Sunday, January 1, 2023

The Breakup Song

Why are so many pop songs about heartbreak?

On one of my many trips to Silicon Valley in the 1990's I was riding along highway 880 in Fremont, listening to the radio.  Greg Kihn was a DJ with a local radio station and he treated us to a live acoustical version of "The Breakup Song" and I thought that the Bay Area was pretty damn cool, particularly compared to Washington, DC.  There were still fruit orchards back then, although they were rapidly being plowed under to make room for more semiconductor and "dot com" firms.  That was probably the apex of Silicon Valley - it has been all downhill since then.

But that was not what this is all about.  I was thinking the other day - my most dangerous pastime - and it struck me that so many pop songs are about people breaking up, heartbreak, or just general depression. And I thought that maybe this is not a healthy thing.  It is normal, when you are young and dating to meet someone, fall in love and then maybe a few months later, decide it just isn't the right match for you.  This is nothing to be alarmed about or to get moody about.  Sadly, there are some people - mostly men, I'm afraid - who decide that "If I can't have her, no one can!" - which makes it all-too-evident to everyone why she broke up with you.   You're crazy!

While breaking up is hard to do there must be 50 ways to leave your lover - after all, what's love got to do with it?   There is life after love, anyway.  You get the idea - there are so many songs about this that breaking up in a relationship is clearly not some anomaly or horribly bad thing.  Yes, it is difficult, particularly if you feel you are being rejected.  But on the other hand, do you really want a relationship with someone who doesn't like you?  Where is that going?  Nowhere.

Maybe a better approach is to look inwardly and see what you might want to do to change.  But first, maybe you dodged a bullet here and should be grateful.  I've met and dated several women and men in my youth, and while they were all, for the most part, decent people, I realize now that as a long-term relationship, some of them would have been a disaster - particularly two who were mentally ill (which I didn't realize early on as people are very good at hiding these things).  Other folks, well, they were nice people and all, but we had different goals and aspirations in life, and if someone wants you to change drastically to make the relationship work, maybe it wasn't meant to be. And sometimes, the timing is just off - you meet someone at a point of time in your life where you are in transition and they want to settle down.  Like two ships passing in the night.

But getting back to introspection, this can also be valuable. Sadly, many men want a partner who is basically dependent on them, as a means of controlling their partner.  They want a mail-order bride who is financially dependent on them - almost a slave in fact.  You have to put yourself in the other person's shoes and try to understand how the relationship looks to them.  If they fell powerless and manipulated, where is this going?   They likely will resort to passive-aggressiveness as a means of trying to level the playing field or at the very least, lashing out.

Of course, this can often lead to abuse - physical, sexual, financial, and psychological.  And it would seem that, worldwide, this is the model many men prefer - to keep women as chattel, not as life-mates.  And that to me, is very sad for both parties, but particularly for the women involved.  Of course, women who break free of such abusive relationships are often harassed by their ex-spouses, who are the least likely to take the time for introspection.  Like I said, it becomes clear to the rest of us why they broke up .

Then, there are the more mundane things - division of labor, money, and whatnot.  Money issues are what divides more marriages than anything else.  Oddly enough, when you get divorced, money issues just get worse, as you now have to support two households and fight over things like child support, division of assets, and alimony.   It is better to talk about money in a marriage then divorce and have a judge tell you about it.

Then there are husbands who are little more than man-babies looking for a new Mommy to make them food, wash the dishes, do the laundry, clean the house, and fetch them a beer while they watch the game.

But there are other things, and I don't just mean leaving the seat up.  A marriage should be a partnership where both parties are pulling on the yoke in the same direction to get toward a mutual goal.  If you don't have mutual goals, that is a first red flag.  I have met and heard about countless couples who get married, where one wants to have many children and the other wants none.  "I'll change their mind" the child-wanting partner says.  That likely won't happen.  Two people with vastly different agendas - how can they possibly pull together.  The marriage becomes a race to the bottom, where each tries to get the most out of the relationship in terms of material goods and status - and a mountain of debt ensues.

There are situations, however, where people just drift apart.  It is sad, but sometimes after 30 years of marriage, people just wake up one day and say, "I want something else."   Or, more commonly, they meet someone else and find they enjoy spending time with that person more than with you.  This is heartbreaking, of course, particularly if you have children and grandchildren together.  I'd say about half the population here on Old People's Island are on their second or even third marriage - which is typical of the boomer generation.  It is a little awkward when you ask them, "how did you two meet?" because they don't want to say, "Well, she was my side-lady and the missus found out and divorced me, so here we are..."

Which again is why divorce is such a waste both financially and emotionally.  If you leave your husband because he had a bimbo on the side, well, the bimbo wins.  He never wanted to marry her, just screw her, and now you have forced the issue.  Bonus points if all your angry bitter divorced girlfriends talk you into divorcing him.

Being bitter and angry the rest of your life isn't the answer, either.  I would hope that if Mr. See left me for Brad Pitt that the two of them would be happy.  Yes, I would be sad, but no, bitching about it to everyone I meet would not make it better.  Trying to make him miserable would be even worse.  But I've seen it all - ex-spouses who just can't let go and as a result make themselves and everyone around them, miserable.  On the other hand, they were likely prone to this behavior before the breakup, so perhaps that is why they are once again single.

Like I said, it is a good chance to look inward and maybe do a self-assessment.  None of us are perfect beings, none without fault, and no one is entirely blameless in any breakup of a relationship.

But again, it is part of life - as evidenced by the millions of songs written over the eons about heartbreak and romance.  So get over it and get over yourself and move on with the next chapter of life.  It may be a very damn short chapter, so you might as well enjoy it.

The next chapter might be a very damn short chapter!

We've been together 35 years now and I would hope that never changes.  But if it did, I don't think either of us would turn to bitterness and recrimination.

Besides, we have a king-sized bed that fits three - or even four - people!