People with disabilities are more likely to get divorced

File this under things to look into about divorce.

There was a recent paper showing that people who experience the onset of a disability face an increased likelihood of divorce, but that’s about all I found in a quick search. Now that we have the giant American Community Survey, which has both disability status and marital events data, we can ask the simple question: In a given year, are people with a reported disability more likely to report they have been divorced in the previous year? The answer is yes.

Age is a tricky issue with disability, since some risks of disability are cumulative over the life course. To do this quickly I just limited this to people ages 18-49. Otherwise the disability group is dominated by older people who have been married a long time, and who have low divorce rates. Here it is, by type of reported disability for the pooled 2009-2011 ACS:

disability-divorceThose are pretty big effects (odds ratios from 1.4 to 1.9). Over a lifetime these odds would really add up.

Economists would tell you that when a spouse experiences the onset of disability, this is new information for the other spouse, and increases his or her chance of leaving the marriage, since the disability implies a decline in future income. Maybe. But what about people who have disabilities already when they get married, which is presumably the case for most of these people. Is having a difficult life a cause of divorce? Is this related to economic stress, or carework obligations (I checked and found not much gender difference, but men’s disability has slightly stronger effects).

If you are interested in this question, don’t let me stop you from pursuing it – send me your results!

25 Comments

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25 responses to “People with disabilities are more likely to get divorced

  1. This makes me think of Ara Francis’s article on the dynamics of family trouble. While she explores how kids with various disabilities (or “problems”) affect family dynamics, I would bet that similar micro-sociological processes are at play among couples here that aren’t captured in an economic explanation. As the mother of a child with a newly-diagnosed – and extremely mild – cognitive disability, I can’t believe how much it (both the behavior and the diagnosis) has influenced our family’s everyday life and self- and family-perceptions.

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    • Thanks, and good tip on that article. A diagnosis in the family itself is an orienting experience (and not just of *dis*ability — “gifted and talented” labeling may have similar effects).

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  2. deafgimp

    Part of the problem is that your able-bodied partner becomes your caretaker when you marry or move in together. People may deny it, but the able-bodied partner will subconsciously do caretaking, and the disabled person will subconsciously accept it. Caretaking puts stressors on a relationship, you see it acutely when someone is suddenly seriously ill and needs a lot more from the relationship.

    Part of the reason I’ve been married so long is that I recognize that caretaking will occur, and I work hard to maintain the level of independence I had prior to the marriage. Sure, it’s easier for us both if my partner does some things for me. It’s a slippery slope. I try to only accept the help if I truly need it. If I can do it myself, I will do so and in the long run it makes the relationship more equitable.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jenny johnson

    when u get divorced with disbilty u on ssi can u win the case of the child

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  4. Gifford

    Married 14 yrs…,have a terrible accident and become a double amputee below the knee….no able to work, 32 months awaiting SSD and I’m a rds in and I get told before my birthday that she wants a divorce….I go for a long walk..have prosthetics and return to find the door locked and I’m not allowed in…police called and was baker acted by officers for some emotional comments…she wouldn’t even pick me up when released …she had to work. Told to leave house and 30 later was in a lawyers office signing divorce papers. Now I’m told that my divorce is final on Feb 14…. So my birthday and Valentines day hold a whole different meaning for me….BUT…I’m told by her that this wasn’t a easy decision for her. I’m very confused and depressed…..and people wonder why. Is there something wrong with this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • RPG

