Is Divorce Contagious? (Get Me a Booster Shot!)

If your friends split up, your chances of getting divorced leap by 75 percent. And if it’s your friends’ friends splitting, you still stand a 33 percent chance of doing the same. Are we really this impressionable?

This new study on divorce, which looked at the romantic lives of over 12,000 couples in a New England town for 50 years, concludes that when one couple gets divorced, it gives friends “permission” to question their own relationships. Also, as the social stigma is lifted, people feel like their lives won’t end if their marriages do.

To me, this is a positive. Though my own divorce didn’t seem to affect my social circle (I was in New York at the time, and was practically a child bride at 30), my mom’s BFF once told me a heartbreaking story that reflected what life was like when divorce wasn’t so easy to go through.


My mom ditched her first husband, Norman, in the early ‘60s, after my two older sisters were born. It was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but she realized, when looking through her diaries, that she had married him because it would make him happy -- but that his lack of ambition and other personality “quirks” left her cold. “I felt like I had let down the universe,” she’s told me a million times. “I felt like the worst person in the world.”

Soon after, she went to visit with her friends, and they quizzed her. “How did you know you had to get out? How did you know you’d be able to do it? What was the first thing you did?” they wanted to know. My mom thought they were asking because they were flabbergasted at her behavior and felt judged. “Little did she know,” Judy, one of my mom's friends, told me a few years ago, “we were just plotting our own escapes. We all got married so young, and were all divorced and working on our post-graduate degrees with these young kids by the late ‘60s. Your mom was the trendsetter.”

Odd thing to set a trend in, but to me, this is an empowering story. Yes, it’s important to stick out the hard times, but having been through the brutal emotional shock of divorce, I really don’t think most people are doing it for fun. It’s awful. But it’s more awful to be stuck in a horrible situation with a lame d-bag like Norman when a great guy like my dad is waiting around the corner, you know?

Do you see divorces leading to other divorces? Would you feel your relationship was undermined if your pals split? Tell us in the comments!

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