Why Breakups Are Both Easier & Harder After a Divorce

Dena Landon

By Dena Landon | Jun 16th, 2022

Breakups suck. Frankly, I’ve never handled them that well, even if I initiated them. There was my eleventh-grade Homecoming date. He dumped me when the school’s most popular girl broke up with her boyfriend and asked him. The freshman year boyfriend I broke up with because I realized he didn’t want me, he just wanted a girlfriend. And, of course, the divorce that I made happen. I’ve cried every time, though for different reasons.

When you’re with someone, you fall into patterns. Going to the diner down the street, or the movies on Saturday, your days take on a routine. You have someone to text with during a slow day at work, or to talk to while you’re making dinner. And then – they’re gone.

Along with the person you were with, you can lose friends. Family. A place to go on the holidays. Breakups often ripple through every part of your life, and that ripple effect causes some of the pain.

I’ve found that breakups post-divorce are simultaneously easier and harder. I was the one who pulled the plug on my marriage, so while I struggled with loneliness, I didn’t miss the person. I had work to do to get back to myself, to grow and to expand into who I am now. And some of my breakups post-divorce have been easier for that reason.

I know better who I am now, and I can articulate my boundaries. Because I’ve defined what I want and my ‘no go’s,’ I don’t hang around waiting for a relationship to get better. The men who’re ‘fixer-uppers?’ Bye-bye. It’s become much easier to weed out men who aren’t looking for, and can’t offer, what I want.

But that’s also why dating post-divorce can be harder. When I find a guy who has long-term potential, it’s hard to let him go. The reasons my last boyfriend and I ended our relationship are private, but not due to fighting or incompatibility. I still love him, in many ways, but things can’t be forced.

It’s hard not to get discouraged, but that’s partially because I’m picky. And that’s the good of having gone through a divorce. I’m not settling again.

I dated a man briefly at the end of this summer and the timing just wasn’t right. I’m casually dating but not putting in much effort. Honestly, half the time I’d rather be knitting on my balcony than making “getting to know you” small talk. I’ve learned to take those rest and recovery lulls in my dating life as time to work on myself.

There’s no doubt about it – dating post-divorce is hard. Online dating is a cesspool, men in the state I’m currently living in are reserved and don’t approach women in bars, and too many men just want sex. It’s hard not to get discouraged, especially because I can go months between a date. But that’s partial because I’m picky. And that’s the good of having gone through a divorce. I’m not settling again.

After a divorce, a breakup leaves you wondering, Will I always be alone? What if I never find someone? They’re questions you probably had to deal with during your divorce, no matter who filed. Post-divorce breakups can bring up those old fears. And I think it’s harder to trust in love you do find because, after all, it’s ended before.

At the same time, you can tell yourself – well, I survived that hell. I’ve got this. You’re undoubtedly stronger post-divorce, and wiser. Even if I take a brief detour into crying and eating a pint of ice cream, I snap out of it faster now.

I think a lot of divorced women struggle with this dichotomy of easier but also harder post-divorce breakups. Whether it’s easier or harder depends on the day for me, as it probably does for you. But the thing about the bad days is – I know they’re not permanent. I know I’ll have a better day in a week or so. And, I promise, so will you.

Dena Landon

Dena Landon

Dena Landon's bylines have appeared in The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Salon and more. The proud mom of a boy, she specializes in parenting and divorce.


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