You can catch a cold or the flu from a friend, but is it also possible that divorce is contagious?
A Brown University study found that the likelihood of a divorce greatly increased when a friend has gone through the process. The study found that if a close friend ends their marriage then the likelihood of a getting a divorce was 75 percent higher compared to 33 percent when there are two degrees of separation.
For some, talking to a divorced friend might cause them to realize their own unhappiness and help them see that divorce is not the end of the world. Of course, it’s another story if you simply envy your friend for their newfound freedom.
A look in the mirror
This social contagion theory makes sense. If your buddy confides in you their reasons for ending their marriage, such as the cause of their unhappiness, it can prompt you to reflect on your own marriage. If you and your wife have been unhappy, it can lead to you coming to terms with problems that need addressed.
The intimidation of divorce often deters people from pursuing it. It’s expensive, stressful, confusing, and severs a relationship with a person you planned on spending the rest of your life with. Having a friend who can give a first-hand account of the divorce experience can remove some of the stigma associated with divorce and make it seem less frightening.
This isn’t necessarily bad. If you really are unhappy in your marriage and you and your wife have irreconcilable differences, starting over is likely the healthiest option for everyone. Having a friend who can share their experience might be what you need to finally go forward with something you should’ve done a long time ago.
Divorce can spread like a virus through social groups, but it might end up creating more positive situations in the long run.
On the other hand, some people might just fall victim to divorce envy. You see your friend enjoying the single life and wish you had that same sort of freedom. Maybe there is nothing glaringly wrong with your marriage, but suddenly the thought of living the bachelor life seems awfully enticing.
It’s easy to understand being a little bit jealous. Even the best marriages are hard work and the ability to set your own schedule, date anyone you want, and enjoy more free time alone sounds pretty great when you haven’t lived that way for years.
However, fleeting feelings of jealousy shouldn’t justify throwing away a relationship with a person who you love. Even if your marriage has significant problems, you need to first try to work through them.
It’s also possible your friend is taking the breakup harder than they’re letting on. There is a natural tendency, especially in guys, to act like everything is fine. Divorce is an enormous financial hit that alters your living situation and, depending on your custody arrangement, leads to less time with your kids. Even if they’re putting up a happy front, there’s a good chance they’re grieving a lost relationship, battling feelings of hopelessness, and struggling to regain their financial footing.
Sure, it’s possible the grass will be greener on the other side after you’ve gotten divorced. But never make a life-altering decision like that haphazardly without considering all the ramifications of divorce. Addressing your issues with your wife and going through marriage counseling can help you sort through many of your problems and improve your relationship.
Having a recently divorced friend can help you come to terms with your own unhappiness and help you realize that you’ve been spinning your wheels in a marriage that’s going nowhere. But don’t let their experience completely color your perspective.
If you end up deciding divorce is something you need to seriously consider, it is best to meet with a family law attorney right away to help you determine your options.