I’ve mentioned before the reality that our lives are affected by the people around us, and that our marriages are affected by the health, or lack of health, of our friends. Today I saw a study (abstract here) that takes this to the next level, saying that divorce spreads across social networks.
“We find that divorce can spread between friends, siblings, and coworkers, and there are clusters of divorcees that extend two degrees of separation in the network.“
All of that is troubling, especially the two degrees of separation. It’s scary to think our risk of marital problems – may they end in divorce or not – is to some small degree influenced by our friends’ friends.
“Overall, the results suggest that attending to the health of one’s friends’ marriages serves to support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship …“
I would certainly agree – anything we do to strengthen the marriages of those around us is good for our own marriages. Beyond that, I would suggest being proactive – be aware of the health of the marriages around you, and if your marriage is struggling, limit the amount of contact with those who have marital problems. On the other side of it, seek to spend time with those who have good marriages, as this will strengthen your marriage.
Finally, for those couples who have very solid marriages, and both husband and wife feel this way, may I suggest that you invest yourselves in the lives of some newlyweds and a few couples who look like they could be doing better? In other words, if you can stand on your own legs well, please help those who need a shoulder to lean on and those who are just learning to walk. If you have a good marriage, there are many people in your life who have contributed to that in some small way – please pay it forward.