Your wedding vows probably included the phrase “in sickness and in health,” but what happens when illness actually does come to roost?

It may depend on your gender and the seriousness of the illness as much as it does the strength of your marriage. Men are more likely to ask for a divorce when a partner has a serious illness than women.

Several different studies have looked at illnesses like cancer, lung disease and stroke and their effect on marital stability. While the divorce risk went up for women with chronic, severe medical problems, the same wasn’t true for men.

Why do husbands bolt more than wives when their spouses get sick? It isn’t entirely clear, but sociologists think it may have to do with the relative benefits that each spouse sees from their marital relationship. Women often take on a nurturing role and act as their spouse’s caregivers and personal support team. When they get sick, they can’t continue doing so — and husbands find themselves questioning why they’re actually in the marriage.

Naturally, every relationship is different. Sometimes wives decide they can’t cope with a spouse’s cancer diagnosis. Sometimes a husband’s dedication to a sick wife knows no boundaries. If your relationship is already shaky, however, a chronic illness can expose how deep the flaws really run.

If your spouse wants out of the marriage after you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness, there’s nothing you can do about it — except look to your own interests. Your illness may have ramifications when it comes to the division of the marital assets and when determining support. Speak to an experienced advocate today.