It seems to be a little odd to talk about such a traumatic experience. Songs about running away from an oppressive relationship tend to be more focused on the liberation of leaving. On the other side of the equation is the person left to pick up the pieces of their life. We’ve all experienced one side of the story or the other. Here are 20 of the best songs about divorce.
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In this 2003 gem, the guy left behind assesses his broken life. He states. “I found the pieces in my hand / They were always there / It just took some time for me to understand.” Like so many, the relationship was broken long before the breakup. It happens so slowly that we don’t see the signs.
He gains some comfort in the end when he turns the tables on his sorrow. “Remember how you used to say / I’d be the one to run away / But I’m still here.” Maybe it wasn’t his fault after all. In the end, which is right or wrong is little comfort.
Here is a 1977 classic song by a master songwriter. This song admits that sometimes nobody is at fault. People change. The character says, “Do you think we’ve grown up differently / Don’t seem the same, seems you’ve lost your feel for me.”
He discusses how they’ve both gone on with their lives and grown farther apart throughout the song. He concludes, “There ain’t no good guys / There ain’t no bad guys / There’s only you and me / And we just disagree.” A very adult attitude, to be sure.
Children suffer from divorce, often more than adults. In Everclear’s 2000 release, “Wonderful,” Art Alexakis relates the pain of divorce from the kids’ perspective. In the first verse, the child sits in their room nearly in tears, “I close my eyes when I get too sad / I think thoughts that I know are bad.” The song is an angry outburst about wanting things the way they were.
He sings, “I want the things that I had before / Like a Star Wars poster on my bedroom door.” All children can do is sit and wait for things to get better. A sad theme but a good song.
A big part of getting over a long relationship is the mundane things that remind us of what was lost. In this 2002 song, the character is recovering from a recent divorce. As he moves around the house, he finds everyday household objects that remind him of her. He reminisces, “You hung your favorite picture where you could see it every day / And then when you went away.” At every turn, he finds items that remind him of the relationship.
80s pop band Roxette’s song is an easy to like tune with a sad theme. The piece illustrates how the good times turn into bad times with little warning. The character tells her ex, “It must have been good / But we lost it somehow.” She laments that the relationship is now something intangible that she can no longer possess. “It’s where the water flows / It’s where the wind blows / It must have been love / But it’s over now.”
In this 1980 Country classic, Jerry Reed shows us that we can laugh at anything, even through tears. The song is the story of a man who lets loneliness get the better of him and has to find a wife but soon regrets his decision. He says, “But I’d-a said ‘I wouldn’t’ if I’d-a just knew / How sayin’ ‘I do’ was gonna screw up all my o’ my life.” Reed portrays the sad story of his short-lived marriage and the even more painful results.
Here’s an In Your Face take on divorce. The song starts out blatant enough, “I guess I just lost my husband / I don’t know where he went.” The character informs the world what she plans to do and how it will be better to do it independently. “So I’m gonna drink my money / I’m not gonna pay his rent / I got a brand new attitude / And I’m gonna wear it tonight.” She clarifies that she doesn’t need a man to make it, so what? A definite single girl anthem.
This 70s Soul classic still hits home for the partner who is left behind, even when they thought things would get better. The woman character expresses the joy she should be feeling since she has, “One less bell to answer / One less egg to fry.” This should make her happy. Instead, she realizes, “I only know that since he left / My life’s so empty.” She wonders why he left, and she wonders why she can’t get over him and go on.
This catchy little song from 2011 is deceptive. The melody and quirky vocals trick the listener into singing joyfully along to a sad song. In the first line, the singer gives us clues, “Now and then I think of when we were together / Like when you said you felt so happy you could die.” So happy you could die it good, right? Well, as it turns out, no. It becomes apparent that the song’s second line was the apex of the relationship. A fun song to sing along to, especially if someone has left you alone and confused.
There had to be one cheerful song on the list! In Roy Clark’s country classic, the singer lets his wife know that he’s tired of “Watchin’ you take the respect out of me / Watchin’ you make a total wreck out of me.” As she rides away on the bus, he rejoices, “That big diesel motor is a-playin’ my song / Thank God and Greyhound, you’re gone.” Sorta brings a smile to your face.