      Yes, but I keep playing that God would have me and take me by His hands.
      Dear Gifford, I am a formal defective with 28 years of experience in forensic investigations. With this said, I really respect life, as I have speak for the dead peoples.
      In my last deployment or assignment, I was pin down and became disabled. I surfed a TBI, have multiple herniated discs in my back, should displacement, legs don’t work properly. After going for multiples surgeries, operations, and therapy, cancer came around. With this last, I notice that my wife became disturbed. Few month later, trouble also came. My wife coordinated a bizarre episodes of the most dramatic moment, days later, I was living in the streets. I prayed. And kept praying for many things. God gave me directions, specially to keep in the fight. It was the fight for my life. I kept going to all my medical appointment, as always, and did my chemotherapy in my car. My God gave at all times what I needed every day. And day by day was a battle for my life. Dear Mr Gifford, today I have been in remission for almost a year, my TBI is in a stage of post concoction with cognoscenti impediments, but verily walking, and in constant pain and headaches. However, I am happy, just because God has been with me at all times. Last December I received some benefits, and I put myself in good one room apartment, after eighteen months living in the streets. Now my ex to be, which works in the Federal Goverment, as part of my benefits of going in to marriage with me, want more. Please, Mr Gifford, my humble advice for you, pray, and pray for all. Keep hope, all will come to a end, and you will see a bright future. Keep you faith up at all times, God is with you, as He is always be with you!
      Take care, and keep the faith.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have been diagnosed with lupus for several years and my wife never seemed to care. I also have other issues and when I lost my job I got SSDI no problem but my wife never seemed to get on board. She has now asked for a divorce, I am 57 she is 43 and we have eight yr old daughter. She spent the night out this valentine’s day with someone I don’t know; it was also our anniversary. One week later and my mind is still reeling….I am so confused and sad and mad and…..

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    • Norm

      Hey Jeff, I’m really sick to read about your situation. I’m 55 and had a stroke in my late 40’s. Physically no change but it ruined my memory and
      I finally went on disability. If there’s any disrespect in the wife’s head it
      will really show up when things go wrong. It’s her issue, my friend, but I’m
      sorry you have to suffer for it. You are still a man and you are worthy of
      respect. You may be the only one who knows it but never let anyone let
      you forget it. My wife showed her nasty side as well when she knew I
      was defenseless but I’m a man who’s still worthy of respect and so are you. Never, never, never give up.

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      • Thank you Norm. I will be okay. I didn’t really want my wife to change when I got sick and then sicker, mostly fatigue and pain. I wanted her to respect my effort to continue on, with limitations becoming obvious as we progressed together, and learning the obstacles well enough to accomadate my illness somewhat in all the necessary functions of life. That process never happened for some reason and we simply “broke down” under the pressure and became dis-functional in most respects, especially communications.

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  6. Kishore

    I am Hanticaped man But Lovely and all right

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  7. bj canaway

    As a nurse practitioner now disabled permanently due to neck injuries, TBI and unstable blood pressure which can cause sudden loss of consciousness. I too understand the nightmare we each face. I also ended a longtime marriage because I was the major breadwinner and could not avoid foreclosure or bankruptcy. His loss, my gain..People who will not support you when you are down will reap what they sow. Keep your head up and don’t descend to their level.
    1. Keep your medical appointments if you can. 2. Keep your documents (both medical and financial) somewhere safe and in order. 3. Hire an attorney ASAP to get your SSI/SSD as quickly as possible. 4. Seek food stamps and or welfare if needed and available. 5. If you are a Veteran, take advantage of any available help from the VA. 6. Do not be ashamed to ask for help from friends, family, charities or church etc. Supposedly, that is what we are there for. God put some of these people in your life to help support and lift you up. But like those who received miracles during Christ’s time on Earth, if you don’t reach out …no one knows you need help.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Michelle

    Wow! I am sad to read all your stories. Unlike you all, the survivors, I am the caregiver, considering a divorce to my husband of 7 years (been together for 21 years). I should mention my husband is 40 and I am 37 years old.

    My husband sustained his first TBI 10 years ago when a pry bar fell out of an attic and on the back of his head. Then, last year, he was in a near-fatal car accident, resulting in his second TBI (multiple brain surgeries to the left frontal lobe, plus he broke just about every bone in his face and jaw).

