'Bore-out', marriage and divorce

'Bore-out', marriage and divorce

Paid partnership

Van Hilten de Vries van Ruitenbeek Advocaten & Mediators (HVR) is a general practice law firm that also specialises in family law. Based in The Hague, HVR also has a meeting point in Amsterdam.

The OECD Better Life Index shows that the Netherlands has very high levels of life satisfaction in childhood (over 93 percent of 11-15 year-old children), far above the global average.

Economic dependency

In today’s pursuit of happiness however, especially the happiness of our children, many women accept being economically dependent on their husbands or partners after becoming a mother (48 percent in the Netherlands), and they do not even consider it important to be able to support themselves and their children.

This is often because there is enough money and the parties "agree" that the woman will take care of the children and the man will earn the (family) income. This is also the case in many expat marriages and relationships.

An alimony issue waiting to happen

As, however, one in three marriages in the Netherlands breaks down, and other relationships risk ending even more often, being economically dependent during marriage is a ticking alimony problem, to say the least, especially for a stay-at-home mum (SAHM).

A problem that "only affects others"

Dutch women seem to suffer from unrealistic optimism, a well-known psychological state of mind where most people consider disasters only to harm others.

In my divorce practice, though, not only is alimony often a very hard nut for a woman to crack, but also the issue of dependency.

From studies, it can be learned that the financial consequences of divorce differ for men and women, in the sense that men are in general financially better off than women.

The financial effects of divorce

According to official numbers, 10 years ago women in the Netherlands lost more that 20 percent of their purchasing power after their divorce, while men even gained some purchasing power.

Nowadays, after the economic crisis, men also loose purchasing power after divorce, but the negative financial effect of divorce for women is still much greater.

In Belgium, the situation seems more or less the same. In Sweden where women are much more economically independent, the financial effects of divorce are less dramatic.

The emerging issue of "bore-out"

To my knowledge, too few studies have been made of the health risks for a stay-at-home-mum (SAHM) in terms of "bore-out" (a motivational crisis brought about by boredom), its effects on relationships, and the financial consequences of a break up due to bore-out.

In my opinion more awareness of the above issue could be helpful.

Bore-out in work situations

In the labour sphere, there seems to be more and more attention given to bore-out situations at work.

Only recently, a French Manager at Interparfum made it to the front pages after he sued his employer claiming a compensation of 360.000 euros for the bore-out he suffered after all his responsibilities were taken off him, which caused him start suffering from depression.

Lack of challenges, incentives and diversification resulted in a living hell and a destruction of his mind, at least in his perception, even in the sense that he felt ashamed of receiving a salary for doing almost nothing.

Regardless of whether the judges will find his claim justified or not, the fact is that, according to Swiss research, 15 percent of employees seem to suffer from symptoms of bore-out.

Although the symptoms often seem to be similar to those of a burn-out, bore-out is not listed (yet) as a clinical disease by the WHO, while burn-out is. This is a reason why employers can be, and have already been, successfully sued for an employee’s prolonged work overload or burn-out.

The French case might be precedential for bore-out cases.

Bore-out and the stay-at-home mum

Where bore-out seems to be a new phenomenon on the labour market, it is strange that the issue was not linked earlier, or more closely, to full-time motherhood.

What happened to the French manager at Interparfum can also happen to a stay-at-home mum, who has many repetitive tasks, almost no intellectual adult interaction and receives little appreciation.

SAHMs are known to suffer sometimes from the symptoms of bore-out such as apathy, sleeplessness, frustration and low self-esteem.

A lack of stimulation

This is due to a lack of challenges and rewards. Especially if these mothers had interesting jobs before, were used to appreciation from their colleagues or were rewarded with bonuses and work incentives, as is not uncommon for expat mothers who previously worked.

As, however, there is always work for an SAHM to do, the bore-out might remain even longer under the surface as a slow assassin, putting a strain on a marriage or relationship.

Be aware and seek fulfilment

This is, of course, not a push to get all mothers on the labour market fulltime, but a plea for awareness.

In my practice as a family lawyer and mediator, I see a lot of wasted talent, and a lot of frustration and regrets.

For some mothers, a paid job can be far more than a means to economic independence, it can also enhance the pursuit of happiness for both a woman and her family.

Edith van Ruitenbeek is a lawyer, mediator and partner at van Hilten de Vries van Ruitenbeek Advocaten & Mediators.

Need specific advice about your particular situation? For this and any other questions, you can:
Contact Edith and her colleagues directly
Schedule a free 30-minute introductory interview in The Hague or Amsterdam

Edith van Ruitenbeek


Edith van Ruitenbeek

Edith van Ruitenbeek is an attorney since 1997 and co-founder of van Hilten de Vries van Ruitenbeek Advocaten & Mediators in 2012, the precursor of Van Hilten Advocaten & Mediators...

Read more



Leave a comment