Is Divorce Contagious? How You Can Beat the Bug

"Seeing how I came through it and came out on the other side in a better place and lived to tell about it, essentially kind of pushed [my mother] to stand up and say, 'I am not happy in my own marriage,'" Sheley said.

Trimble said that while he does believe his wife decided to divorce him because of his daughter's example, he does not blame his daughter.

Instead, he said, he compares their relationship to an immune system.

"If your immune system is up to full speed, and you're good and healthy, you're eating right, you're sleeping right, you're getting exercise ... you can be subjected to people who have colds and flu," he said. "But if your immune system is run down, and you get up against somebody who's got a cold or maybe has the onset of the flu, you're a pretty good suspect for coming down with it.

"I kind of think in my own particular situation, my marriage was a lot like that," he said. "The best way I can describe it is as a disease."

Trimble said his daughter's decision to leave her husband -- and then to begin a new relationship -- served as a wake-up call for his wife.

"[My wife] saw the changes that it made in [my daughter]," he said. "She went from kind of an unhappy situation in her marriage to a situation now where her life was beginning to come back to the way life should be. With some fullness, and some meaning, and some happiness. And that sort of thing. And I think it kind of was a catalyst that gave her the momentum to say, 'A change needs to be made, and I think is a change that we need to make.'"

Trimble's ex-wife did not want to be interviewed by "Good Morning America," but did confirm that Trimble's account of their relationship and divorce is accurate.

The phenomenon of divorce -- or other issues -- spreading in social groups is not uncommon, according to Fowler's research.

"Your friends influence you, your siblings influence you, even your co-workers influence you," said Fowler, the co-author of "Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives."

For more than 10 years, Fowler and his colleagues have used research from the Framingham Heart Study to examine the scope of that influence. He said his research has demonstrated that problems such as smoking, drinking, even gaining weight can all be spread through a group.

"What these social network studies show, is that you can't do it alone," he said. "If you want to make a positive change in your own life, you have to get your friends and family involved. If you want to lose weight, you have to get your friends to lose weight. If you want to have a healthy marriage, you have to get your friends to have healthy marriages. We're really all in this together."

More Divorce in Trimble Family

Trimble said he believes his family is a strong example of the type of phenomenon Fowler's research outlines. His youngest daughter, Courtney Maples, is now also getting divorced.

"I think that same contagious thing that transferred from Alycia and her situation to my former spouse and me, transferred right on down the line to Courtney and her spouse," he said.

While Maples said she and her husband had been having troubles in their marriage previously, she said it was only after seeing her mother and sister get divorced that she contemplated one herself.

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