Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Nora Ephron, Walter Kirn, Alexandra Fuller and others on letting go—and moving on.
5 stories

"I understood now the idea of love as a sickness," Alexandra Fuller writes in her new Byliner Original, Falling. "My physical self changed in Charlie’s presence: my heart flipped, blood surged, nerves crawled out of their protective sheaths and misfired. The sudden shock of coming into such sharp focus—the sheer, unlikely, extraordinary luck of being loved by this man—was exquisitely painful. Other men had found my intensity off-putting, unseemly, alarming. Charlie calmly turned toward it, as if warmed by the heat I threw off." Two decades later, the heat had cooled and, as she writes poignantly in her memoir, the marriage ended.

In 2001, Pam Houston offered advice to anyone who has suffered a bad breakup. "If at all possible, get yourself to a small Himalayan Buddhist kingdom. About two weeks into singledom, I booked a trip to Tibet. There's something in my brain that moves from heartbreak straight to the desire to be around Buddhists, the real ones, the ones who still wear the robes," she wrote. "There's nothing like watching a sky burial, watching a hundred big, reeking vultures devour an entire corpse in three or four minutes, to make you realize how quickly things change."

Walter Kirn reflected on his parents' decision to stay together while their kids were grown, only to divorce after they were adults. "If the divorce had happened in my youth, while I still lived at home, I probably would have witnessed tearful pleas, thunderous accusations, rattling door slams. Emotions would have been attached to scenes. The images might have been wounding, but at least they would have been something to hold on to," Kirn reasoned. "Instead, I underwent a cyber-split. An electronic, disembodied trauma. With no one to look in the eye, I grew distrustful. With no one to look in my eyes, I grew untrustworthy."

And Nora Ephron described why divorce can often last forever. "When you've had children with someone you're divorced from, divorce defines every­thing; it's the lurking fact, a slice of anger in the pie of your brain," she wrote. "Of course, there are good divorces, where every­thing is civil, even friendly. Child support payments arrive. Visitations take place on schedule. Your ex-­husband rings the doorbell and stays on the other side of the threshold; he never walks in without knocking and helps himself to the coffee. In my next life I must get one of those divorces."

My Parents’ Bust-Up, and Mine

Two generations of divorce.

From the Web

How to Be Alone

We all have to learn to be by ourselves, whether it’s after a breakup, a move or a divorce—but how, exactly?

Aug 2012
By Editors Recommend

Get Dumped? Get Over It!

An eight-step approach to pulling yourself together.

From the Web

The D Word

A few words about divorce.
Nov 2010
From the Web

The Stay-at-Home Divorce

When his marriage collapsed alongside the real-estate market, Jon Pieja found himself trapped in a house with his ex.

Jul 2009