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Does a “mass divorce” happen often? Can You Really “Catch” Divorce From Your Friends? It turns out it’s really contagious.
This story first appeared on capsulenz.com
OPINION: “Oh, how I would like to know someone who is getting married. Weddings are so much fun, ”my friend sighed wistfully in her cafe. “Instead, everyone I know is getting a divorce!” And to prove that she was only slightly exaggerating, she started listing couples – mostly friends of her husband – who had separated in the past two years. His list kept growing. They were falling like dominoes.
But she said there had been an unexpected silver lining for her own marriage. While it was difficult (and slightly terrifying) at first, she and her husband now have much more open conversations about their own relationship. They verify each other, they appreciate the little things the other does for them, and are actively keen to recognize those things.
“It’s gone from ‘Hell, do you want a divorce too? ‘ to ‘OK, how do we make sure our relationship stays strong,’ ”she said. “Every Sunday we have a talk about the state of the nation’s marriage! “
Covid-19 is prompting couples to separate in numbers that family lawyers and mediators say they struggle to keep up with.
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But, is his story just a series of coincidences? Does a “mass divorce” happen often? Can You Really “Catch” Divorce From Your Friends?
It turns out it’s really contagious.
A scientific study (conducted by McDermott [Brown University], Fowler [UCSD] and Christakis [Harvard]) found that you are 75% more likely to divorce if you have a close friend who is divorced.
And from there, it just amplifies. If you have multiple divorced friends in your social network, your odds go up to 147 percent (compared to people who are married and socialize with mostly married friends).
In fact, the people you surround yourself with can have a huge impact on your likelihood of divorce, and sometimes it’s not even the friends you choose to hang out with. Having a divorced sibling means you’re 22% more likely to separate, but it’s interesting that a sibling seems to have less influence than your co-workers. If you are surrounded by people who have gone through a divorce while at work, your chances increase by 50%.
When I met another friend later in the week, I asked her about her group of friends and divorce rates. She’s a little older than me and the first friend I spoke to – while we’re both in our 30s, this friend recently celebrated her 54th birthday. Had she ever seen a “mass divorce” sweep her social circle?
She told me about only one close friend who had gone through a divorce, plus a divorced brother. “But,” she said, “Facebook tells a different story. Now it looks like it’s there! Suddenly a lot of people I went to college with or my old coffee groups have a very glamorous new pic and make Eat Pray Love type retreats. People in my age group seem to get divorced en masse.
Divorce coach Kimberlee Sweeney says it’s not surprising and that there are actually three stages in life where we’re more likely to get a divorce.
“The first one is in the late 1930s / early 40s,” she says. “Women, in particular, tend to turn 40 and start to find their voice. They have often had their children or the children are getting older and they realize that there is more to live for and want changes. And if these changes don’t happen in the relationship and they can’t grow together as a couple, this is a stage where they usually go their separate ways.
The second most common age for divorce is around where my friend is – in his 50s. “This can be an age when women go through menopause and men just don’t face it. Kids may age a bit or go to college, and women start to feel a bit more free to be able to do their own thing.
Finally, Kimberlee says there is what they call the “gray divorce”.
“This is where you see couples approaching retirement and they just can’t imagine retiring and spending all day, every day together. They end up taking their retirement savings and housing, dividing it up, and starting a new life. Sometimes it’s couples who have the house and the bach, and they each take one.
But it is the youngest who divorce in greater numbers, reducing the average age to 44.4 years in New Zealand for women.
This age has slowly increased over the years, as the age at which we get married also increases. In 2019, the average age for a Kiwi woman at divorce was 44.4 years against 38.4 years in 1999 while the average age for men was 47 years in 2019, against 41.2 years in 1999.
This increase in age also makes sense when you consider that in 2019, the average age of women who marry for the first time is 29.4 years old, down from 27 years a decade earlier.