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Could divorces be “contagious?”

Plenty of studies, news articles and personal blog posts have attempted to understand the factors that influence the likelihood of divorce. Although the hypotheses and claims have varied widely, one factor might actually have some scientific merit: your friends.

One study linked having divorced friends to being 75 percent more likely to pursue a divorce in the future. However, many interesting factors may lurk within the data.

While some news outlets have used the phrase “contagious” to describe this connection, it’s important to note that divorce is not a disease that a spouse could catch. Rather, divorce is a decision that a couple usually reaches after significant deliberation.

Speculation suggest that divorced friends may influence this deliberation in several ways. For example, a couple might be considering divorce, but hesitate to begin the process due to a lack of knowing what to expect. Watching another couple going through a divorce may clarify questions, although each couple will have different outcomes or circumstances.

There may also be advantages to witnessing a dysfunctional divorce as well. Divorcing spouses could learn from the mistakes of a friend to keep their own split as amicable as possible to spare costs and stress through uncontested divorce.

In addition, it’s possible that a friend’s divorce could plant the seed of marriage dissolution in a spouse’s mind. As with a friend’s marriage, pregnancy, vacation or other life event, a person may take the chance to reflect upon their own life to decide if they want to take similar action.

Finally, the positive outcomes of a friend’s divorce may be encouraging. Divorce is often viewed as an empowering step toward ending a difficult relationship and rediscovering one’s individuality. After speaking with someone who finalized their divorce, you may find yourself ready to take this step as well.

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