We ladies like doing things together. Serious things, like helping with a sick child or really, truly listening to each other’s problems. Fun things, like getting our nails done, or going to the bathroom at restaurants.
But, do we also like to divorce together? It seems we might. A study by Rose McDermott, Ph.D., James Fowler, Ph.D., and Nicholas Christtakis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H, suggests that divorce can be “spread among friends.”In their article Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else is Doing it Too: Social Network Effects on Divorce in a Longitudinal Sample, these researchers found that a person’s tendency to divorce depends not only on her friends’ divorce status, but even on her friends’ friends’ status.
This research blew my mind!
Participants were 75% more likely to be divorced if a person to whom they are directly connected (1 degree of Kevin Bacon) is divorced, and 33% if a friend of a friend (2 degrees of Kevin Bacon) is divorced. At 3 degrees of Kevin Bacon, the association disappears.
The reasons may be debatable, but the message is really important:
“Attending to the health of one’s friends’ marriages may serve to support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship.” The article goes on to suggest: “divorce should be understood as a collective phenomenon that extends beyond those directly affected.”
Said simpler: support your friends’ relationships and be aware of the impact your relationships have on each other. This applies whether you’re married or divorced. So how can we do this? This is deep stuff, sis. And it’s not easy. But we’ve got a few suggestions:
· Be mindful of negative talk.
Picture the scene: You’re at your favorite restaurant having dinner with a few girlfriends. There’s a lot of wine. One of your friends tells a funny story about an annoying thing her partner did. He does it all the time and it drives her crazy. Everyone laughs, says they can relate. Another friend shares a similar tale of woe. There’s more laughing and commiserating. At the time, you’re actually feeling pretty decent about your relationship, but you find yourself jumping in and sharing your own complaints anyway. Or maybe you’re not, so this is a great excuse to let it out.
It’s just girlfriends sharing, right? Maybe.
A little venting now and then is fine. Healthy even. But be careful. Small thoughts have a way of becoming bigger thoughts. Bigger thoughts have a way of becoming consuming.
You know how whatever you focus on seems to appear all the time? Say you’re thinking about buying a Mini Cooper. All of a sudden, they’re everywhere. You pull out of your driveway - Mini Cooper. A car pulls up next to you at a red light - Mini Cooper. They were actually always there; you just weren’t paying attention to them until now.
It’s like that with all our thoughts. Enough complaint-filled dinners with your girlfriends, and you might find yourself over-focusing on that irritating way your husband leaves his dirty clothes on the floor all the time.
· Seek support from multiple sources.
When you’re going through divorce, girlfriends can be wonderful for support. And community is what we at DIGC are all about. In fact, the same research article suggests that social networks can play a role in helping us cope with divorce (yes!). But do be mindful of the impact your own situation may have on those closest to you.
Having more than one outlet for support is a great idea.It helps you find greater perspective, and it also eases the burden on those supporting you. For that, we’ve got you covered with tips on how to build your personal Divorce Squad.
· Be aware of the company you keep.
If your marriage is in a rough patch but you’re trying to make it work, think extra hard about who you spend time with.
Self-help guru and entrepreneur Tim Ferris was asked what he would print on a billboard if given the chance. He replied: "You are the average of the five people you most associate with." His point? Those closest to us have the greatest impact on our way of thinking and our decisions.
To be clear, we’re not referring to married versus divorced people. We’re talking about surrounding yourself with positive sources - in whatever packages they come.