By: Mar Curran
Internet, my love of lady pop artists is well known. I would venture to say I am fairly well versed in how teenage girls are taught they should emote about relationships. This is why when my partner and I broke up I knew I could talk to the women of radio hits about how I was feeling. What I didn’t particularly expect was how the arrangement of certain songs could sweep me through so many different feelings about my breakup. One minute I was an empowered queer, thinking of how I am the best my ex will ever have and it’s her loss; the next, I was lamenting the (false) inevitability of never finding love again. Could it be, internet, that I was dealing with relationship grief? I turned to my other true love, science, and got to thinking.
Below you will see my Kübler-Ross-Curran pop breakup musical playlist. I will give some bonus stages because it’s my mixtape so I can do whatever I want, as is my newly single mantra. “I ate leftover sushi and cookie dough for breakfast! I’m single! I’m not wearing socks today! I’m single!” is something I actually shouted at work the other day. At least now you know what kind of playlist you’re in for. Thank goodness I have access to being published on the internet to work emotions out, right?
Stage 1: Denial
Let’s start with a classic, kids! Here’s a helpful hint I learned from a friend: if you walk around casually thinking to yourself, “Is this what it feels like right before a relationship dies?” then, yes, Gwen, your relationship is about to end in most cases. If your partner keeps answering, “I don’t know,” to you asking them what’s wrong, even when the line of questioning turns to you asking if they’re breaking up with you right then, then this might be especially true. But human beings are very good at deluding themselves into thinking everything is fine, so if your brain is not able to handle breaking up right away, it’s just going to think you’ll get back together, like mine did for one particular breakup. And we did get back together again! And then we moved in together, got cats, and she left me, so that’s why I don’t think this way anymore. Work your way through denial, squirrelfriend.
Stage 2: Anger
Next there is Sheryl, to psyche you into the anger stage. We need to get to a place where you’re thinking, “What the fuck? This is not how relationships work; I’m putting more in! This is not how they’re supposed to end; I feel like shit!” If you’re wondering why I need to get you to that place, reader, it’s not because misery loves company. You need to really sit in that anger to get it out of your system. You know what happens when you don’t? The next time you talk to your ex you say stupid shit like, “I am so over you and so much better off now,” while looking like you’re trying not to strangle them like one of my exes appeared the first time we talked after the breakup. Or you end up yelling at your next significant other about how your last ex did the same thing they just did and that means they’re awful and blah blah blah. What I’m trying to say is, get over the anger so it’s not taken out on me later when we date. You need to process that shit!
Stage 3: Bargaining
So you’re backtracking in your mind. “Okay, they left me, sure, But I’ll give them a chance to get back with me. It’s not really done between us! We just had one fight! They’re just confused! They just need space to realize they want to be with me too!” Not gonna happen, friend, or if it does it should be months or years from now when you’re both better, more mature people, not five minutes after they told you that they hate your guts. You’re still going to agonize over getting back together, though, so LiLo might as well be the gal to get you through it. To be perfectly candid, a few of her old songs have such raw emotion in her voice (or maybe it’s just my bleeding heart) that I really connect with her distraught lyrics over someone (coughAaronCartercough) leaving her that I feel less alone in the universe in a rough time. So tip of the cap to you, Lindsay, for making my days more bearable.
Stage 4: Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
In my first breakup, which happened to be with my cohabitating fiance, I made the erroneous assumption that continuously texting her for the first two days after our breakup was a great plan. These texts touched on themes such as, “we can make this work,” “is this because you cheated on me again,” “I can’t live without you,” and, “get your shit out of the apartment.” As a person a little older and with a fair increase in breakup experience now, I can say that I am always the person who ends the breakup speech with saying I need space and then wrestling with my feelings to give myself that space. You know how you won’t get over your ex? By making yourself look desperate and depressed. Save that for the times your roommate will catch you sobbing into one of your ex’s shirts before leaving for work in the morning. See, you have something to look forward to! Let Destiny’s Child remind you that you’re not THAT person, internet.
