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Can You “Catch” Divorce?


4 strategies to protect your marriage when divorce is all around.

Sarah feels sick to her stomach. She just found out that her best friend’s marriage is over. Sarah always thought that her friend, Kay had a healthy relationship, but it seems that appearances were deceiving. Even Kay was surprised to discover how unhappy her husband was-- especially after she caught him cheating with another woman.

When Kay called Sarah to tell her the news, she was in shock. Kay always believed that her marriage would last forever and is bitter to realize how wrong she was. Sarah is determined to help her friend through this difficult transition, but she’s feeling sick about all of this for another reason too.

A more personal reason.

Up until now, Sarah has also believed that her marriage to her husband, Jack would last forever. She admits that they don’t have a perfect relationship, but who does?! With this huge upheaval so close to home, Sarah is starting to worry that something will happen to her own marriage.

She feels vulnerable and worried.

Although it seems irrational, Sarah fears that her friend’s divorce will somehow negatively influence her own marriage.

If you’ve ever had a friend or family member get a divorce, you might share similar fears. Obviously, divorce is not like a cold or the flu virus. You can’t literally “catch” divorce just because someone close to you is going through one.

But, then again, being near a couple who is splitting up may have unwanted effects on your own relationship. A recent study by researchers at Brown University suggests that divorce often happens in clusters. When a person finds out that a peer is getting a divorce, it spurs that person to assess his or her own marriage-- perhaps with a more critical eye. Because someone known to the person is choosing to end his or her marriage, somehow the prospect of divorce seems more acceptable and maybe even preferable to another.

Is this like peer pressure? Well, not really.

Just because a friend, family member or co-worker is getting a divorce, it doesn’t automatically mean that your marriage is headed down that road too. You can’t “catch” divorce. However, if you and your spouse have been shoving down dissatisfaction and denying unhealthy habits, hearing about another person’s divorce, may signal to either (or both) of you that you don’t have to put up with the unhappiness any longer.

The big lesson for couples is this...

Don’t get lazy or stick your head in the sand.

Make the health and happiness of your marriage a top priority and continue to do so. When problems develop (and they inevitably will), address them as soon as you can and work together  to create new habits that nurture and grow your relationship.

And when you hear that someone you know is getting a divorce, offer that person kindness and compassion and also use that as a reminder to check in with yourself about the state of your own marriage. Without descending into a blame game, identify where resentments, disagreements and disconnection have formed and clear up and improve those areas.

Want to protect your marriage from divorce? Remember this...

1. Stop fearful projections.
If your friend’s divorce has you imagining what it would be like to go through the same kind of heartbreak and upheaval, stop yourself. You won’t be able to really be there for your loved one who is actually experiencing divorce--who could use your support right now-- and you certainly won’t be in an open and loving place with your own spouse when you do this. Recognize that you’re projecting and return your attention to what’s true now.

2.  Be honest.
Speaking of what’s true now... it’s really important for you to be honest with yourself. Do you and your partner have a habit of tiptoe-ing around sensitive topics? Do you get jealous easily? Have you stopped having sex or being intimate? Acknowledge what’s gone off track in your relationship and do so without pointing fingers.

3. Turn around disconnection.
ASAP come up with a plan and begin to turn around whatever is happening in your marriage that weakens trust or takes you two apart. The plan could be one that you and your spouse come up with together and agree to. It could even be something that you create and put into practice by yourself. It’s better if you’re working together with your partner, but big improvements can occur even if you are the only one to make changes.

4. Cherish what you have.
Hearing about your co-worker’s divorce may make you more critical of your own relationship. Notice it if you become negative or start to only see the stuff that’s going “wrong.” Do address these problem areas, but remember to shine a light on and appreciate what’s working and what you enjoy about your spouse and your marriage.

When you genuinely cherish what you have with your partner, you can build on those good feelings. This can be your springboard to an even better that lasts.

Keeping the spark alive in your marriage or long-term love relationship can be your reality, no matter what’s going on in the lives of other people. Get more tips and strategies for a Passionate Spark~Lasting Love at

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