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If there were ever a time to remind your husband of the vows he took at the altar, this is it. But, really, if he needs reminding, go ahead and just bop him over the head now, because you'll want to in a minute after you read this:
The March 2015 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior revealed the results of a study out of Iowa State University that shows husbands are more likely to divorce their sick wives—with the divorce rate ticking up by 6 percent when she's down and out. Despite this, the divorce rate remains unchanged when it's the husband who is sick.
Amelia Karraker, the lead author of the study, wasn't necessarily able to nail down a precise reason for the discrepancy, although she does analyze how being sick can add stress to relationships.
“There is a difference between feeling too sick to make dinner and needing someone to actually feed you," she said. "That’s something that can really change the dynamics within a marriage. If your spouse is too sick to work, we know that financial strain is a major predictor of divorce in and of itself.”
Another factor is quality of care, according to Karraker, which is to say women are often better nursemaids than their husbands, "because men, especially older men, have not been socialized to be caregivers in the same way women have, and are less comfortable in that role."
Who mistreats or doesn't treat well enough the most important woman in his life when she most needs him? It's a give and take, and a two-way street.
Interestingly, there is no actual solid indication that the husbands are initiating the divorce in the event of their wives' illnesses. That means it's possible that it is the wives who are dissatisfied with their husbands' ability to offer a little tea and sympathy and decide to throw in the towel.
“Life or death experiences may cause people to reevaluate what’s important in their lives,” Karraker said. “It could be that women are saying, ‘You’re doing a bad job of caring for me. I’m not happy with this, or I wasn’t happy with the relationship to begin with, and I’d rather be alone than be in a bad marriage.’”
Thankfully for me, I'm not in a bad marriage. I love my husband, and plenty of other men, too. That being said, I still kind of want to give a "Moonstruck" Cher "Snap out of it!" smack to every man, the good and bad ones alike. Who does that? Who mistreats or doesn't treat well enough the most important woman in his life when she most needs him? It's a give and take, and a two-way street. Isn't the whole idea of marriage one big gamble, anyway? You've found someone you think you want to spend your life with who might do many things, including always be loving, healthy and caring, but it could turn out that your partner ends up needing you and not being able to give you much in return because of what ails them. Presumably everyone knows this, and yet some freak out and fail anyway when dealt what amounts to a bad hand. Ugh. Just, ugh.
Of course when I underwent a bi-lateral mastectomy in 2014, my husband glued himself to my side at my weakest, grossest points. That includes when my post-surgical drains needed to be cleaned, which meant manually squeezing gobs of the foulest substance out of plastic tubing. (If possible, it's even more disgusting than it sounds.) He never blinked, cringed or held his nose. He's not perfect (nor am I, natch), but if he were the type of man who would have left me when I got cancer, I almost think it would have been my fault for marrying him in the first place.
Speaking of kicking someone with cancer to the curb, Karraker said she became interested in the subject when Sen. John Edwards and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich both dumped their long-time wives who were stricken with cancer.