Sometimes you have to take therapy into your own hands – and to the movies. You may not be able to part ways with your shrink just yet, but you also may need a mini-reprieve from the format. That’s where those classic life-after-divorce movies come in. They can be both cathartic and inspiring – and a consoling reminder that you’re not alone.
There’s a reason people still flock to the oldies-but-goodies. Time may be on a fast trajectory, but emotions are timeless, especially when it comes to life-altering experiences like divorce.
If you’re drowning in your own tears or wondering whom to invite to your pity party, grab your remote and fire up your movie app.
Whether you need a big dose of the ha-ha’s or an excuse to emote into a box of tissues, Hollywood has answered the call.
Here are 6 cathartic and inspiring life-after-divorce movies to start your viewing marathon.
First Wives’ Club (1996)Sometimes a little comedic revenge – at least on screen – is good for the aching soul. And, when it comes to revenge in life-after-divorce movies, no one does it better than Elise (Goldie Hawn), Brenda (Bette Midler) and Annie (Diane Keaton).
Jaded by their cheating husbands after helping them climb the ladder of success, they join forces for some costly retribution.
Traitors, keep your younger models. These damsels have come for the dough!
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)No one but the incomparable Robin Williams could infuse ROTFL comedy into the delivery of poignant experiences and life lessons. (Well, Euphegenia Doubtfire might give him a little competition.)
When San Francisco voice-over actor Daniel Hillard (Williams) is divorced by his wife Miranda (Sally Field), he loses custody of his three children. Co-parenting isn’t an option, and Daniel is limited to weekend visits with his kids.
In an effort to see them more, he creates the character of an old British nanny, Mrs. Doubtfire, and applies for the job.
The beauty and genius of this movie is that it’s fun (and cathartic) for the whole family. Children of divorce will easily relate to the Hillard children. And divorced parents will easily relate to the awkwardness of someone new entering into an ex’s life and the lives of their children.
If you need some healing laughter with a dose of every-divorce-is-unique, do a Netflix night and chill with Mrs. Doubtfire.
Julia Roberts plays Isabel, an ambitious photographer and the (younger) love interest of Luke (Ed Harris).
Luke and his ex-wife Jackie (Susan Sarandon) have two children, and Jackie is nothing if not the “perfect mom.”
Tension, resentment, fear, jealousy, and sabotaging rear their ugly heads as this family navigates the addition of a new parental figure.
And all the relationships go through a startling self-examination and transformation when Jackie learns she has cancer.
It’s Complicated (2009)What do you get when you combine Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin? Well, it’s complicated, so you’ll just have to watch to find out.
Jane (Streep) and Jake (Baldwin) have been divorced for ten years. But leave it to a family event to rekindle the fire.
The complicated part? Jake is remarried and Jane is in a relationship.
Yeah, it gets hilariously messy. They’re well past the vulnerable period of rebound relationships, but they have managed to rebound into their own affair.
You may not be in the same situation, but, if nothing else, you’ll take comfort in knowing how twisted life after divorce can be.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)Author Frances Mayes expands upon her personal memoir of transforming a villa in Bramasole, Italy to tell a story of transformation after divorce.
After her husband divorces her for his affair partner, Frances, played by Diane Lane, is inconsolable.
Stuck in the early stages of grief, she accepts a life-changing gift from her lesbian-couple friends: a gay bus tour of Italy.
While there, she finds a dilapidated villa that needs as much soul work as she does.
Frances’s journey of rebuilding a crumbling edifice becomes a living metaphor for her own recovery after divorce. It also becomes the natural inspiration for her writing.
This you-can-do-this movie will move you through the agony of betrayal and divorce and into the light of healing and self-rediscovery.
And you get all that therapy while on a virtual Italian vacay.
Whether you hold off on getting into a new relationship or jump the gun with an online dating profile, it’s a big choice.
Are you ready? Are you doing it for the right reasons? Are you really cut out for a relationship? What about your kids?
Stella Payne, played by Angela Bassett, is a successful stockbroker facing life after divorce in her forties.
Encouraged by her friend Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg) to take a trip to Jamaica, Stella comes face-to-face with familiar feelings and temptations. (Hey, with a temptation like Taye Diggs, what woman wouldn’t get tingly and tempted?)
But she has more to consider than just herself and her feelings in the moment.
Sometimes “getting your groove back” starts with redefining your groove.
If you still have popcorn in your bucket after this line-up, here are a few more life-after-divorce movies:
- Waiting To Exhale (1995)
- Crazy, Stupid Love (2011)
- Eat, Pray, Love (2010)
- Enough Said (2013)
You may not be able to escape the reality of your divorce. But sometimes a little escapism can help clear out your tears and restore hope.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you’d like additional support rebuilding your life after divorce, you can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me.