    His first TBI resulted in a brain bleed with the end result being 24/7 chronic and debilitating headaches. I was able to handle being his wife, and making the best out of things, for about the first 7 years after his injury. Then, because of his chronic pain, he has become extremely angry, depressed and suicidal. We have guns all over our house (as he will not give them up). In the last 9 months he has shot them off 4 times, hitting himself once in the hand and another time the bullet went thru the bill of his hat as he had the gun pointed under his chin and slipped out, to go thru his hat. The other two times he randomly shot them off when he knew that I knew we was depressed, causing me to worry like crazy until I was able to get to him to find him alive (as he wouldn’t respond to my screams before finding him). Oh, did I mention he is on a ton of different medications, including narcotics, which has allowed him to attempt to OD multiple times (as he insists on making sure I watch him take handfuls of morphine and Oxy)…the most recent being last week when he took over 1,000mg. Most of the time I get to live with him taking too many meds with the end result of him acting like a fallen-down drunk (slurring his speech, sweating, drooling on himself, not being able to have a conversation/mumbling, eyes rolling to the back of his head, him not being able to walk, but crawling because he can’t walk, etc). With the over medicated state, I don’t always have to live with all those examples, but it is mostly the first five I listed.

    He talks about killing himself daily. Oftentimes, I think it’s a cry for help although he says its not. I feel extremely manipulated by his constant threats. He already sees a counselor and a psychiatrist on a regular basis. Some of you may ask why I don’t have him committed to a psychiatric hospital. If it were as “simple” as anger and depression I would have done it a long time ago, but it’s the chronic pain that causes him to not want to live. Who can blame him? I have thought for a long time that its not a matter of IF, but WHEN.

    In addition to the suicide issues, he is not the same person. He does not have the ability to express his emotions and intimacy toward me, is extremely impulsive, cannot recognize when I am having a bad day to comfort me, has a hard time communicating with me on basic levels, etc. We are unable to really go out and do anything together, including a simple dinner or movie. We usually sit around the house and don’t talk about anything at all, just live in the same house.

    It is because of these reasons, and more, that I am currently seriously considering divorce. I feel absolutely terrible and guilty for coming to this realization. I feel like I can’t do this anymore. If I knew he would only be alive for another year or two I would most definitely stay with him and not put us both thru the divorce process. But, if he will be alive for another 5-10+ years, I just cannot see myself here and living like this.

    He has been on disability for about the last 8-9 years. We all know SSI doesn’t pay very well. I often worry that if we divorce that financially, he will not be able to support himself. I couldn’t stand to know if he were homeless or living in a crappy apartment.

    I really do love him, but don’t feel in love with him. I miss the old him, and it makes me so sad to even think about this, as I know I will never get it back. My husband and I see the same counselor, separately, and it was recently that the counselor told me that we don’t have a marriage. This was really sad to hear, but was also helpful in that it validated my thoughts and feelings, and made me realize I am not crazy.

    I am not sure if any of this helps you, the survivors, with the caretaker side. No matter how any of this works out, for any of us, nobody wins, ever. Any advice I can get from you would be helpful. Thank you very much and the best of luck to all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • RPG

      Dear Michelle:
      You have written a fantastic way, and comprehensive point of view. I congratulate you over “the idea” what is 21 century of marriage.

      However, I have personally seen what is that you are going through. I have been around many cases very similar like you. (Similar because there is no case as equal, but near or similar symptoms.)

      I also have developed many relationships with Neurologist, and they have all, all agreed that they only have some information to treat the TBI or Post-Concoction Brain Injuries. (Please, go to Braininjury.org) This organization has the most advance discoveries, treatments, and rehabilitation process. Your husband with have, and deserve this help.

      I am talking to you from my deep in my heart. In 2009 I came from duty pretty much dead. I suffered multiples traumas including a TBI. After 9 surgeries, 5 year of all types of treatment, at least my brain have settle, some. As I said above, there is not a case equal, but similar. So the treatments are different. And not having the best Neurologist around it makes it even worth.

      In my case, whether I was to traumatized, resting all the surgeries, or simply the brain injury was not enough to bring the symptom of depression, angry, I am bless because I have had a slow recovery, painful but slow.

      Today, I am learning to read, write, and trying to put my brain in better conditions, with passions from a passion. I am starting to speed some better. But I have God with me.

