Some California couples start married life in traditional roles commonly associated with their respective genders. Over time, however, circumstances might change. While growth in a marriage is generally a good thing, a shift in roles may increase the odds of divorce for couples that didn't start with a gender-equal marriage. This is the main takeaway from a Swedish study addressing this topic.
According to researchers, women who started their marriages in traditional gender roles where they earned less than their husbands were more likely to see their marriages end if their career prospects changed. Some women fall into traditional roles early in a marriage because of obligations with children or a need to relocate to support their husband's career. As these demands lessen, a woman exploring her career options may not have as much time to devote to family tasks.
Some men who view themselves as the primary breadwinner in a marriage may become threatened and more controlling if they feel their perceived role is being challenged by a spouse who's suddenly earning the same or more. Conversely, some husbands use a wife's career fortunes as an excuse to work less without contributing more to the marriage. Some women then become resentful if their marriage dynamics change like this. Such issues may be avoidable if couples discuss career expectations prior to marriage and develop an understanding of how a change in roles could affect them.
Couples not able to work through issues related to a change in marital roles may make the decision to end a marriage. If a wife's career took off during a marriage, a family law attorney may advise that a client in this situation consult with an accountant or financial adviser to minimize losses and identify all joint assets that may need to be divided, especially if such assets are significant or difficult to value.