Women with a successful career seem to have it all from the outside looking in- but unfortunately, research has revealed that this success takes a steep toll on their personal lives. Furthermore, when traditional societal roles are switched, women with successful, high status careers are more likely to be subjected to abuse from their partners and end up divorced.
Personal costs of career success
A 2018 white paper published by Swedish professors Olle Folke and Johanna Rickne looked at 30 years of demographic data to examine the change in marital status of men and women before and after they received promotions. Three years into the new role, women were twice as likely to be divorced, whereas men showed no increased risk of divorce.
Gender traditional relationships
This begs the question, why is this happening? The divorced women studied were in gender traditional relationships. The study looked at Swedish men and women with access to equal amounts of parental leave, so researchers defined gender traditional couples as those in which the female used more of her parental leave than her spouse. They found that the risk of divorce was heightened in relationships that began with the female not working, earning less than her partner, or postponing her career ambitions to accommodate her husband’s. When a woman’s career picked up later, the marriage suffered and was likely to end in divorce, particularly when women started to earn more than their partner. However, the risk of divorce was not higher when the careers of both spouses were of equal priority from the start.
The authors propose this marital discord resulted from the husband’s difficulty adjusting to changes in household and parenting tasks which required him to do more than before due to her increased demands at work. It also suggests that women are more likely to leave marriages that fail to support their professional aspirations. Unfortunately, some women decide to abandon their professional ambitions for the sake of their marriage. Research has shown that married women with a high earning potential are less likely to be working at all.
Discussion is needed
If you are engaged or newly married, this study highlights the need to consider prenuptial and postnuptial agreements with your partner and the importance of discussing gender roles, mutual expectations and your current and future career aspirations. If you are married and contemplating divorce, this study goes to show that you are not the only woman who has faced these types of disappointments in her personal life.
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