Distancing Yourself from Divorcing Friends Could Save Your Own Marriage

by | Nov 26, 2018 | Health Featured

A new study conducted jointly by Brown University, Harvard University and the University of California looks at the rates and circumstances surrounding marriages that end in divorce. The data from the study, titled “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else Is Doing It Too,” indicates that divorce can actually be considered contagious.

According to the study, married couples with friends who are in the process of or have already divorced are more than 75 percent likely to split up as well. That’s not it – even if a friend of a friend divorces, there is still a 33 percent increased chance that the couple’s marriage will end.

To understand these statistics, the researchers looked at the social impact that a divorce had on the couple’s friends. While the researchers observed that the reasons for friends choosing to pursue their own divorce after watching a friend get divorced are varied, the rates of divorce nevertheless went up in three quarters of the cases.

Sometimes a divorce within the social circle gives other couples “the strength to pursue their own divorce” as they become aware of alternative possibilities other than staying in an unhappy or dysfunctional relationship, explains a blog post from Erlich Law Office, LLC.

In other cases a divorce within a couple’s social circle may trigger an evaluation of their own marriage, may expedite the crumbling of a marriage that has already begun to show signs of cracks, or may impart the perspective that the “grass is always greener,” triggering one or both spouses to want to end their own relationship.

However, on the flip side, a couple’s social circle also has the potential to strengthen and support a couple’s marriage. Spending time and associating with friends who are in strong relationships and happily married may offer support and a positive model for the couple when they inevitably encounter stress and rough patches in the marriage. Commented one of the researchers, Rose McDermott, who is a political scientist at Brown University: “Putting time and effort into your own marriage can help support your friends’ marriages, just as supporting their marriages can inadvertently help your own.”

An interesting side point that emerged from the study is that while children don’t influence the likelihood of divorce, having more children could reduce the the likeliness of the couple choosing to divorce.

Whether problems in the marriage become apparent after a friend divorces, or whether they exist irrespective of others, couples have options to try to improve the marriage before resorting to divorce. Experts recommend that if a marriage is facing troubles, couples should first and foremost not ignore the issue.

While seeking professional help is always wise, one immediate step that couples can take is to increase the number of positive interactions compared to negative ones. Marriages with a rate of five positive interactions for every one negative one are much more likely to stay survive, and the more positive interactions there are the more likely the marriage will thrive.

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