When you look around at your core group of friends...the friends you’ve had for more than a decade or so, do you find their marriages are failing and fracturing all around you?
There might be a reason for that.
A recent study conducted by Rose McDerrmott and her colleagues found that divorce might be, indeed, contagious. It examines divorce as a “social contagion,” or, in simpler terms something that spreads with the recent growth in social media.
In short, the study finds that it’s a matter of the “degree of separation,” or how close the recently divorced are to you. The study found that you are 75% more likely to divorce your spouse if a friend or family member has recently gotten a divorce. The study also found that you are 33% more likely if a “friend of a friend” gets a divorce.
There could be a few things to take away from this. First, the prevalence and pervasiveness of social media is having an impact on our marriages. The sharing of ideas, opinions, and life experiences has gravity in how we view our own lives. So, too, with marriages. Sometimes we celebrate in our marriages when we see others celebrated, but when we see marriages fail, we can also fall into the trap of projecting doom into our own.
Secondly, because of these relationships between other marriages and our own, it’s possible that by running to help marriages in crisis around us, we might also save our own. The study says that by “attending to the health of one’s friend’s marriages might serve to support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship.” In short, when you help others, you help yourself.
But, that’s not always the case. All marriages are unique. And we can’t simply save all marriages in hopes to save our own. When divorce, now a “social contagion,” starts to spread around you and your circle, it’s important to protect your own marriage.
Often times, we want to be the hero, the savior. But we are a broken people. We are ourselves depleted and desperate. Sure, if you see a drowning child, you’d want to jump and save them. But you also realize the risk that you, too, might drown in the process.
That brings us to the final takeaway from this study: know when to seek help. Broken marriages won’t pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. They have to be rehabilitated. They require intensive focus, where all distractions are cleared away, and you and your spouse can restore your sense of “us.”
We’d love a chance to talk with you about how we can give you the space and the time to decompress, discover, and heal your marriage so you don’t have to be the next in line.