      Futhermore, two year in the making of my recovery I came with cancer. I was a new that came in the wrong time. But if I was alive, I will deal with it as well. (It was a bug in a glass of milk.) However, this was not the opinion of my family.

      During this hart, overwhelming period for all within the family, my wife some was using illicit drug at 20 years old and living home, my little daughter 14 year old wants to have sex, and my wife was having a romantic relationship with a coworker.

      So, where I go from that unpopular, distressful position? In bed, copping with pain from the surgeries, with the worth painful headache, dizziness, and then the effects of the chemotherapy. As these was not enough, when I verbalized there unfaithful predicaments through me, in a peaceful way, few days later they invented a story, and put me out of the house, no questions asked. I was living in the streets after 25 years of marriage.

      God has been with me at all times. Today, as I write to you, I am still happy, growing stronger then ever, and still jockeying of myself. I have a beautiful life. (Being a Boy scout really paid off.)

      This is just a brush of a humble experience. There is (were) 269,000 patriotic military personnel, 150,000 football players, 65,000 law enforcement and security officers, and much more people that has gone similar circumstances like yours. I will say that over a million people, man and woman, going through the most blizzard experience in life.

      What is life for? What is marriage for? Where are values are for?

      Truly your,

      RPG

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  9. I my case was a little different , I was declared disable for life since 2007 at edge 40 my wife and I went true a lot . Finally in 2012 I had receive a transplant and sudden I start feeling like my young 30s , strong and ready to start working and do the thing I don’t did for years. I start be more desire, and ask my wife for more sex and do it do it again and again. Like my wife just meet other me, I ask her going to dance, enjoy life, this new me get her confuses, and one day she talk me she was tired of that. She like better the calm in the time I was sick. And we get divorced after 21 years of marriage. I will be there if you need of me when you be sick again. The last word I had from her

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  11. Here is one for you wife joins FB dating sites, gambling, does not buy food , spends my mother’s entire life insurance policy last year after her death on spending spree and puts us into CH 13 for 3rd time .. I and my 2 minors move up the street with 20 year to my mom’s old house, now she is mad does not know how she is going to make it. Avid smoker, scratch off ticket queen, bi-polar and overall … I am disabled, stroke, form of MS, diabetes and lung problems 14 years … 47 still working PT as news features editor. 5 kids and 22 years later she is wondering why we are gone … has never served as a caregiver for me and immediately tries to remove me and the kids from her health insurance one week after we leave … a complete psychopath and family killer!

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  13. Joan O'Connor

    I am trying to find out how a person can get a
    divorce from a spouse who is disabled and needs round the clock care and can’t afford to pay facility care. There are also 3 children not doing well. Ages 11-13-16.
    The person wanting the divorce can’t leave and the disabled person can’t leave or stay alone in the home. How can it be done with the best interests of all in mind.
    Thank you. Sure hope you can point us in the right.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Patricia

    Hello,

    I met my husband who was already disabled and on SSD in 1995. He was not in the best of health after suffering a trauma in 1996. I was always the breadwinner (I never really made a lot of money) but it was more than is check and enough to afford us a decent lifestyle. He’s more than 10 years older than me. That was never an issue. We have 2 children. Life has always been a challenge. As many of you all know when you suffer a trauma expect surgeries for the rest of your life. I have ALWAYS been there at his side for each one and nursed hm back to “his normal”. Now I’m 40, he’s over 50 and 2ith one child a senior in high school I feel like I have missed out on life. I had my children young, so I didn’t experience a normal teenage years, normal 20’s and normal 30’s. I have nothing in common with my peers. I’m not very social because I have been either working or at home taking care of him and his brother (his brother is mentally disabled after a childhood accident). I’m socially awkward, don’t have friends. Basically I feel like I lived in a cave for 20 years.

    I truly think we have grown apart. Yes, I love my husband, I truly do. He has been a constant figure for the last 20 years of my life. But I want to enjoy life, go out, go dancing (which my husband cannot do being physically disabled).

