EPISODE 11: ABOUT BREAK UPS (IN ROMCOMS)
Oh my gosh! Hello, welcome back to another episode of Sorry I Only Read RomComs, my name is Aanu, here we talk about romance and how it shows up in our lives, specifically in books. So, last week, I was thinking about the next set of topics for the podcast and somehow got the idea to look inwards, see key events I had heard and it occurred to me that we hadn’t talked about the key key thing in every romcom you would ever read, THE BREAKUP. Somehow on Twitter, someone had the kind idea to talk about heartbreaks, the story behind it and how it impacted everyone. See? The moment I saw a couple of tweets, I ran away like, devil get thee behind me, I’m not in the mood to be sad tonight; but, I was curious and I went back there. Listen, I laughed to the point of tears because yoooo, people really went through it. I think the most relatable one I read was how heartbreak will make you wake up at 1am and scream “Emi?!”, yup. What’s that thing they say about comedy being tragedy plus time. I don’t think anyone ever thinks that they will ever laugh about an event that once felt like your heart drowning in your chest but hey! Anyway, of course this prompted me to take a look at how break ups show up in romcoms, let’s dive in!
In every story, person 1 meets person 2, they think they are supposed to be forever, or at least a long while. The couple ladidas over the next 100 pages where everyone, or at least most people feel like they are meant to be. They spend more time inside their tiny bubble created by their love (of course in most stories, they won’t ever use the word “love”, they are just dating, or seeing how things go, or taking things one day at a time, even non exclusive, it’s no big deal. They of course can’t stand that other people flirt with their partners and still feel very jealous that they ever liked someone before them (again the rational part knows that this is stupid so they swallow it in a little bit of shame).
They may or may not count down to the time they meet for dinner (the not-a-date dinner) and have started memorising little things like the fact that they hate custard or love house music or fill in the blank. They replay the stories they shared while they are apart and they find themselves laughing alone and drawing stares from others around them. But of course its nothing, no big deal, just sex, wht. Then slowly, they mayyyy entertain the thought of being something more, maybe, just to try it out and see. After All they spend so much time with each other it only makes sense to try? Abi? Things then graduate, it becomes even more sweet, they don’t deny that they care for the other person as much as they used to, instead, they smile silently, which is even worse because nothing needs to be said before everyone goes, awwww. Of course, as art imitates life, it’s when it gets this good, that’s when you know it’s about to get downhill. There may or may not be an activating event but soon questions arise, holes are poked, doubt is planted, inner conflict is created that spills over to the relationship externally and finally the break or breakup happens. What happens then?
In many ways, relationships are mini cultures, in those cultures rituals are created, there’s a side of the bed, a time the person calls, a way they like their eggs salted, how you unconsciously leave the pizza crust or olives for your partner, not because you hate them but because they like them. You don’t really recognise the ways you shift and shift and shift your life to fit this person in until you have to face the gaping holes once they leave. As you can imagine, this exit always brings a range of feelings, expected and unexpected.
I think some of the expected emotions are anger, definitely sadness, hurt maybe. And in a lot of rom coms, these are the emotions that we see. It shows up in relationship withdrawal symptoms, by this I mean the ghost of all the activities past now come back to taunt you. You know all of those “our things”, “our food”, “our sign”, the perfume, all of that quote and unquote fun stuff. God bless you, other people are aware of “your thing”, like if you have a favorite cafe and the barista creates an order ahead of time and she goes like “this is the usual” and hands you two bags and you have to say “oh no, just the one”. In 100% of all the romcoms the reunion happens because they can’t deal with these symptoms, it’s almost culture shock relearning singleness again so they run back to the ex talmbout, “I can’t be without you” and other stories”, I talk more about this, in the “Partner not therapist” episode. You should listen to that one right after this.
One complex emotion that shows up after a break or breakup, that I feel should be talked about more is relief. This isn’t really mentioned often because it doesn’t happen in isolation it is closely followed by guilt, especially if you’re the one that initiated the breakup. And even if you’re not, there can be that expectation of sadness and anger and all of that fun stuff, but you may actually be surprised at how relieved you feel. It will be interesting to see how this is written in a story, even if as usual the characters reunite and live happily ever after, I think the conversation that will be had will be a bit more interesting than the usual mushy, I couldn’t live without you type shit.
Beyond this, I think we have a habit of dreading endings, as in real life, we’ll see characters in books that aren’t so compatible, maybe in life goals or personality or whatever and we’ll see the author bending over backward to make this a thing when these characters breakup, I feel like one of them at least will on some level see that a kind of weight has been lifted. And I don’t even think it has to be a dramatic meltdown too, how nice will it be to see an ending that is a conversation? Like hey, this isn’t working can we stop, can we evolve into another dynamic? Like not every time, someone overhearing something or you what I mean? Because relationships can have all the elements of love and passion and steaminess and end kindly and softly with two people easing out of each other’s lives. It needs to be written that that option exists.
One book that handled the conversation about breakups quite well was “Baby Proof”, this was a story about a couple that had agreed to be childless until the husband changed his mind and that difference caused the split up basically. What I loved about this story is how it explored that break beyond codependency, the woman actually dated, travelled, did all the high stuff, she was also jealous and sad and withdrawn all the low stuff and when they reunited, I believed that it was a believable way of writing a break and I liked it. I’m still looking forward to reading a romcom that actually ends the relationship at the end of the book. If you have any recommendations, please send them my way.
Alright folks, thanks for listening, if you have a breakup story you’d like to share, send me vn on anchor or send a dm at Sorry I Only Read RomCom on Instagram. You can also follow me on instagram and twitter at helloaanu, that is hello a a n u. Talk to you in the next episode, bye!.
Listen to the episode here: