Women in the military put their lives on the line for their country. But according to new statistics, many of them also fight to keep their marriages alive. Servicewomen, say the numbers directly from the Pentagon, are twice as likely to join the ranks of those seeking divorce advice in Pasadena than their male military counterparts.
An estimated 220,000 women have served in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2009, 7.8 percent of women in the military got a divorce, according to Pentagon statistics recently published by The Associated Press and ABC News. In contrast, only 3 percent of military men filed for divorce. Almost 9 percent of the military's female enlisted corps and not-commissioned officers wound up divorced, compared to just more than 3 percent of the men.
According to an article published in 2010 by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Brookings Institution, military women also get divorced at higher rates than civilian wives outside of the military. Military men, on the other hand, divorce at much lower rates than civilian husbands. The armed forces also has more single moms than single dads, meaning military children are deeply affected by the statistics as well. Yet why women in the military are divorcing more remains a mystery.
Experts theorize societal pressures could be a contributing factor. It's a strange situation: As the military increasingly treats women the same as it treats men in terms of their work expectations, society still expects them to fulfill their family roles. And that's not equally balanced between men and women, says David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland.
Others say women GIs are less conventional, therefore making it less likely they would stay in a bad marriage. Retired Air Force Colonel Kimberly Olson says the marital pressures could be caused by the armed forces' own old-fashioned values. "You've got to look at the realities of what military life is like on the family, and it really is kind of set up around a traditional married model of a husband (who works) and a wife that runs the house, if you will,"she says.
Olsen also believes many returning women warriors are thrown back into their roles as wives and mothers without time to transition.