Is Divorce Contagious?

by John E. Turner, LMFT and Sally R. Connolly, LMFT


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 We have often remarked that, when clients refer their friends to counseling, the dilemmas are often similar.  We are not sure what makes that happen; however, we do know that connections with other people influence ideas and experiences.

When you are connected to someone who is unhappy in their marriage, and that is a focus of some of the conversation, it can be easier to notice what is wrong with your own marriage.  As people make decisions about their marriage, it may give others the idea that they can do the same.  Some said that they found the courage to divorce after seeing their friends manage that difficult step and survive.  Others have said that they wanted to stay away from friends who divorced because they feared that it would make it easier for them to give up trying to change things in their own relationships.

In a 2002 Swedish study, Yvonne Aberg, a sociologist at Stockholm University, found that as the proportion of recently divorced co-workers increased, so did the chances that other married workers would divorce.  Aberg also found that men and women were 75 percent more likely to divorce during this period if they worked in an office consisting mainly of people of the opposite sex and of the same age.  In addition, the more single people working in an office, the higher the divorce rate.

Surrounding your own relationship with others who believe that problems exist and are meant to be worked out can enhance your marriage.  Spending time with others who are mature and committed spouses channels activities and conversation into ideas of healthy coupling.  Talking with friends and family about the good things in your relationship and, if you need some advice, framing it in a way that imparts the message that you want some ideas for how to solve a problem, not just  complain about what is wrong, also supports finding ways to have and maintain a healthy marriage.
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