Conflict Thesaurus Entry: A Divorce or Break-Up

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Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into one that rivets readers. As such, every scene should contain a struggle of some kind. Maybe it’s an internal tug-of-war having to do with difficult decisions, morals, or temptations. Or it possibly could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.

It’s our hope that this thesaurus will help you come up with meaningful and fitting conflict options for your stories. Think about what your character wants and how best to block them, then choose a source of conflict that will ramp up the tension in each scene.

A Divorce or Break-Up

Category: Power struggles, failures and mistakes, relationship friction, ego

Minor Complications:
Awkwardness arising from running into the person in social situations
Being lonely
Having to attend social events and functions alone
Wanting to get back together when the other person has no desire to do so
Decreased productivity at work or school
Entering a different stage of life (singlehood) and drifting away from friends who are in relationships
Loved ones who share unhelpful advice: You’ll find someone even better, or How long are you going to mourn that loser?
Being saddened by hobbies or interests that were shared with the other person, and being at loose ends

Potentially Disastrous Results:
A difficult and drawn-out divorce settlement
A bitter custody battle
The character’s children suffering
Losing friends or family members who choose sides
Being financially ruined (due to a prenup, shared debts, lawyer fees, etc.)
Having to move to a new house, neighborhood, or city
Sinking to new lows in an effort to win the person back (stalking, manipulation, nagging their friends for information, etc.)
Being pursued by the other person (if the character initiated the break-up)
The break-up triggering or aggravating a mental disorder (depression, panic attacks, OCD, etc.)
The ex seeking power by spreading rumors, deliberately poaching the character’s friends, poisoning their child against him or her, etc.
Having to continue to work with the ex (if he or she was a co-worker)
A toxic rebound relationship
Refusing to see the part the character played in the break-up; being destined to repeat their mistakes in future relationships

Possible Internal Struggles (Inner Conflict):
Insecurity and self-doubt
Self-blame (if the character’s actions caused the break-up)
Having to go through the stages of mourning
Feelings of despair over dreams (of getting married, having children, etc.) being put off or destroyed
Feeling as if life isn’t worth living without the other person
Seeing other happy couples and experiencing jealousy, bitterness, or resentment

People Who Could Be Negatively Affected: The ex, the character’s children, family and friends, co-workers

Resulting Emotions: Anger, anguish, anxiety, bitterness, conflicted, denial, depressed, despair, desperation, devastation, disbelief, dread, emasculated, grief, guilt, homesick, hurt, insecurity, jealousy, loneliness, panic, powerlessness, remorse, resentment, resignation, sadness, self-pity, stunned, unappreciated, worthlessness

Personality Flaws that May Make the Situation Worse: Addictive, controlling, cynical, defensive, gullible, insecure, manipulative, martyr, needy, pessimistic, possessive, promiscuous, reckless, self-destructive, vindictive, volatile

Positive Outcomes: 
Recognizing the part the character played in the break-up and taking steps to make changes and grow
Making the most of the time without a partner; the character learning to be comfortable and happy with him or herself
Distance revealing truths about the other person that the character had been blind to
Being free to find someone who is a better fit
Having more time to engage in meaningful activities and pursuits
Building deep, lifelong relationships with other singles

If you’re interested in other conflict options, you can find them here.

Need More Descriptive Help?

While this conflict thesaurus is still being developed, the rest of our descriptive collection (15 unique thesauri and growing) is available at our main site, One Stop for Writers

If you like, swing by and check out the video walkthrough, and then give our Free Trial a spin.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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