Why do women initiate divorce more than men?

At PKWA Law, we see women asking for divorce more than men.

This is not just an anecdotal observation. Statistics also prove that more women than men are likely to ask for a divorce. According to the Department of Statistics data released in July 2016, divorce was initiated by the woman in 61.6 per cent of the cases. The most common grounds for divorce in Singapore are as follows:

  • More than half (53.7 per cent) of plaintiffs in civil divorces cited “unreasonable behaviour” as the main reason for divorce.
  • 42.6 per cent cited “having lived apart or separated for three years or more”.

Why do women initiate divorce more than men? Here are some reasons:

Education and careers

More than ever, women are more educated and have better careers than at any time before. As women become more educated and therefore more affluent, they are more empowered to make decisions like getting a divorce if they are unhappy. Women feel that they are financially secure enough to leave a marriage and to seek happiness elsewhere. They no longer feel helpless and hapless.

Social stigma

The days when divorce is considered a social stigma are long gone. These days, it is acceptable to be a divorced woman. Society no longer frowns on women who are divorced.

Men prefer to accept the status quo

For most women, when they get married, life becomes more complicated. They are busy with their careers, and on top of that, they are expected to look after the home and the husband. When children come along, they are expected to be the dominant person looking after and caring for them.

The reverse is true for the men – once they get married, their lives become easier. They come home expecting a clean house with cooked meals; they no longer have to worry so much about their personal grooming. So men tend to accept the status quo because it is harder to give up the perks and convenience of married life. Men are change-averse.

For a woman, she will probably try everything to keep the marriage (and children) together until her tolerance breaks. However, once a marriage is no longer fulfilling or happy, she estimates that a divorce will probably improve the quality of her life.

Adultery and money problems

Based on my experience as a divorce lawyer, women can tolerate just about anything, including years of neglect and abuse. However, they will draw the line at 2 things – repeated adultery by the men and the man’s money woes.

I have come across many cases where women can tolerate and forgive their husbands for their extramarital affairs. Still, they cannot tolerate if the men repeatedly and willfully continue with the affairs and ask their wife to accept it.

Then, some men do not contribute to the finances either through gambling or squandering of money. But, again, the women feel that this poses a significant risk to them – they worry about their futures with a man who is constantly broke and constantly asking them for money.

If there are children involved, the women who find out that their husbands are repeatedly cheating on them or who are draining the family of money will be more determined to seek a divorce. These women are worried not just about their futures but also that of their children.


Women now expect more out of life and more out of marriage. As a result, more women find it unacceptable to be in a loveless, boring or abusive marriage. They will try to work things out by attempting to talk, but they are a lot more comfortable initiating divorce once they conclude that things are irreparable.

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Lim Chong Boon

Head of Family Law & General Litigation Practice

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