Stella brings her younger sister in on this track about their parents’ divorce. Opening with audio from a home video of Lennon holding a sleeping Maisy, the track moves into a sweet duet between the two sisters about their different approaches to the breakdown of their parents’ marriage.
The one thing they have in common, however, is that they can’t bear to see the other one upset.
The track then moves into a completely different sound, where the two lament their broken home together, and wonder how they ended up where they are. “What about our family?” they ask, to heart-breaking effect.
Swift describes a romance in which she falls hard and quickly for a boy who seems perfect. The problem is that her parent’s divorce has led her to believe that love never lasts. During an argument, her lover manages to set her mind at ease by promising her that he’ll never walk out.
“You say we’ll never make my parents’ mistakes,” she sings. Her boyfriend keeps his promise, and the two end up together. The events of the song are fiction, inspired by a dream Swift had of a past crush.
She wondered how things might have worked out if she’d let her guard down and trusted the boy not to hurt her. However, Swift’s parents are divorced in real life, and the caution she talks about in the song was lifted from her approach to relationships.
Anyone who’s ever spelt anything out that they don’t want their kids to understand will relate to this one. Wynette has taken to spelling out the word ‘divorce’ so that her four-year-old son doesn’t understand what’s going on.
She reveals that she wishes the divorce wasn’t happening, and is heart-broken that her son won’t understand why they have to leave. The track earned Wynette a Grammy nomination and was a number one country hit in 1968.
In this ballad, Ashe reflects on the end of her marriage and all the reasons it didn’t work out. “Young people fall in love with the wrong people sometimes,” she sings. But she’s able to recognise that her divorce was probably the best thing for her in the end – that’s the moral of her story.
Among the collaborators, Ashe worked on this song with was FINNEAS, the recording artist and older brother of Billie Eilish.
Eilish was in the room for some of the songwriting process, and suggested that Ashe change the line “You can think that you’re in love, but you’re really just in pain” for the final chorus. She advised Ashe to swap out ‘in pain’ with ‘engaged’, and Ashe ended up loving the impact of the swap.
James talks to a young child struggling to navigate their parents’ divorce in this tearjerker, writing from the perspective of one of the parents. He explains that sometimes parents fall out of love and it doesn’t mean that their family is gone, just that the nature of it will change.
He also tells the child that they’ll understand all of this when they’re older and navigating relationships of their own.
James was inspired to write the song whilst teaching children to play instruments. After discovering that one of his pupils had parents who were divorcing, he wanted to write something that would help children in similar situations to make sense of the difficult period in their lives.
This jaunty track from the Pistol Annies navigates one of the less talked about parts of divorce – the admin. Lead singer Miranda Lambert describes the legality of changing her name back and every document that she has to deal with in the process.
The song is really about her reclaiming her single identity, however, and how empowering that can be.
Lambert wrote the track after her split from ex-husband Blake Shelton. She said that for her, the tongue-in-cheek song represents “reclaiming your humour after you’ve been so sad and broken”.
A father reflects on his broken marriage as he makes the weekend drive to see his son in this melancholy country track from Zac Brown Band.
He worries that his absence will cause his son to think that he doesn’t care enough to be around all the time, and that his son is too young to understand the difficulty of the situation and how seriously his father took the decision to divorce his mother. This one will resonate with any parent finding a new normal in custody agreements.
Jean is heartbroken that her husband has decided to leave her, making it clear that the divorce wasn’t what she wanted. Her husband ended up promising her a lot of money to agree to it, and eventually she did.
But now that she’s left with only the cash to comfort her, she can’t help crying on her way to collect it and mourning her ruined relationship. “Where can I buy some happiness?” she asks sorrowfully.
Lavigne says a tender goodbye to her ex-husband in this track from her 2011 album, Goodbye Lullaby. Even though she has leave, she wants him to know that she’ll always love him and leaving is hard to do. Avril wrote and produced the song entirely on her own as a response to her divorce from ex-husband Deryck Whibley. She’s described it as an “honest and pure” reflection on closing a chapter of your life.
Eminem uses a popular nursery rhyme to sing/rap a lullaby to his daughter, Hailie, that explains all the confusing things going on in her life. Even though her parents are no longer together and her dad is away a lot of the time, he wants her to know that he’ll always be there for her and that he’s working to provide for her. It’s a raw portrayal of a parent struggling to put a separation into terms that a young child with understand.