4 big myths about divorce that will surprise you

No matter what the reason for a divorce or a break-up, you are never really prepared for how life will be after it's over. We bust some common myths

Man and woman walking in different directions

Whether separating, divorcing or breaking up, you are all moving towards the same thing: ending a relationship. No matter who initiated it, there are a lot of expectations that come along with that, and many myths about how life will be on the other side. Here are four misconceptions that many people are surprised by when they realise things aren’t how they expected them to be.

Myth number one

Once you are divorced, you will get along with your partner

Many people expect that their ex will suddenly understand them or respond to them the way they always wanted them to. That is far from true. The fact is that you got divorced because you couldn’t get along and make it work in the first place. Ending your marriage or your relationship won’t change that. The reality is that the anger that led to your divorce can get more intense during the process, making your interactions even more heated. In fact, taking the steps towards ending your union can turn into a continuation of sharing exactly the same feelings you did in your marriage, but you are now attached to different and often more difficult issues. Try to keep in mind that your relationship status has changed but the person you were with in that relationship hasn’t. They will continue to act in the way they always did.

Now that you are out of the relationship, try to do the opposite of what I would tell you if you were still in one: move from the ‘we’ to the ‘me.’ Of course, your goal is not to become your ex’s enemy, but now that you have pulled away from each other, you have to begin to accept that and stop wishing you can change the relationship for the better. Remember that it is no longer necessary for your ex to understand or agree with your needs or your way of thinking. And it is no longer reasonable that you want your ex to give you the emotional support he or she once did.

keep in mind that your relationship status has changed but the person you were with in that relationship hasn’t

To get through your divorce and move to higher ground really means letting go of the hope that you and your partner will finally be able to relate to each other in a positive and thoughtful way. If you couldn’t do that when you were married, there is no reason to think you will be able to do that now.

Myth number two

Once you’ve made the decision to end things it will truly be over

The fact is that breaking up is a long road full of ups and downs and second guesses. Oftentimes, it means letting go of the vision of your life that you once had with your spouse and, if you have children, as a family unit. That is very hard to do; so people often remain in contact, even keeping up some of the old habits like turning to an ex for support when they have a leaky roof or need help with a sick kid. Try to fight against that urge and instead put new support systems in place separate from your ex so you have someone else to go to right away if you need help.

What I always say is that divorce often ends legally well before it ends emotionally. So when we start a life together, and believe that the connection will last forever, sometimes we aren’t that far off. Unfortunately, in this case, it can end up holding you back from moving forward. In order to stop that from happening, try to define your world the way it is now, single and separate. That takes time, work and effort. To really be able to do that you have to work to tie up loose ends and eventually let go. Divorce is all about giving up your past as you have known it in order to create a new future. Adding to how daunting that can be is the fact that you are now doing it alone.

Divorce often ends legally well before it ends emotionally

Myth number three

Now that you are divorced you will no longer be sexually attracted to each other

In fact, sometimes people are quite surprised that right after a break-up becomes official, the sexual attraction they used to have not only does not go away but becomes rekindled. They might even find themselves being sexually intimate with each other. The likelihood of this is greater if the separation happened suddenly—either through a discovered infidelity or betrayal. In that case the sexual energy can become dormant because of the anger between you. Once things are clearly over and settled, that sexual energy, which was never extinguished but had just been buried, can come to the surface and reignite.

Myth number four

That your ex’s new partner is getting the better deal, walking away with your ex after you’ve done all the hard work to make him or her a better person

This is a common fallacy—the idea that your former partner is now thriving and doing well in the new union. While that might be how it looks, the truth is you ended your relationship with that person for a reason. You had irreconcilable differences and had to deal with behaviour that made it impossible for you to stay together. Just because you are no longer with that person does not mean he or she doesn’t still have that problematic behaviour. The only difference most of the time is that someone else is dealing with it. It is likely that those issues that came up when you were together still rise to the surface and continue to cause conflict in the next relationship. Unless your ex has done some real soul searching and changed his or her ways, those things don’t easily go away. Their new connection might look perfect, but if you had a chance to really see inside you would discover that it is not any better than what you shared together. Knowing this can help you feel relief and be glad that you are no longer dealing with it all.

There are no hard and fast rules about ending a relationship, each one is different. No wonder there are so many myths intertwined with the process. If you are able to recognise these four expectations as myths, and know before you are faced with them that the process of breaking up will most likely not be smooth sailing, your journey just might be easier.


A version of this article was first published in the February 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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