Be Wary of the Divorce Bug—Study Finds It's a 'Social Contagion'
I know firsthand that being divorced can lead to a lot of sniffles. I just had no idea it could be so contagious.
According to a study from Brown University that examined data from thousands of people over three decades, if you have a friend or a loved one who is divorced, it increases your chances of getting divorced, too.
Research indicated that “75 percent of participants were more likely to get divorced if a friend was divorced, and 33 percent were more likely to end their marriage even if a friend of a friend got divorced.”
So what is going on here? Should we be calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to quarantine people inside wedding chapels?
University researchers have called this odd phenomenon a “social contagion—the spread of information, attitudes and behaviors through friends, family and social networks.” The thinking goes that if you surround yourself with people who are whining all the time about their relationship, it may prompt you to start thinking twice about yours, too.
(But wouldn’t the opposite also be true? Could it be that couples head to the altar simply because everyone else around them is getting married?)
I have a better idea: Instead of dumping the spouse that you chose until death do you part and entangling yourself in all the nasty debris that accompanies divorce, how about if you just stop hanging out with negative people?
When I was going through a divorce, it was a trying time and it certainly helped to talk about the situation with friends (new friendships that I had to cultivate, by the way, because my ex got custody of all our friends in the divorce settlement). But I was also socially savvy enough to know that nobody wants to be around a Debbie Downer all the time, so I spent a lot of time biting my tongue, and trying to be an upbeat, positive person.
A strategy that did wonders for my mental health in the long run, too.
So for all you wedded folks whose immunity to divorce is apparently being compromised by the destructive influence of divorced friends, I have this to say to you: Take a chill pill and give some serious thought to how divorce will impact you and your children in the long run.
Marriage isn’t easy. Yes, boredom sets in and those annoying habits your spouse has may drive you to the point of insanity. But unless there is violence, abuse, infidelity or drug and alcohol addiction involved, you may want to hang in there, for better or worse.
It may look like your divorced friends are having tons of fun, happily liberated from the old ball and chain. But freedom comes with a price, and you best be ready to pay up.
In my enlightened opinion, the best way to immunize yourself from the divorce bug that is going around is to marry the right person in the first place. Take all the time you need to find that perfect mate, despite the proverbial biological clock or the pressure from your impatient mother who is worried she’ll never have grandchildren if you don’t get on it soon.
Deciding who you are going to marry FOR life is the most important decision OF your life, so choose well.
And if you’ve already found that perfect mate, then take two aspirin and call the preacher in the morning.
NOTE: Researchers of the Brown University study caution that their study group, based in Framingham, Mass., is not representative of the country as a whole. That means their results cannot be said to reflect what would have been found if a nationally-representative sample of all adults had been surveyed.
Lynn Armitage is a divorced contributing writer in Northern California who hopes to be infected by the love bug again someday.
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