Life in the Middle of a Divorce Cluster: How to Save Yourself

Jeanne Sager

divorce kitSometimes the Facebook feed can read like the city of doom and gloom.

So and so's relationship is "complicated."

Jane's getting a divorce.

And wouldn't you know it, so is John.

And so on and so on.

A friend recently confided she is starting to get a complex -- every single couple she and her husband have been close to during their marriage is now divorced.

They're the only ones left. And she's starting to wonder if it's contagious.

I've seen it happen. One marriage fails in a group of friends only to have two more follow it. One study even estimated if your friend divorces, your chances of the same fate are upped by some 75 percent.

So I caught up with Tina B. Tessina, PhD (aka "Dr. Romance"), psychotherapist, and author of Money, Sex, and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, to see how you can escape the curse.

"While I don't think it's a simple case of 'money see, monkey do' -- I do think that divorces happen in clusters because the involved couples are following a similar trajectory," says Tessina. "I think knowing someone close who divorces makes most couples think about 'could it happen to us?'"

Before you start calling attorneys, a bit of good news.

This is one time it's perfectly OK to benefit off of someone else's misery.

Their failing marriage might give you the chance to save yours before it gets there.

Basically, it's an easy way to bring up topics that have otherwise been verboten.

"If the divorcing couple was obviously not getting along (squabbling in your presence, etc.) you can lead into the discussion with 'I'm so glad we don't fight the way they do, aren't you? Do you think we've ever been that unhappy?'" Tessina suggests.

"If a friend's divorce gets your attention, take advantage of the motivation it provides and talk about whatever problems you are having. If you're not having problems, then discuss what can be improved about your marriage.

"A friend's divorce can be the opportunity you need to have a heart-to-heart with your husband and evaluate how you treasure your own marriage. So many of the people who come to me for counseling wait until their problems have been going on for months or even years. Many people don't get help until after a divorce. Problems are so much easier to solve if you begin talking about them early."

And now that you've gotten the ball rolling, what do you do to sustain it?

"The real way to make sure you long-standing resentment doesn't suddenly erupt in divorce or infidelity is to institute weekly 'state of the union' meetings," she advises. "In other words, set aside a 'sacred' period of time you spend alone together, on a regular basis, to talk about how things are going, what's working, what's not working, and then focus on solving any problems that come up."

Is divorce moving like wildfire through your friend list?


Image via monochrome/Flickr

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