Had a few emails over the last few weeks with people who are going through difficult breakups, the winter always a good time for such things. It’s always hard to know what to say, or if to say anything at all, but when I do I most often seems to opt for blunt and not to rose-tinted about such things, and very often the problems that lead to breakups are easy to see. A mate rang me a few months ago who had only just got married, but things were not going well already, his lifestyle just not conducive to both parties being happy. I knew that most people would give him the same old advice, to stick it out, marriage guidance, that things would get better, but I just said “you’ll never change, and therefore your wife will always be unhappy if she loves love, and the second she stops loving you in order to survive, why be married?”. I guess that’s the kind of relationship advice that Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad would give someone. Tough love is hard, but often it’s the only way, as people can just lose their minds when it comes to relationships (having a baby, getting married etc in the hope that it will work out). My most sage advice to anyone having trouble (this will save your $$$$ in marriage counselling) is simple go on holiday, just 1:1 and after two weeks if you don’t like each other then split up).
The other night we got into a conversation in the car about men seeing prostitutes, men who were married. Being the contrary man I am I said that I got it, that I’d seen and met enough people late in life who it would make sense to them at that moment. They love their wife, they love their kids, they love their life, but something is missing. “Fine then they should split up if he wants to shag someone” was the universal answer, but then I thought about the many people I know that almost a lifetime later was still un-mended from such a black and white moral view of relationships. People are just odd and fucked up and weird. I’d give them a little more slack I guess.
Someone I was talking to told me how hard they were finding breaking up like it was all they could think about day and night. It was driving them mad. I knew her partner, and he seemed unsure if to go cold turkey and just stay away and keep in touch. I told him that someone once told me that breaking up can be like pulling out a really, really bad splinter, a long shard stuck right through your heart. “You can tug it out millimetre by millimetre,” they said “or you can rip it out”. That image stayed with me, and I’d passed it on - well I used to - but not anymore. Now I think one is like someone dying slowly, day by day, the other one dead and gone just like that, both are about the death of someone, and the weight of that cannot be lifted by any stupid analogy. The only problem is that the slow approach is like dying, the fast just bleeding out, there is no easy way to do it. It’s just the act of grieving, something you can’t shirk, coming sooner or later (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance).
People seem to look for advice in such times, not that they need it, but I think they hope that talking about it will tip out some of the pain. It doesn’t work, but what I say is try and really come to terms with the reality of what has gone and the reality of now and the future. The sun always comes up, eventually.
But often the Mike Ehrmantraut gets the better of me, and I can’t help slap people around, to knock some reality into someone, that often that grief is not worth it, love one-sided or simply an illusion. True love is when both parties feel lucky to be the other. Once that balance is lost you’re fucked. Some mistake love for something else, something more practical, that people are scared about being alone, that now their stuff is mixed with yours it’s just a faff even if you don’t really like each other anymore. It’s cheaper living together etc. Like I say people are strange creatures, they frit away a life just like that. But then the other day someone told me how heartbroken she was, like devastated, had no idea how she could go on. She told me about her ex’s advice to her on how he was dealing with it: “just imagine your feelings are like a CD and just change it” was all he could come up with. At this, my Mike Ehrmantraut side came on strong, and I guess if the man speaking those words had been in front of me I’d have pistol-whipped him to the ground. What she had to understand was that no one who could say those words to someone in the pain of lost love, let alone actually believe them, or find they worked, know anything about love. They were trash and that perhaps they were not worth the first four stages of grief, but instead a quick run of the ladder of lost love to acceptance. Well, that’s what Mike would have said (plus maybe some light knee capping thrown in).