Lately, the case for female vulnerability and weakness was made (http://mattforney.com/2013/09/16/the-case-against-female-self-esteem/ ). The “weak women are hot” thing in general seems to be relatively popular. Some people would even say that women have a hard time staying attracted and loyal to their husbands when they are ill and incapacitated, while the same is not true for husbands’ attraction to wives ( comment section in http://sunshinemaryandthedragon.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/training-women-to-love-their-men-what-to-do-when-he-is-injured-or-ill/ ). I have doubts about this.
First, there is this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1214051/Men-likely-leave-sick-partners-study-shows.html A study reports that if someone gets seriously ill, divorce occurs more often if this person is a woman.
“Of the 23 divorces in the multiple sclerosis patients, 22 occurred in couples in which the woman was ill, and just one in a marriage where the man was the patient.
Similarly, 18 of the 23 brain tumour patients whose marriage ended were women, as were 13 out of the 14 with other cancers, the U.S. study found.
Overall, 21 per cent of marriages in which the wife was ill ended, compared with just 3 per cent in which the husband was the patient.
The researchers, from Washington University in Seattle, said it appeared that women are more committed to staying with someone through thick and thin.”
The study does not actually say who does the leaving. One could argue that unless we know that, we can’t say men are less loyal to their ill spouses. However, it would be very odd if the ill person chose to divorce while they are still ill. I heard quite a lot of stories of women leaving loyal boyfriends after they have recovered and no longer need these men, but never have I heard of women who run off despite needing all the help they could get.
Second, there is the study by D. Buss from 1990. I wish I had a link, but I really found it in my psychology textbook (“Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour”, 2nd ed., N. Hold, A. Bremner, E. Sutherland, M. Vliek, M. Passer, R. Smith). Men and women from 37 cultures were asked to rate the importance of various traits in their long term commitment mate. Both rated “mutual attraction/love” as 1st. Women rated “health” 7th, while men rated it 5th (men also rated “good looks” 3 points higher – that is, it was more important to them).
Of course, this only measures what people consciously think is important to them, and might not necessarily reflect their behavior. Not to mention “mutual love”, the thing rated as 1st priority by both sexes, involves a million different things, which are different for sexes on average. Still, it makes some evolutionary sense – reproduction is more closely tied to women’s bodies, and being gravely ill means wasting limited years of fertility recovering.
So, I think all this casts doubt on the idea that women can’t cope with a man’s illness, while men are naturally good at it. It also casts doubt on the idea that men are attracted to physical frailty. As I said earlier, there is a limit to how insecure a girl can be, and still be attractive, non-annoying, and a good mate overall. Same, IMO, goes for physical weakness – there is a limit to how frail and ill she can be, and be an optimal mate. I think if men truly were attracted to frailty, they’d get off caring for incapacitated, ill women.
To end, I will add that the first study found the divorce rate in the couples where someone is sick, is no larger than average. So I’m not sure leaving a sick mate because they are sick is even normal.