Looking for more information about how to start over after divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life After Divorce.
It’s time for a reality check.
You walk down the aisle expecting eternal bliss, even though you know better. You eventually settle into more realistic expectations, learning as you go that happiness evolves and deepens in meaning with life’s challenges. But sometimes there is a harsh reality check: You’re unhappy with marriage and depressed.
You may not know which came first or if one is causing the other. When and how did I become unhappy? Is my spouse unhappy, too? Is this depression a result of my unhappy marriage, or is it somehow fueling the unhappiness in my marriage?
Despite the futility you may feel, your questions have merit. And doing the uncomfortable work of answering them could be the difference between saving your marriage and health…and not.
The interconnectedness of being unhappy with marriage and depressed has research to back it up. Each component – marital dissatisfaction and depression (and anxiety) – can affect the other. And the task incumbent upon the suffering spouse(s) is to figure out if one factor is giving rise to or exacerbating the other.
When you’re unhappy in a relationship, you may be so aware of your emotional unrest that you don’t realize the physical and mental unrest happening behind the scenes. Understanding how an unhappy marriage can affect you will clarify the relationship between marital dissatisfaction and depression.
For example, being in an unhappy marriage can lead to physical problems like a weakened immune system, increased blood pressure and cholesterol, and poor sleep. Mentally it can disrupt cognition, memory, and decision-making. It can even increase your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. And, on an emotional level, it can increase your risk of depression and anxiety and make you vulnerable to negative emotions like anger.
Research on the effects of marital conflict on depression and functional impairment corroborate these mental and emotional effects, as well as risks to physical health.
Turn the tables and ask if being depressed can lead to unhappiness in your marriage, and the answer is another yes.
Research has shown that a spouse’s level of anxiety and depression predicts his/her marital satisfaction. But the “aha” lies in the fact that they also predict the partner’s level of satisfaction. Despite anxiety having an influence, it is nowhere near as detrimental as depression.
In other words, not only is it difficult to live with depression, it’s difficult to live with someone who suffers from it. A double-edged sword that would challenge the happiness of even the best relationships.
It would be easy to get lost in a pasture of chickens and eggs. Which came first? Which do I focus on to fix the problem? What if I can’t fix my depression? What if I can’t fix my marriage? Is it too late to be happy?
Unless one or both spouses enter the marriage with a history of diagnosable depression, it’s more likely that marital discord leads to the depression. And one of the most frequent causes of being unhappy with marriage and depressed is a dominant-submissive dynamic in the marriage.
When one person assumes a controlling role in the marriage, the spouse in the one-down position is more vulnerable to depression. Even with successful antidepressant intervention, it’s the resolution of marital problems that prevents a relapse of the depressive mood.
When marital problems and fighting continue, depression continues. When marital problems and fighting subside, depression decreases.
But problems don’t go away on their own. And hiding behind alcohol, avoidance, and acquiescence only breeds its own issues and resentments.
When dominant-submissive inequality is at the root of marital unhappiness and depression, learning collaborative engagement skills is foundational to healing. And reaching out to the experts for some Problem-Solving 101 may be just the jump-start needed to turn a failing marriage around.
But let’s not disregard the damning influence of an undiagnosed mood disorder like depression. Depression, by its very nature, causes its victim to experience life through a cloud of gloom, however varied the intensity.
The person may not even know why the “darkness” is there because it’s “wired in.” If there are marital problems like the dominant-submissive dynamic described above, depression will likely intensify for the subjugated spouse.
But, if there is nothing unresolvable causing the depression, there may be an undiagnosed underlying disorder. And that brings us back to the effects of depression on both spouses.
If you’re evaluating your marriage through an underlying, hard-wired depression, you may be unaware of the problem. And that can spell unnecessary demise for an otherwise salvageable marriage.
You may wonder how to know if you need to stay in your miserable marriage or divorce. Assuming no issues like abuse, addiction, and chronic infidelity, the person who is both unhappy with marriage and depressed should consider a mental health evaluation.
It’s important to imprint the message that depression and other mood disorders are not judgment or value statements. Whether or not you (or your spouse) receive a diagnosis that points to a genetic or chemically-based depression isn’t a statement of blame or absolution.
Marriage is still the responsibility of both parties. And that means learning to communicate and problem-solve in ways conducive to mutual well-being and happiness. It also means learning to navigate unforeseen obstacles like health (including mental and emotional) issues.
The big question is whether, upon the acknowledgment of your marital unhappiness and depression, you want to save your marriage. You don’t need to have all the answers to answer that one important question.
If the answer is yes for both you and your spouse, you will be able to find your way to health and happiness.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach who helps people, just like you, who are unhappily married. For immediate help, you can download your FREE copy of “Contemplating Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Know”. And if you’re interested in working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.