10 Books to Read Before Getting Divorced

Despite the knowledge that many marriages aren’t forever, most who say “I do” assume their partnerships will be forever—otherwise, why bother? But divorce really is the answer, sometimes—the right decision for all involved. That doesn’t mean it won’t also be a painful period of transition.

Or not. The key is considering your options before you make that fateful choice. While no book can speak definitively to your specific situation, there’s a good chance there’s a book out there that can help you do just that. If you’re thinking your marriage is headed for a divorce, you might benefit from a little reading. The following books will offer perspective, advice, and entertainment, and just might make the decision easier for you, whatever you choose.

If You’re in My Office, It’s Already Too Late, by James J. Sexton
First a book to help you determine if your relationship is truly beyond repair. Sexton, a successful divorce lawyer who estimates the number of marriages he’s helped dissolve to number in the thousands, muses on what he’s learned about failed marriages from his work, and offers a guide to figuring out just how far gone your own relationship might—or might not—be. As Sexton explains, expectations (realistic and otherwise) are the foundation of a long-term relationship. You might see yourself in his warm and witty book—and find alternative solutions.

Reconcilable Differences, by Cate Cochran
Divorce is often equated with failure, but Cochran offers a different take, examining ten “successfully failed” marriages—including her own—where divorce didn’t mean a cataclysmic breakup, thrown crockery, and psychologically-damaged kids. Instead, these couples found their own way forward and made divorce a positive force in their lives, making up new rules that worked better for them and their kids. This could be just the sort of perspective you need.

Two Homes, One Childhood, by Robert E. Emery
If you’ve got kids, you’re going to have to start thinking about them before you tackle the divorce itself. It’s possible to insulate them from the worst of the process, but it takes planning and cooperation—so start the planning now, with this excellent book. Emery shifts the focus from your needs to the needs of your children, helping you and your soon-to-be-former partner develop a plan that will evolve along with your kids, and ensure they get to have a childhood despite the dissolution of your marriage.

On Your Own Again, by Keith Anderson
Living with someone can become a habit, and one of the scariest things about divorce is the idea that you’ll once again be on your own. Once you accept that divorce is your only way forward, there’s no time to lose in thinking about how you’re going to clear the rubble and start again. Anderson offers a concise and well-organized approach to putting the past behind you and finding a way to live by yourself—how to find the self-confidence that you can, in fact, rely on yourself to not only survive, but thrive.

A Man, a Can, a Plan, by David Joachim
Despite the title, this book is for anyone who has no idea how to cook or shop at a grocery store. If your spouse took care of the groceries and the cooking, a divorce might leave you facing epic takeout bills. This book allows anyone—and we mean anyone—to feed themselves with a modicum of style, without knowing anything at all about fresh produce or advanced cooking techniques. While we can’t recommend staying on this meal plan forever, it’ll get you through those first confusing months when dinner no longer magically appears on the table every evening.

Getting Back Out There, by Susan J. Elliott
You may not be divorced yet, but if it’s become inevitable, then jumping back into the dating life probably is too. Dating after you’ve been in one relationship for a long time can be a brutal, eye-opening experience—so start getting yourself mentally and emotionally prepared for the modern dating scene, a battlefield intimidating enough for young folks, and almost paralyzing for someone on the other side of a divorce. Elliot doesn’t just offer platitudes or a strategy for catching someone’s eye, she guides you to consider where and why you went wrong before—and how to avoid making those same mistakes.

The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout
Dating will bring you into contact with a lot of new people—and some proportion of those, science tells us, will be sociopaths. Stout’s sensational book argues that there are more sociopaths out there than you think, and they can be difficult to identify, and thus avoid. If you want to avoid dating one (or, maybe, dating one again), Stout helps you to learn how to spot one in the wild, before they buy you a drink and turn on their superficial charm.

This Isn’t the Life I Ordered, by Jenniffer Weigel
Television personality Weigel offers a fun, entertaining reflection on her own divorce, and tells how embracing the new layout of her life led her to bigger and better things… eventually. If you’re headed for a split, learn from Weigel’s experience, and set yourself up to take advantage of it as a change, not a failure. Weigel’s journey through her own painful split will prepare you for the challenges and missteps to come with your sense of humor intact.

Heartburn, by Nora Ephron
Not only was Ephron a great writer, and not only is this a great novel, but the fact that it’s largely autobiographical should be comforting. If a smart, rich, successful people like Ephron can suffer through a brutal divorce, you don’t have to feel too bad about your own. And if she can come out stronger and wittier for it, maybe you can too. As an added bonus, this story of cookbook author Rachel’s split from her philandering husband is side-splittingly funny.

The Rabbit Angstrom Novels, by John Updike
John Updike was a writer with myriad obsessions, and they all came together in the four-book, decades-in-the-writing saga of flawed but fascinating Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, who attempts to abandon his young family in book one and doesn’t make life any less complicated for himself as the decades rush on. What you end up with is, in large part, one of the most finely-detailed accounts of the ups and downs of a marriage in literary history. Considered as a whole, Rabbit’s race through life offers the sort of minute study of a relationship that will force you to reconsider you own.

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