Who initiates divorce the most? Men or women?

Pop quiz. Who initiates divorces and break-ups? Men or women?

The answer is women. Women are more likely than men to initiate a break-up.

First, men are less likely than women to initiate break-ups (Hegelson, 1994; Hill, Rubin, and Peplau, 1976), and noninitiators of a break-up are more likely than initiators to experience distress (Sprecher, Felmlee, Metts, Fehr, & Vanni, 1998).

Handbook of Gender Research in Psychology, Volume 2 (pg. 297)

But what’s the effect size, I can hear you shout. I don’t know because both papers are paywalled.

Which sex suffers more from a breakup? Men or women?

Exploratory data analyses revealed that women more than men reported experiencing negative emotions after a breakup, particularly feeling sad, confused, and scared.

Breaking up Romantic Relationships: Costs Experienced and Coping Strategies Deployed

But not so fast! From the same paper:

Previous research using various inventories of emotions suggests that women experience more positive valence emotions and less initial distress following a breakup than men (Choo, Levine, and Hatfield, 1996; Hill et al., 1976; Sprecher, 1994; Sprecher et al., 1998).

If I want to abuse the evo-psych habit of fabricating just-so stories, I can reason:

Symmetrical to that second point, I’d expect women to escalate sexual commitment if their long-term partner starts sending I’m-thinking-about-leaving-you vibrations.

Buss anticipates my second point and writes:

Because women value emotional commitment so highly in their mates, men may deploy a counter-strategy to exploit this desire: he may attempt to maintain sexual access to a woman by signaling an increase in his emotional investment to her. In the modern world, men can accomplish this by suggesting they become exclusive to one another, cohabit, obtain a mutual pet, get married, or have children.

How romantic! Thanks evolution.

Right, but as I was going to say — before being distracted by Buss and Perilloux’s paper — this first result makes a lot of sense if you already know that women initiate 70% of all divorces. So it’s nice to see that this trend isn’t some strange artifact of marriage and holds for romantic relationships generally.

Last fun thing. If you dump a woman, yeah, she’s gon’ be mad:

Davis et al. (2003) found that women who did not initiate the break-up reported more anger, hostility, and violence directed at their partner than did men.

Handbook of Gender Research in Psychology, Volume 2 (pg. 297)

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