Divorce is a word that automatically sends a chill down your spine — at least, if you’re married. And yet, given that it’s extremely common (about 40 to 50 percent of U.S. married couples divorce), it’s clearly a reality and a fact of life.
And, apparently, divorce is also contagious. According to a recent study, which used research from across three U.S. universities, couples are 75 percent (!) more likely to get divorced if they have a close friend who also gets divorced.
Yes, that’s a really big number. Then again, it may not be entirely surprising, considering people feel comfortable (and can be motivated) to make changes when they see other people doing the same.
According to the New York Post, researchers conducted a study that followed participants over a 32-year period, which was published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
So, what does an expert have to say about this? Dan Auerbach, Relationship Counsellor with Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney, spoke to the Post about “divorce clusters” and that it’s all about what we see as normalized:
When our friends are feeling unburdened from their old relationship and are telling us of new and exciting experiences with new partners, we may also start to long for the early romantic connection we felt with our partner.
If the relationship hasn’t matured past the early infatuation phase which typically lasts six-24 months, we can feel start to feel agitated, distressed or empty, and alone and unfulfilled.
Auerbach also added that, strangely enough, empathy can be a be a reason for “contagious” divorces: “We generally choose friends who we respect, admire or closely relate to. When our friends share their experiences with us we are placing ourselves emotionally ‘into their shoes.’ That sort of experience can make us start to relate our friends’ experience and their chosen solutions to our own lives.”
While there is no protection against divorce, open and clear communication is essential for helping any relationship go the distance, he added.