Save your friend’s marriage, save your marriage.

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.

Follow Up – Lori Lowe has more on this study at Is Divorce Contagious? Researchers: Yes.

7 Comments on “Save your friend’s marriage, save your marriage.

  1. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to ‘pay it forward’? I mean, how does a matured couple, who know they have a healthy marriage, put themselves in a position to be accessible to those who would like to hear what they have to say?

    This is the question my precious one and I have been asking of our God for several years now. We want to help others who would want our help, so how do we put ourselves in a position where we can be found?

    Really, I’m asking this of all of you. We want to discover how to take what we’ve learned and use it to be good, for others, just as we were created to be.

  2. “Seek to spend time with those who have good marriages, as this will strengthen your marriage.” Agreed!

    My husband and I are committed to spending time with the seasoned happy marriage people that we know! :) And I have been praying that God send us someone to mentor as well. I’m sure He is grooming us to be mentors. I stay away from people who tend to try to push “Suspect” advice on us – a lady who seems somewhat bitter about decisions she made in her marriage, her advice seems bitter.

  3. @Eleutheros – First realise it’s not as formal as you might think.

    Many years ago, when we really had no clue and a marriage that had really only started to come together, a newlywed couple asked if we would meet with them occasionally. All they said was they had some marriage struggles, and they thought talking with us might help. We got together with them, usually a meal at their place, two to four times a month for several months, then a bit less. I never thought we shared anything deep or significant, but we did share what we knew and encouraged them as best we could. A couple of years later I almost fell on the floor when I heard this couple telling someone how Lori and I had saved them from divorce!

    From this I learned that friendship is powerful, and that one does not have to know much to do it. Because of this, I became a huge fan of friendship mentoring. There are certainly times and situations where a trained individual is needed, but an amazing part of the time a loving, caring, praying friend can give the Lord the access He needs to do a great work in someone.

    As to how you do it, I’d say look for folks who you think might be in need. Then befriend them. Don’t tell them you want to help them, just be friends. Let them see your marriage up close, and discuss openly your past, and current, struggles.

    Beyond that, for those in a more traditional church format (see my tip tonight BTW) I think it’s a good plan to set up something a bit more along the way of a formal lay ministry. This means that some couple, or couples, has a responsibility to vet, get to know, and train couples who can be of service to the body in this way. Once this is well established, those who want help have a place to go, and a list of those who can actually be of help.

    • I love the idea of ‘friendship mentoring’ (I’ve broached the subject among our ecclessia of helping each other in our marriages as we gain trust in each other). I certianly don’t want what we can offer to be perceived as, “We’re here to help you”. So, I guess just being where we are now, will suffice, for now, as we wait to be ‘called up for service’ by our King. For I perceive that to be willing to wait to be of service is still service. :) Thanx Paul!

  4. I agree that the “friendship before function” model seems to work well. My wife and I have mentored a few young couples who we were already in relationship with. They saw things they like in our marriage and asked us to give them some premarital counsel. We are also considering a married couple’s small group for this fall.
    .-= Scott´s last blog ..(3) What If… My Husband Acts Like a Dictator =-.

  5. I wouldn’t say we should stay away from those whose marriages are struggling, but we should spur them on in Christ, and exhort them to remember the vows they made. These friends need friends around them; if they are left in the dust by all those with good marriages, what examples will they have to follow? They need their hands held and other Christians to help bear their burdens.

    • @dc3 – I’d say it’s a matter of knowing your own marriage’s health. Just as the blind should not lead the blind, the infirm should not try to help anyone out of a pit. The classic example is the pastor with a poor marriage who attempts to help a couple and ends up in an affair with the wife. I won’t say that is common, but it’s not as rare as folks think.

      I agree those in difficulty need help. In a recent post I advocated just that – from couples in a place to do it. In a church there should be a mix of folks such that there are always some who are in a safe position to help.

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