The Oscar Curse: Divorce

The Post about the world being unfair to women is no Phantom Thread. Even when women succeed, they face challenges men don’t – and may want to Get Out. Winning the Oscar for Best Actress, for example, is a major accomplishment, but can also be the Darkest Hour if winning the Oscar means divorce.

The Shape of Divorce

In recent years, anecdotal evidence suggesting that winning an Academy Award — the “Oscar” — for Best Actress puts a woman’s marriage at risk for divorce.

The phenomenon has prompted the media to speculate about the existence of an “Oscar curse” – that an actress’ husband will leave her once she’s won an Academy Award.

Is there any scientific evidence for the Oscar Curse?

After looking at the 751 nominees in the best actor and actress categories of the Academy Awards from 1936 through 2010, researchers concluded that Best Actress winners have a 63% chance of their marriages ending sooner than non-winners.

However, the Best Actor winners do not experience any increase in the risk of divorce after an Oscar. Is there any truth to this Oscar Curse?

According to a study reported in an article in the New York Times, the old social norms for marriages were that a husband’s income and job status was higher than his wife’s.

New studies are showing that men may even be avoiding women whose intelligence and ambition exceeds their own.

Studies are also showing that violating the old social norm about marriage can cause strains in a marriage. The result is that a wife’s high income has been linked to an increased risk of divorce at all levels of the husband’s income, but especially when the wife’s income exceeds her husband’s.

A Marriage’s Dunkirk

I’ve written about the causes of divorce before. There are many reasons clients file for divorce. The top reasons I hear repeatedly include: difficult in-laws, financial problems, constant separation due to travel, and bad communication habits.

I recently read a reason I hadn’t come across before: a church caused it! A Florida husband sued his church for encouraging his wife to leave him, even helping her move out of their marital home after 28 years of marriage.

“The defendant’s pastor made multiple visits to Plaintiff and his wife’s residence to play Wii games with them not at the invitation of the Plaintiff”

The husband says his wife paid 60 percent of the household bills, and that he has struggled financially since she left him. He is suing the church for $180,000, in addition to $10 million in punitive damages.

Not exactly the Oscar Curse, but the Florida case is another example of old marital norms putting a strain on a long-term marriage.

Oscar Party?

One study in the New York Times article found that Oscar wins are associated with a greater risk of divorce for Best Actresses. Interestingly, the correlation with divorce did not extend to winners for Best Actors.

The study shows an asymmetric effect of winning an Oscar for best actress but not best actor. What does that outcome prove though?

Some say it means women face an increased risk of divorce which may be due to their husbands’ discomfort with their wives’ fame and success.

There’s another possibility. Others argue that after a major success in fame and money, a wife may grow dissatisfied with her marriage. Maybe the wife has outgrown the marriage, or has the confidence and to move away from a bad relationship.

The New York Times article is here.