The Power of Contagious Behavior

I recently sent out a survey to learn more about how people are doing in their marriage. I spent hours looking through the hundreds of responses. The answers were incredibly interesting.

The replies to one question in particular completely shocked me:

“Do you have marriage mentors, or a couple you look up to a lot? Who are they and what do you love about their relationship?”

For a HUGE number of the respondents, the answer was, “No. There are no couples I really look up to or admire.”

I get it. Many of us either come from a family with divorced parents, or from parents whose relationship we just don’t want to emulate

There are TONS of examples of spectacularly mediocre, or even really crappy love out there.

hobbit love.gif

It’s profoundly sad to me how rare it is to find a couple that makes you think, “Wow… I want a relationship like that!”

But here’s the thing you probably don’t know...

Behaviors like divorce, conflict, and unhappiness are contagious. They spread like an infectious disease!

There’s this psychological principle called “Behavioral Contagion.”

Behavioral Contagion is the tendency for the behaviors of one person to be copied by others who are either in the vicinity of the original actor or who’ve been exposed to media coverage describing the behavior of the original actor.

Behavioral Contagion is responsible for all sorts of things like increased suicide rates, or booms in teen pregnancy, and even a line of nearly 400 people at Starbucks volunteering to pay for the coffee of the person behind them in line.

We do the things that people around us do.

A recent Pew Research Study even found that if a close friend or family member has gone through a divorce, you’re 75% more likely to go through one yourself!

(This explains the conversation I had a few months ago with a man I met at a conference. He told me 5 couples on his street all got divorces within a year of each other. True story.)

Now, before you assume you’re doomed to divorce or a dysfunctional relationship because of your parents, your siblings, or your friends, you need to know this (maybe you noticed this from the Starbucks example I mentioned above)...

Behavioral Contagion doesn’t just influence you to do bad things. It can also inspire you to do really awesome, good, kind things!

That famous quote from Jim Rohn couldn’t be more true. “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

So, if you’re surrounding yourself with people who are kind, uplifting, responsible, and honest… well, they’ll influence you to behave the same way.

Now for the most important question:

How do the people you spend the most time with affect you?

Do your friends regularly take their wives out on dates, or talk about how wonderful their husbands are?

Do they encourage you to be kind and patient when your partner is acting irrationally?

Do they make an effort to plan surprises, adventures and vacations? Do they have control over their emotions, apologize quickly, and give their partner the benefit of the doubt?

Do they invest in making their relationships unique and awesome?


Do they talk about how lame marriage is or how they miss their freedom from when they were single?

Do they refer to their wives as a ball-and-chain, or their husbands as an extra child they have to take care of?

Do they constantly complain about the negative traits in their spouse, or tell you to kick yours to the curb when you’re going through a struggle?

Do they pick fights, refuse to apologize, roll their eyes, criticize, complain or emotionally shut down when things don’t go their way?

Take a minute and get real with yourself here.

If your friends’ attitude towards their relationships were all as contagious as chickenpox, would they be infecting you with the desire to be a worse partner or a better one?

elmo thinking.gif

This is one of MANY reasons you should do EVERYTHING you can to surround yourself with people who are positive and committed to having awesome relationships.

“Ok, Nate. This is all great and wonderful… but what if I don’t know anyone like that?”

Great question!

If you fall into this camp, or you just want to surround yourself with MORE people who are stoked about having unconventionally passionate, uniquely incredible love, I want you to participate in an experiment with me.

I am starting a small, private online community for people who really want to kick mediocre love in the teeth.

We are going to support, encourage and inspire each other to be better partners. We’ll give each other ideas of how to better invest in our relationships, how to better handle conflict, how to see the growth opportunities in ourselves, and enjoy more fulfillment from our partnerships.

We'll get mentorship, encouragement, and lessons from the worlds greatest experts in love and marriage.

I'm calling it The 1% Club... because I want it to be full of people who want a marriage in the top 1% of marriages of ALL TIME.

Sound like something you’d be interested in? Check out more info here.

I’d love it if you could become the ultimate inspiration for what true love can look like for your community.

Let’s do this together!