Tag Archives: avoiding divorce

Is Divorce Contagious? Researchers: Yes.

Divorce is contagious among social networks, directly affecting friends and family member’s likelihood to also divorce. In addition, the breakup can lead to other divorces at least two degrees of separation from the initial couple who split. Researchers say behaviors like divorce can spread as viruses do.

CNN reports the findings from James H. Fowler, a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego. Fowler worked with other researchers at Harvard and Brown Universities. They studied 5,000 people. Fowler says the first couple’s divorce impacts other people’s decision to divorce, “and can even sway your friend’s friend.”

Have you noticed some divorces among groups are announced in fairly quick succession? The obvious example that comes to mind among those who discuss marriage is the Gore family. One of their daughters divorced about a year ago. As everyone knows, Al and Tipper have announced their split as well after 40 years of marriage. Their eldest daughter even more recently announced her plans to divorce after 13 years and three children.

Their decisions to divorce are private, but the research says those with a divorced sibling have a 22 percent increased chance to get divorced than those who don’t have divorced siblings.

While those stats sound rather high, friends who divorce have an even higher impact. “People who had a divorced friend were 147 percent more likely to be divorced than those whose friends’ marriages were intact,” says the study. Even your workplace has a strong impact on your marriage status. If your coworker divorces, your odds of divorce go up 55 percent compared to those who work with non-divorced workers.

Some people become carriers without getting divorced, say the researchers, just by relaying information to their friends and family. The listener may warm up the idea of divorce, says Fowler, or consider the benefits of divorce.

Some marriage therapists have anecdotally agreed that their clients have been influenced by divorced friends. When divorce permeates a social group, group norms can change. In addition, poor relationship skills can be imitated by others. I’m sure we are all aware that ineffective relationship skills can be transferred from one generation to another.

What does this research mean to us? First, we should be cautious about the one-sided information we hear about divorce from those in our social network. You may be hearing the rosy side of divorce, but know there is a dark side others may not show. For instance, I’ve seen the loneliness, financial ruin, heartbroken children and hurt spouses left behind in divorce. But if you run into those same people at the grocery store, they might tell you about how they go out on Friday nights because of their new freedom.

Also, remember that our culture supports the idea of divorce and makes it very easy. It also suggests a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude about marriage. There’s a misconception that if you just change partners, your relationship problems will disappear. You have to decide if you will have a counter-cultural marriage that lives in love and remains committed, even during difficult times.

A recent blog post at Journey to Surrender caught my attention, reminding readers who are trying to get their spouses to change that you can’t push on a rope. “Some things only work in one direction. Pushing a rope only ends in frustration and you might just wind up with a tangled mess. Pulling it, however, will cause the entire rope to move smoothly in the directly you want. It can be tempting at times to push your spouse toward their appropriate roles and actions in your marriage.” Scott’s tips:

  • Speak into that which you want to see rise up, rather than complaining about what you see as missing or wrong. 
  • Use appreciation and gratitude for every small step in the right direction.
  • Ask yourself if there is anything you might be doing that is pushing your spouse and possibly causing an undesirable counter-reaction
  • Look for unmet needs in your spouse. Most men need to feel respected, admired, trusted and desired to be “pulled” toward their position of loving leadership. For a woman, things like affection, attention/time, genuine concern and romantic engagement will draw her toward more fully offering her submission.

Have you noticed divorces that have affected friends and family or occurred in groups?  Do you think this research is on target?

Project Happily Ever After: Is It Possible?

Alisa Bowman

About the time she began wishing her husband would drop dead, Alisa Bowman decided she had married the wrong man. Overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenting a colicky baby (then spirited toddler) while self-employed and working from home, Alisa was exhausted and frustrated. She and her husband had taken out a second mortgage on their house so her husband could follow his dream of opening a bike shop. There was no time left for love, marriage, sex or even sleep. They hadn’t been intimate in more than six months. They argued frequently, with no resolution.

Alisa began writing a novel in which a wife murdered her husband and got away with it. She started dreaming about her own husband’s funeral. Then, she began considering filing for divorce. But when a divorced friend asked her what she had done to try to salvage her marriage, she had to admit she hadn’t tried anything at all. She hadn’t even expressed her own needs in the marriage. “That was a turning point for me. I wanted my marriage to improve, but I didn’t know if we could,” says Alisa. Less than four months later, they were renewing their marriage vows.

In a new memoir/advice book called Project: Happily Ever After, Alisa shares the journey and lessons learned during those months of reading stacks of marriage books and implementing many ideas—some crazy, some mainstream—to see what would work for them.

She now says good marriages are a result of learning and practicing skills, including being assertive, communicating well, and learning to forgive. “It really only takes one person to learn the skills; the other generally follows suit,” she says.

“People often feel doomed when they try a skill once and it doesn’t work. But it takes practice. It’s like weight loss. If it took a long time to gain the weight, it will take time to get it off. And if it took a long time for your marriage to go bad, it will take a long time to improve,” Alisa says. “Patience and practice are key.”

After renewing their vows, the real work took place in the following year, says Alisa, when they had to learn to control their words and anger and continue to practice their new positive skills.

Rekindling their sex life is another important part of her book. Alisa planned an elaborate evening in New York City, where their love first bloomed, to re-consummate their marriage. She got a pedicure, manicure, new underwear, and her first bikini wax. “Lingerie and bikini waxes are more for the woman than for the man,” she says. “They make you feel sexy, and they help with desire.”

As for what led them to be so dissatisfied in marriage, she says her husband wasn’t nearly as frustrated as she had been, since he had time for work and hobbies like biking. “I wasn’t taking care of myself, and I was exhausted. I allowed my husband to walk all over me,” says Alisa. Part of her new skill set was learning to express her needs.

“I also had misconceptions about parenting. I thought babies slept a lot, so I would be able to work,” she says. “Looking back, I can see almost all of our arguments were about time. I felt we were out of love and I wasn’t being respected. I couldn’t see it at the time, but we were really struggling over time.”

Now, three years later, Alisa and her husband maintain a passionate love life and rarely argue, thanks to the skills they still practice. Alisa’s husband now feels it’s his turn to be supportive of her dreams and calling. And he doesn’t even mind her writing about their sex life.

In addition to the book coming out this fall, Alisa shares strategies in her marriage blog. If you subscribe, you will receive her free eBook Relationship Rules.

Alisa’s experience bears out research that shows the year after having a first child is often the most stressful time for a couple. In my experience, the level of stress has a lot to do with whether the baby is cranky and sleepless or easy and compliant to your scheduling. These factors are often out of your control. (I had one of each.) If you have children, it’s important to still put your marriage first—for their benefit and your own.

Alisa’s book comes out this Christmas and is sure to generate a lot of buzz and to inspire couples to put their marriages first. You can pre-order your copy here.

If you have children, did you experience a high level of stress during the early parenting years? What lessons did you learn? If you plan to have children, have you talked realistically about roles and responsibilities in the home?