Stage 5: Depression
Hey, get ready to hate your life, internet! The link above is an acoustic version. No one captures what it’s like to not want to get out of bed because you have lost love in your life like the sisters Quin do. “Cooked up a plan, so good except, I was all alone, you were all I had,” is a lyric you can only relate to when you feel like you will never get over a breakup. Or if you suffer from depression like me, I guess, but mostly the former reason hopefully. If it gets to be too much, switch to “Feel You In My Bones” so you can think about how you want to remove your heart from your chest cavity because it will never serve a purpose for you again oh good god now I’m back in the wallow zone too.
BONUS: For some dude sadness, my go-to for this mood is Brand New, specifically “Okay I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t.” It’s perfect for when you realize you’re wallowing and are sick with yourself for being so sad that you remind yourself of robot Ryan Phillippe in Cruel Intentions.
DOUBLE JEOPARDY: Destiny’s Child’s “Emotions” is my other go-to for whenever you bounce back to this stage from another and you’re wondering where your ex is now when Facebook stalking them, because we all do it and should not pretend we don’t cry after sometimes. Also, Beyonce not bleaching that dude’s clothing is everything I wish Carrie Underwood had thought through before keying that dude’s car because he cheated on her and thus making her one of my most strongly disliked female vocalists.
Stage 6: Acceptance
According to grief.com’s page on the stages of grief I linked to above and trust since it has the word “grief” in its URL, acceptance isn’t about being happy to be free, it’s about feeling like you will come out on the other side of loss. Nothing says survival to me like Demi saying that when you tear her down she will rise back up like a large architectural form! We will rise again, fellow single people! Love will lift us up where we belong, or some other stuff that means we’ll be okay!
Stage 7: Stella Gets Her Groove Back
You think you can’t get over this breakup? You think you’re not good enough for them? You think you’re not sexually appealing to anyone else? You think you’re going to die alone, aside from your fifteen foster cats? HELL NO. You are amazing, funny, talented, sexy, courteous, adorable, compassionate, and intelligent. You are reading this article, which is how I know these things! If you do not believe these things there is only one solution. You must be home alone, wear only your underwear, blast this song and dance until you BELIEVE. I don’t care if you feel weird doing it or it takes ten times listening to this song, this is the only non-medical advice I can’t tell you to take that you should take, internet. Get your power back! Fall back in love with yourself, you powerful sexy beast, you!
Stage 8: Freedom!
A funny thing happens when you break up with someone. All of a sudden you want to do this thing where you get revenge by looking like you’re so over the relationship. If you’re actually over a relationship you won’t even need to talk about it, as I found out after once spending two months lamenting a breakup of a relationship that was itself only two months long. But hey, sometimes you have to fake it until you make it, so put on your best pout and act so above all this hurt feelings bullshit every once in awhile if it makes you feel better!
Stage 9: Better Off
You know that thing where you think all of your partner’s flaws and quirks are adorable and endearing, and then you break up and you’re like, “Why did I think it was okay that she brought up her exes all of the time and left used tissues on my bedroom floor?” BEYONCE UNDERSTANDS. Beyonce wants you to be cherished, which is a word Patrick Gill, editor and co-founder of this site, taught me in my breakup. You should not be the one bending over backwards for someone all the time; you can both do some acrobatics, but there needs to be an equal amount of stretching, to use a weird metaphor I’m running with right now.
Stage 10: Whatevs
Could I have played the Alanis card on “You Oughta Know?” Yes, I could’ve, but if there’s one thing she knows other than how to write one of the best angry breakup songs ever it’s how to say, “Hey, world, I’m figuring my shit out and I’ll be okay.” That’s what this stage is about: the realization that you’ve survived this breakup, and everything is gonna be fine fine fine. Although I do not recommend smoking, as Alanis does. Follow it up with some “You Learn” and chalk this relationship up to a valuable learning experience in life that will ultimately make you a better human if you move forward positively. Level up, reader, and get ready for the next part of your romantic relations to begin.