Metro Weekly

Lesbians much more likely to divorce than gay men, according to data

Female couples account for three times as many divorces, continuing year-on-year trend

marriage, wedding, couple, ring
Photo: Joseph Pearson / Unsplash

New data from the United Kingdom suggests that same-sex female couples are much more like to divorce than same-sex male couples.

According to the Office for National Statistics, almost three-quarters of same-sex divorces in England and Wales in 2019 were between lesbian couples, PinkNews reports.

Out of 822 divorces in 2019, female couples comprised 589, with male couples the remaining 233.

While same-sex divorces account for less than one percent of divorces in England and Wales, the ONS did say that rates are increasing, reflecting “the increasing size of the same-sex married population since 2014.”

Although the number of divorces has dramatically increased — for instance, only 428 same-sex couples divorced in 2018 — the ratio of divorces has remained similar.

Female couples accounted for 72% of divorces in 2019, 75% in 2018, 74% in 2017, and 78% in 2016.

Same-sex marriage was introduced in March 2014 in England and Wales. Scotland, which reports marriage and divorce data separately, introduced same-sex marriage in December 2014.

The ONS noted that while female couples divorced at much higher rates last year, the median duration of same-sex marriages was similar — 4.3 years for male couples and 4.1 years for female couples.

The most common reason cited for divorce was unreasonable behavior, with 65% of same-sex couples divorcing for that reason — 70% of male couples, and 63% of female couples.

Kanak Ghosh, a statistician in the ONS Vital Statistics Outputs Branch, said in a statement: “Same-sex couples have been able to marry in England and Wales from March 2014. Since then, we have seen the number of divorces of same-sex couples increase each year from very small numbers in 2015 when the first divorces took place, to more than 800 in 2019, reflecting the increasing size of the same-sex married population in England and Wales.”

Ghosh continued: “While we see that 56 per cent of same-sex marriages were among females, nearly three-quarters of same-sex divorces in 2019 were to female couples. Unreasonable behavior, which includes adultery, was the most common ground for divorce among same-sex couples this year as almost two-thirds of couples divorced for this reason.”

While ONS offered no explanation for the discrepancy between divorce rates for gay and lesbian couples, data for heterosexual couples show that women are almost twice as likely to petition for divorce than men.

Speaking with The Economist earlier this year, Lisa Power, one of the co-founders of LGBTQ rights charity Stonewall, said that lesbians tend to move into a relationship and onto marriage more quickly than gay men, adding, “We all used to move in with each other at the drop of a hat.”

Ayesha Vardag, president of a divorce lawyer firm, said that women are also less likely to tolerate infidelity and are more likely to have been married before.

She told the Economist that, gay or straight, there are also numerous similarities between her clients: “It’s distress about adultery or domestic violence, not being listened to, the sense of one party slogging away and the other one taking it easy. All the same things crop up.”

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's online editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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