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Behaviors spread more easily than we care to admit. Research suggests that merely having obese friends predisposes you to weight gain. Likewise, you’re more likely to pick up a cigarette if your friends regularly smoke. Unfortunately, the same principle holds true with marriage and divorce, as we demonstrate below:

How Divorce Spreads: What the Science Says

A groundbreaking study from Harvard, Brown, and the University of California, San Diego revealed that residents of Framingham, Massachusetts were 75 percent more likely to end their marriage if they witnessed a close friend divorce first. What’s more, mere word of divorce traveling through the grapevine could influence the relationships of dozens of other individuals, increasing the likelihood of divorce by a third.

Often, respondents most impacted by others’ divorces were already thinking of ending their marriages. Based on the latest research, then, news of a loved one’s divorce acted as the final straw, giving unsure couples the social motivation needed to move forward with their own breakup.

Can the Divorce Contagion Be Stopped?

The divorce contagion can be powerful, but your marriage isn’t automatically doomed if a close friend or family member chooses to divorce. If anything, you and your spouse can use such circumstances as an opportunity to strengthen your marriage. Discussion, however, is essential.

Speak frankly about the issues that might have contributed to your loved one’s divorce, and whether those same problems may be, to some extent, present in your own marriage. Develop personalized solutions to combat these issues. If divorce ultimately proves necessary, take solace in knowing that your friends have already survived the experience — and they’re happy to provide the emotional support you need during this difficult time.

Whether you’ve watched several loved ones deal with divorce or are the first in your group of friends, it’s critical that you seek support from a trusted Minnesota attorney. Look to the law firm of Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. for assistance through all aspects of the divorce process.