Yes, You Can 'Catch' a Friend's Divorce -- and Here's Who's at Risk

woman unhappy with husband

You know how if your close friend starts sneezing or complaining that she's coming down with something, inevitably you start feeling like crap, too? Colds are contagious, after all, and being in close proximity puts you at risk. Well, divorce contagion is a real thing, too.

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That's right. You can catch divorce -- splitting up, breaking up, calling it quits, walking out, slamming the door on your relationship -- much like a virus.

According to the Pew Research Center, if someone you're close to gets divorced, you're 75 percent more likely to do the same. And even if a friend of a friend heads to Splitsville, your risk of going back to your maiden name (you know, if you ever gave it up) increases by 33 percent.

If someone took a close look at celeb divorces, we're willing to bet this pattern would be totally obvs. Maybe it's not just death that comes in threes, but, uh, marriages?

Wondering why?

"If a friend is going through a divorce, it might send a message to you of empowerment and show you that it's possible to follow through with it," says Jonathan Alpert, a psychotherapist in New York City and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. "What I often see is someone who's having trouble in their relationship speaks to a friend who is going through a divorce, and this causes them to reevaluate their own relationship."

Not to mention, you get a front row seat to How To End Your Marriage. You watch your friend going through the motions of selling her house, divvying up family possessions, figuring out child custody, talking to a lawyer ... And if the idea of divorce was already in your mind, suddenly it doesn't seem so intimidating.

"You have built-in support and guidance," Alpert points out.

Does this mean that if you do have a friend whose marriage has hit the rocks, you should steer clear to protect your own partnership? Should Cameron Diaz not meet Drew Barrymore for lunch for a while -- you know, just to be on the safe side?

More from The Stir: 11 Texts That Reveal the Messy Truth About Life After Divorce (PHOTOS)

The short answer is ... No.

Divorce contagion "really only happens if there is some tendency towards it or some sort of pre-existing issues in the relationship," Alpert reassures. "It's not as though someone in a happy and healthy marriage will decide to look at her relationship negatively just because a friend is going through a divorce."

Or, say, Drew Barrymore.

It's important to realize, Alpert adds, that "each relationship is unique, and no two people experience the same issues in quite the same way."

But you can probably guess the most common reasons he sees couples go their separate ways.

Infidelity. Growing apart. Never really being compatible in the first place.

If those are on your radar, then maybe you should steer clear of a friend who's announced she's divorcing.

Or, on second thought, maybe you should hang out even more. A) Because she'll need your support. And B) because her decision could be the motivation you need to make a positive change in your life.

 

 

Image via gpointstudio/Shutterstock

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