The Divorce Virus: Is Splitting Up Contagious?

If all of your coupled friends seem to be splitting up lately, it might be time to give your own relationship a marriage checkupstudies show that divorce is contagious, and researchers have likened it to a virus spreading among groups of close-knit friends.

The occurrence of “divorce clustering” was discovered by a team of researchers who have been observing over 12,000 people in a New England town since 1948. They concluded that divorce has a ripple effect on a community — with people who have had a close friend divorce at the highest risk of a split themselves. The risk posed by other couples divorcing doesn’t stop there: “A person’s tendency to divorce depends not just on his friend’s divorce status, but also extends to his friend’s friend,” said Dr Rose McDermott of Brown University, one of the authors on the study.

Quite simply, if a close friend has undergone a recent divorce, you are 147 percent more likely to get divorced yourself. If a friend of a friend is getting divorced, your risk increases by 33 percent — though, luckily, no effect was observed on friends of friends of friends. However, it’s not just friends who jeopardize your marital status. Having a work colleague going through a divorce increases your risk by 55 per cent, compared to 22 per cent for a sibling.

How does another person’s divorce create cracks in your own marriage? Experts can only speculate, but it’s thought that seeing another couple’s marital difficulties and problems highlighted seems to make your own problems much more obvious. Knowing a divorced person also helps reduce the negative stigma associated with splitting up — a sort of “If that person can survive it, maybe I can too” effect.

James Fowler, another researcher on the study, agrees that the behaviour of your friends can have an enormous impact on your own relationship behavior. When your friends split up, “you might think differently about whether or not divorce is one of the options that you can use in order to affect your own happiness,” Fowler told ABC News. “These divorces … tend to rupture people’s social networks, and so there is a cost,” he added.

We’re not saying you should drop your divorced friends like a hot potato — as Psychology Today points out, the issue is far more complicated than simple social influence. Still, it’s a good reminder to work daily on having a happy marriage, especially if your circle of close friends each have a relationship history that could rival Larry King’s.

Editor’s Review:

I believe this to be true because when some fail they like to push off their newly gained morals or values off onto others in order to justify their own actions. (Even if they really don’t believe the crock they feed the friend and wish their own relationship was as successful as the friends’) Also, I feel they want someone to help them wallow in their own misery. That “misery loves company” scenario.. Even a fear of being single ALONE so they need to find reason to take others down with them. To┬áromanticize singlehood even though they wished they had a solid relationship.