There’s lots of cliches about country songs tackling marital infidelity and the promise of new love once broken hearts mend. When those songs deal with divorce, there’s more for the singer to unravel than the typical sad song. Beyond the resentment and guilt that makes country breakup songs memorable, there’s often the added sorrow of child custody, splitting up belongings and other sad truths that go along with a fractured marriage.
Since before Tammy Wynette spelled all of this out over 50 years ago, country music has dealt with these sorrows honestly. Cheating hearts aren’t always countered with Carrie Underwood’s baseball bat — although “Before He Cheats” is awesome — or Taylor Swift’s pop anthems. Instead, a lot of the following selections are love songs for the innocent family members effected by divorce.
With so many potential and worthy choices, there’s no point in ranking the 10 best country songs about divorce. Instead, it’s a roundup of 10 solid selections that prove that such songs address more than the initial sting of falling out of love.
“Highway 20 Ride,” The Zac Brown Band
The Zac Brown Band’s third single to top the country charts finds co-writer Wyatt Durrette wondering how his son perceives those weekend-ending rides back to his mom’s house.
“Rated X,” Loretta Lynn
With her usual mix of wit and common sense, Loretta Lynn tears apart the social stigmas that are still attached to a lot of divorced women.
“Child Support,” Barbara Mandrell
Barbara Mandrell changes the meaning of “child support,” saying she gets support from her child that’s worth more than an obligatory check.
“Every Other Weekend,” Reba McEntire (with Kenny Chesney)
Here’s another modern tale about kids from split families, spending every other weekend with their dad. It’s an unfortunate arrangement for all involved that seems more like “forever” than a marriage.
“Do You Want Fries With That?,” Tim McGraw
“Starting Over Again,” Dolly Parton
“She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft),” Jerry Reed
Musical comedian and guitar ace Jerry Reed brought a little levity to divorce proceedings with this classic single about a man getting the lesser half of a shared estate.
“Give It Away,” George Strait
“I Don’t Call Him Daddy,” Doug Supernaw
In one of the sweetest music videos of its time, Doug Supernaw’s son (played by his real-life child and future Titans tight end Phillip) makes it known that his mom’s boyfriend is a good man, but he’s not as special as Dad.
“D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” Tammy Wynette
This 1968 classic set the gold standard for divorce songs. Its lyrics consider how two parents’ decision impacts their children.