When you fall in love and decide to get married, you probably imagine that your bond with your spouse is unbreakable. It seems impossible that divorce would be part of your future, to say nothing of the idea that you could wind up divorced because someone else you know gets divorced.
While it is certainly not the primary reason that people get divorced, it’s important to understand that the divorce itch itself may be socially contagious. Researchers have found an unusual social component to an individual’s risk of divorce.
When people who are close to you or your spouse file for divorce, the potential risk for a divorce between the two of you also increases. Even people you don’t know directly could increase your risk of divorce. Understanding how social relationships affect divorce impulses can help you determine whether you actually want to get divorced or have simply romanticized the idea of ending your marriage.
The closer to you are to a divorcing person you know, the more risk for your marriage
When someone makes the decision to end their marriage, it is a difficult time in their life that usually leaves them in need of social support. The same is true for someone who doesn’t want a divorce but has a spouse who files.
Whether the person getting divorced is your sibling or your best friend, it’s important to understand that their process of ending a marriage could make you feel a desire to end your own. When someone talks about the freedom they have after filing for divorce or discusses the practicality of a friend’s divorce, it can inspire a yearning for a similar experience or at least plant the idea that divorce isn’t that bad.
The degree of separation will impact how much influence someone else’s divorce will have on you. Research has shown that when a person hears about a friend or family of their friend divorcing, their risk for divorce goes up by 33%. However, when someone who is close to you, such as a member of your family or a dear friend, divorces, the potential risk for you to divorce goes up by 75%.
Divorce typically isn’t contagious in healthy, happy relationships
Even if you know that your friend going through a divorce needs support, worrying that the end of their marriage could produce the end of your marriage might be enough reason for you to sever ties. However, you don’t need to leave your friends or family members without the social support they need.
If you and your spouse are truly happy and committed to one another, the divorce of someone else close to you likely won’t produce a desire to divorce. It is largely couples who are already experiencing unhappiness or dissatisfaction with their marriage who feel provoked into action by the divorce of someone they know.