    I want to live and see the world.

    Thank you,
    Patty

    Like

    • Sounds like you already moved on Patty … I would not leave someone to think you will be there any longer (especially as dependent as he seems to be) at least help him to a new life before you make your NEW YOU … my ex DID NOT and she left me with my kids, bills an bankruptcy plus a pending abandonment of a house in limbo down the street … I speak as a disabled person, but fully recovered from my stroke but still with a lot of health issues, MS, Diabetes n Such and I still work and make more than she does between SSD and Newspaper Features Editing PT Freelance … when I see this statement … `I truly think we have grown apart. Yes, I love my husband, I truly do. He has been a constant figure for the last 20 years of my life. But I want to enjoy life, go out, go dancing (which my husband cannot do being physically disabled).’ … `I want to live and see the world.’ … I instead could have gone hog wild – I put my kids first!

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  15. Both my spouse and I are disabled. She might disagree with even printing this and she methodically… Nags. Which pushes me to cerebral suicide.

    I can do the right thing.
    Which is right?
    I’d say NOT divorce and leave physically before I shoot myself.

    Love is hard as a soft heart every could

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  16. James

    This is Long and shows how I overcame one disability at 20 and after finding a mate at 34 and being married for 17 years, I need to find a way past another. Thank you for reading my story and commenting on the rambling style.

    I lost most of my right foot in a motorcycle accident at age twenty. It took two years of recovery before I had the confidence to start dating again. I went out dancing with buddies who helped me build up courage to ask ladies to dance. I practiced at home to find ways to move so my missing foot was not obvious. I had offers to go home with some but I could not have them learn my foot was club shaped and ugly. I went out with an old girlfriend and we ended up in bed and my foot was not an issue. That one night changed my new self imposed limited world. I still did not like to see my foot, and even wore my prosthetic to bed at night, so it would look like my toes were still there, under the covers like my left foot. I had always been good at flirting but now I had to be careful since I still really had no confidence to have a sexual relationship but I knew It was possible. I had several dates over the next year with which intercourse was on the menu by my flirting however knowing and being able to let it happen was very hard and I did my best to hide my disability so I ended most of these dates after intense oral sex for them. Making sure they were brought to orgasm by words and technique from the adult videos I rented just for that purpose besides the personal needs. I recommend this to every young man. Not for the objectifying of women but those that have girl on girl show you more techniques than men on women. That was freshman year of college and I was living at home. For the next three years I was in the residence halls on campus. I still stuck to oral sex and that allowed me to escape the possibility of being rejected somehow. I had several repeat dates because I told them I them was saving intercourse for Marraige and even when a few wanted to reciprocate I told them Mmm, that sounds great but next time perhaps and though they had felt my excitement in my pants I did not want pants to come off. LOL (funny choice of words there). Twice I gave in only because they were sitting on edge of bed and I did not undress for one and the other was another world changer when she told me she thought I was insecure about my body or something and it didn’t matter to her. I told her and we got naked. She had a small mole on her right breast and said for a long time she did not want anyone to see her breasts and kept her bra on. I wasn’t sure it was equal but now I know people are over sensitive about many things that don’t really matter I’m fifty now. Not long after that I met a redhead girl of same faith as myself and we dated the remainder of college and I thought we would marry. I put her on a Pedestal and she was still a Virgin and after a year and a half she wanted to have intercourse and of course she already knew and we had a wonderful three and a half years together. She finished school 2 semesters before me and move back home 60 miles away and her curiosity and my absence got the better of her since I had already been around the block a couple times and she had nothing to compare. I was Heart broken! At 26 I was single again but without as much fear though I did revert some to not saying anything about foot, my dates rarely noticed. However I still thought of my disability as a defect and I would need to find a girl with her own insecurities to accept me as an equal partner. {Wrong thinking!}

