Is Divorce Contagious?

While most people don’t begin a marriage expecting to divorce, separation can happen to anyone. People in certain social groups find themselves particularly at-risk for divorce if a friend or relative has gotten divorced. In some close social groups, divorce is actually contagious. After seeing a close friend divorce, some people start to question their own marriage, and many decide they are unhappy with it and would like to get out. According to a new study by Brown University, you are 75% more likely to separate from your spouse if you watch someone close to you go through a divorce.

Social Contagion

So what happens to people to make them want to get divorced after a friend does? Sociologists refer to it as the “social contagion”. This spread of information through a social group stirs up ideas and emotions in many people. Friends of friends can even be impacted by a divorce. The social link found with family members and friends demonstrates for researchers how friends in a person’s social circle can directly impact one’s health and behavior. Family members and friends often find themselves taking sides in a divorce, or they can be stuck in the middle of fighting parents and friends. This can add stress to their life, which can in turn affect their own marriage.

Divorce Aftermath

Once a person gets a divorce, they often end up marrying another person who has also been divorced. This is common for people who jump into a new relationship soon after allowing their marriage to end. People who divorce often find that their social circle shrinks significantly after their marriage ends. This happens when mutual friends “choose sides,” and pick only one person from the marriage to associate with. Some married people view a newly divorced person as a social threat and worry about marital poaching.

Preventing Divorce

People with a strong social network are less likely to divorce. If you have active conversations with your friends, and you focus on building strong, supportive friendships, you can reduce your likelihood of divorce. Marital stresses are different for each couple, which is why it is important to continue working on open communication throughout a marriage. Marriage is not easy work: it requires dedication, sacrifice, and an enduring desire to make the other person happy.

Many couples seek out marital counseling to help their marriage. Counseling services can be tremendously helpful for couples that need to find a way to communicate with each other. If you are in a relationship where the grass looks greener on the other side, marital counseling can be beneficial. A therapist can help you personally understand the emotions you are experiencing, and how a decision like divorce can impact you personally, as well as the people in your social circle.

Adult children in healthy, happy marriages, can have their entire world turned upside down when they learn their parents are divorcing. It can cause them to question their own relationship and their personal happiness. Taken too far, these questions can cause a person to question their own marriage, and wonder if divorce is right for them.

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One reply on “Is Divorce Contagious?”

I’ve seen this question asked before.. if you have divorced friends are you more likely to get divorced and the such; but surely in our older age we don’t succumb to peer pressure anymore so the influence of how our friends lead their lives should be much less than when we’re younger. Laura – Tilly Bailey Irvine

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