and two children instead of myself, two children, and a full-grown adult male. I actually had true time for leisure, not a "compromise" of two hours every weekend. I took myself on long luxurious bike rides. I could sit and read for an entire hour instead of grabbing at a snatch of time before conking out. Like many other women, I could report a "greater satisfaction after divorce."


My experience in my first marriage isn’t new or even uncommon. It may be surprising to you, as I’ve read in many of my comments that, "no one will want you if you’re a single mother," but I remarried and even had another child. I can also report, whether you believe it or not, that I’m very happily married to my current husband. He is my true partner in life as well as in household work and parenting.

In 2019, Eve Rodsky’s book Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live) was published and finally encapsulated the experience of me and so many other women. Even "good" guys (which you may think of yourself as) haven’t been doing enough, and society has rewarded them for their bare minimum of participation in their homes and with their children.

Social media, particularly TikTok, has made these issues all the more prevalent. #divisionoflabor has thousands of videos, some with over a million views. 

Today, 69 percent or more of divorces are initiated by women.


While lack of commitment and infidelity/extramarital affairs remain the top reasons for divorce, we can’t ignore how "too much conflict and arguing" is third on the list and how the division of labor plays into that.

Chart | Forbes Advisor

Men have been put on notice that division of labor is an issue they need to figure out if they want to remain partnered. Even as early as 2016, Matthew Fray’s article, "She Divorced Because I Left Dishes by the Sink.


I agree wholeheartedly with some of the assertions made in Arash Emamzadeh’s article, "Why Women Are Much More Likely Than Men to Initiate Divorce." 

He writes, "Women, more than men, have a strong desire to provide care for their spouses and children. This desire or willingness to take on housework and childcare even applies to women who work outside the home or earn more than their romantic partners. Having to do household chores and take care of children, on top of a job outside the home, significantly adds to women’s workload. It increases stress and reduces their well-being, relationship satisfaction, and sexual desire for their romantic partner."

The fact is that mothers today are increasingly more stressed and overwhelmed, and their happiness is directly correlated to how involved/supportive their child(ren)’s other parent is.

Though the rates of divorce have declined overall since 2000, you’ll notice that the most recent data is showing an upward trajectory.


Chart | Forbes Advisor

RELATED: Therapist Says Failing Relationships Can Only Be Saved Once A Man Chooses To Take On The Emotional Labor


I imagine that 10 or 15 years from now, this time period may be called "The Great Divorce," or possibly even "The Great Reckoning." 

As more married women become aware that their exhaustion, overwhelm, and stress aren’t something they have to put up with and that they can actually be happier asserting for changes and leaving if they aren’t met, I imagine they’ll be filing for divorce more and more frequently.

It may be wrong of me to make this causal jump, but I see the rise of misogynist thought leaders like Andrew Tate and Steven Crowder as a sign of an "extinction burst." An "extinction burst" is often used to describe behaviors in children. It is a "sudden increase in the frequency, intensity, or duration of … a [bad] behavior just before it extinguishes."

As an example, a parent sets a boundary that his or her child can no longer watch TV an hour before bedtime. Once the parent sets that boundary and continues to enforce it, his or her child may express an "extinction burst" by starting to throw tantrums that get progressively bigger. But as long as the parent holds firm to the boundary, the tantrums will eventually stop. It gets worse before it gets better, but it will get better if the parent holds firms.


These men (who might include you), who don’t want to participate equitably in their homes or in the care of their children, are throwing big collective tantrums.

Just scrolling through the comments on any post, video, or article about division of labor can show you a lot of angry, entitled men. Men who don’t want to change. Men who blame women and feminism and hold up their income as sole proof that they’re "caring" for their families. Men who want to go back to the "traditional" way of things. Men who are clearly unhappy and don’t want to take a hard look at how they have contributed to their own unhappiness.

What women should take away from this "extinction burst" is that if women hold firm to what they do and don’t want in their relationships, ugly behaviors like "weaponized incompetence" will die an unmourned death.

I hope, for my young children’s sake, that this "extinction burst" ends quickly and with no ceremony. I want my daughters to have partners who pick up after themselves, change diapers, meal-plan, unpack school bags, and participate fully in the life they signed up to have. I want my son to know how to do everything a woman can and not poke his nose up and say something is a "woman’s job." 


As a parent, I can only teach my children so much. It’s time for the unwilling portion of the population to catch up.

RELATED: 16 Warning Signs You're Heading Toward A Divorce (Or Probably Should Be)

Tara Blair Ball is a certified relationship coach and podcast co-host for the show, Breaking Free from Narcissistic Abuse. She’s also the author of three books: Grateful in Love, A Couple’s Goals Journal, and Reclaim & Recover: Heal from Toxic Relationships