    I finally found one at my own place of worship who was divorced with an eight year old boy. After dating for eighteen months I married at 35yrs old and she 3 years younger. She had been around the block much more than I and had been married twice and had lots of insecurity. We have triplet daughters. We have been married 17 years.
    Our daughters are 15 and her son whom I adopted is 27 and on his own. Eight years ago I broke my right leg at work and it would not heal properly and after two years had ankle fused. That did not solve the loose Bone chip area where the double spiral break came back together. The ankle fusion did not work well and four years ago I had a below knee amputation. I have had several surgeries during g this time. Our situation went from me being the primary care giver until they were seven since she worked during the day for a large pharmaceutical company while I moved to working nights. I had been at the same job for sixteen years for the government. I made more money than she for the first few years but as she moved up in her private Corp job she is making twice my salary. Having to rearrange her schedule with me injured and not reliably ambulatory she had to take on more home duties too.
    I have the right to go back to school for two years when I get to my maximum medical improvement which is just around the corner after one more surgery. So I’m thinking we are in home stretch and both my legs will be fixed and I will be back on my foot and back to full strength. I have already worked off 30lbs. Suddenly when I start to assert myself getting back to being on top of things Dad and husband, things start going horribly wrong. Keep in mind my wife does not do sick or injured well. She is not a comforter and does not have a nurturing bone in her. She is impatient when kids have had illness. We were unable to have intercourse much over the last couple years but we have never had a spectacular sexlife. She has been quite selfish there and I have always made sure her needs have been met in the past. Even when it was painful for me. She is not into reciprocal lovemaking. She knows it and just apologizes. So a few months ago she tells me if she can’t get her sexual needs met by me she will find it elsewhere. That sure as heck shook me up! She had not shown any interest in having sex and only if I initiated it at the right time. Not when she’s upset, not when she’s sleeping, when she needed to work in the morning, just No right time. I have no trouble getting her aroused at any time but I’m supposed to know when. If I do and she gets aroused she wants her orgasm go back to sleep or whatever she thinks she needs to do. So after that comment and some others issues that have come with me being broken, we go to Marraige counseling with her therapist which I thought would be good since she knows most of the life issues of my wife, the therapist can nudge me in the right direction to make wife happy and me integrating back in to family life. I have enough of my own issues with leg and opposite knee that keeps me down plus the 4 Lumbar vertebrae that I had to have fused and the titanium rods and there is so much home repair that is needed that I cannot do in current condition and we don’t have the funds to have a professional come in and do them. We have had about six sessions in which I realized her therapist does not know the same person I do. We went to say the tough things to each other with a referee to help make it contructive and learn to work together. My wife wanted me out of my bedroom more, and keeping children doing chores, being at the supper table, being more involved with family, and work on the house. I have met all those goals and more and yet she doesn’t have any trouble getting angry and saying so.
    Yesterday eve see says she wants to talk to me. Her tone Beggs me to ask “is it going to hurt ” humorously. She says”yes, on a scale of one to ten it’s an eleven”. So I say, “well, you had sex with someone else, or you want a divorce”. [She says no, I don’t want a divorce, but I don’t want to be a couple either I’m gonna stop trying. So I say “that means what? That we should live together but get our sexual needs met elsewhere? She says “no but we live her together we can’t afford a divorce I am just tired of trying”.] So, I have really no idea what trying actually means, except that she wants the old me back. I don’t see my leg growing back even though I water it every day. My knee knee is about to get a partial replacement and my back aches after I mow just a quarter of our corner lot so it takes me a few days to mow it all with kids away at summer camp. So I am a 51 year old guy with an amputated below knee right leg, torn meniscus and arthritic right knee where it was injured in the fall that broke right leg into 5 pieces and a fused back and a wife who wants the Old me back after several years of sugical and recovery HELL plus an additional 3 months in hospital since one surgery caused a staph infection and 24/7 IV every four hours for those 3 months trying to sleep and rarely seeing my family and after going through all THAT we can’t be a married couple? but we’ll pretend and play house for the kids sake and be friends with benefits? And I still love her but I am completely vexed! Angry, and hurt.

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  18. When you are married but seperated by bed and board then does the one person have the right to get disability tags because the other has is on disability

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