The Love Goddess: In Sickness and in Health … But Hold the Sickness

When illness strikes, a new study shows that men are more likely to run for the hills.

Editor’s Note: Who is the wisest of them all? Who is more dedicated to your pleasure than anyone on earth? Who can help you when you’re going online for the first time to find love; or when your lover’s children hate you; or when you want to strangle your husband? Why, the Love Goddess, of course. She promises nothing less than celestial wisdom, heavenly sex, divine dating. Read on … 

This just in: When men receive a diagnosis of brain cancer, their wives give them the nurturance and support they need. But women who get a similar diagnosis often face separation or divorce, according to Tara Parker-Pope’s blog in The New York Times. 

Now that, my darling lovers down there on earth, is information that upsets our whole galaxy. Divorce, we all know, can make you seriously ill. So why would any man, even an unhappy one, even an overwhelmed one, allow his already desperately sick wife to face the additional stress of separation or divorce? Yet, among 515 patients in a study conducted by Dr. Marc Chamberlain, a Seattle oncologist, and his colleagues, the women receiving these life-threatening diagnoses were seven times more likely to become separated or divorced than men who received the same diagnoses.

I suppose we can come up with all kinds of easy answers. For example, perhaps these men simply can’t handle the onslaught of emotion and disruption their wives’ illnesses cause, in themselves, in their wives, in their children. But the question is: Why not? Men are strong and tough and courageous, right? They save lives every second of the day when they’re at war. They nurture and support each other selflessly. They sacrifice their own lives in battle with a love that is beyond extraordinary.

So what makes this battle so different? Is it that some men, like the tired stereotype suggests, never get the hang of nurturing their lovers, as if hardwired to receive selfless love from women but not to give it? And if it is a Guy Thing (we can’t be sure, after all, who’s initiating these separations and why), then what, precisely, can’t men handle that women can? 

It could be that it’s not the men who decide to leave their sick spouses, but the women who end the relationship. In all the statistics I’ve seen, women initiate divorce far more often than men do. If that’s the case, why would they do so at a time of such unimaginable stress? Is it possible that the wives in these studies actually feel better going it alone than facing deterioration or death with spouses who can’t rise to the occasion? Is it for them a more desperate feeling to be emotionally abandoned at such a time, when their survival might be in question, than to be literally alone? 

And finally, how do circumstances that we vow to be prepared for (the “thick or thin” part of love; the “in sickness and in health” clause) become nothing more than just wishful thinking, a ghost of marriage past, as dated and extinct as the notion of loving one person forever? 

I would love to hear from you, my smart and loving readers, about this. In my eons of experience with couples, this one has me stymied. And heartsick.

Like all savvy goddesses, the Love Goddess has her own site, which you can visit by clicking here.

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