Is divorce a bit like the common cold or the flu? Can you (or your spouse) catch “divorce fever” from a friend or relative?
Maybe so. It may sound a bit odd, but research indicates that divorce may actually be contagious.
What the data says about contagion and divorce
According to one study, if you have a close friend who gets divorced, your chance of also getting divorced goes up 75%. Once divorces start to spread through your social circle, your chances of a marital split go up 147%.
Even just being around a divorced co-worker increases your odds of divorce by 50%. (You have less to worry about, however, if you have a sibling who gets a divorce. Your risk of divorce there only increases about 22%.)
Why does this happen? It probably has a lot to do with human nature. Marital problems may be lurking below the placid surface of what seems like a stable relationship — until something comes along to create waves. Basically, when your friends and co-workers get a divorce, it can make you more conscious of your own marital unhappiness. If they seem happier after their split, that may further encourage you to consider ending your own marriage.
Why doesn’t a sibling’s divorce have quite the same dramatic effect? It’s hard to say, but it could be the fact that when a sibling divorces, people have more of an “insider’s view” of the turmoil that often comes with the early stages of a divorce, so it puts them off. When their friends and co-workers divorce, they may have a more filtered, rosier view of the situation.
Is divorce contagion a bad thing?
If you’re unhappy in your marriage, it’s not. Life is far too short to stay in a relationship that leaves you unfulfilled or — even worse — drained. If you’re contemplating divorce, make sure you prepare yourself by learning everything you can about your legal options and rights.