I mostly read The Breakup Monologues: The Unexpected Joy of Heartbreak over the course of one weekend, author and comedian Rosie Wilby’s conversational stage persona making it easily digestible and impossible to put down on a sunny weekend with few commitments. Mirroring the non-linear nature of breakups, the book flits back and forth in time, marked B.G. (Before Girlfriend) and A.G. (After Girlfriend). Using ever-changing vocabulary to describe a number of different ‘ghosting’ methods, the book delves into Wilby’s dating and breakup history, alongside incredulous anecdotes from others. The driving point of the book, inspired by the podcast of the same name, is that each breakup can teach us something. Despite this, the romantic in me can’t help but hope that Wilby, equipped with the knowledge and experience of past relationships, might find a happy ever after with Girlfriend. With this mixed sense of hope and impending doom, the book itself mirrors the structure of an uncertain relationship.
Reading The Breakup Monologues at this particular moment in my personal life meant it resonated even more with me, bringing me from laughter to tears. Like me, Wilby seems to have had a pattern of going after the wrong kind of partner, reliving trauma mistaken for connection and struggling to communicate her needs. Like me, Wilby has also been fortunate enough to meet someone who is different, who she is able to grow with, and that’s also true for some of the other success stories we encounter in the book. The way Nat Luurtsema’s boyfriend dealt with a traumatic STI diagnosis reminded me of the non-judgemental way I was able to discuss similar things at the start of my current relationship. Remembering how, early on, he agreed to be my escort as I had eggs collected to be frozen, had me crying happy-tears as I read Nat’s anecdote. As someone with a big fear of conflict, having a partner that you can properly communicate with is paramount to having a healthy relationship. As Wilby asserts, citing The Power of Discord by Claudia Gold and Edward Tronick, moving from misunderstanding to understanding reinforces connection and is essential for growth.
The Breakup Monologues is also informed by Wilby’s previous book ‘Is Monogamy Dead?’ Having explored polyamory, Wilby has found she is more suited to monogamy, but taking into account the different ways we have relationships also means that breakups need not be a case of cutting someone off completely. As a lesbian, Wilby also discusses how it is more commonplace in the LGBTQ+ community to remain friends in some way with ex-partners. This is also something I have found since exploring my sexuality as a bisexual solo poly, still maintaining friendships with people of different genders whilst now being in a ‘monogamish’ relationship with a man. Maintaining friendships with those you have been intimate with, been on dates with, or once had long-term relationships with, fights against the idea of people being disposable that has become a norm in recent years. Through this kind of friendship, you can learn a lot about relationships in general, improving communication skills and strengthening connections with everyone in your life.
Wilby also touches on breakups in friendships, and how they can be even more painful than romantic breakups. When you break up from a romantic partner, you have to reassess ideas of an imagined future; when you break up with a friend, you have to face the difficulty of accepting that this person no longer wants to make the time and effort for you within their circle of friends. This can also be particularly difficult for those of us who are neurodivergent. Wilby touches on the possibility that not having a diagnosis can make relationships a struggle, referring to Kathy Labriola’s seven reasons relationships are likely to end. Wilby herself does not have a diagnosis, but she writes insightfully about Autism and ADHD, and how aspects of these conditions can make all relationships more challenging. One moment, during an emotional storm, when Wilby is sweary and angry, reminds me of my own relationship. In both cases, the other partner asserted their boundaries in a way that helped to foster growth, encouraging communication and understanding.
The Breakup Monologues is full to the brim with insight, from looking at the scientific side of why breakups are so emotionally difficult, to the dangers of over-functioning, to many engaging personal anecdotes. Wilby refers to many songs and films about breakups, highlighting a personal connection to each, as well as employing various beautiful analogies of her own, such as comparisons to the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. Like the forget-me-not tattoo that forms an important part of my personal history, this book is a compassionate reminder that our breakups make us who we are, and that if we are able to learn their lessons, they can make our future relationships better.
The Breakup Monologues: The Unexpected Joy of Heartbreak (Green Tree, Bloomsbury, 2021) is available now online and from all good book stores.
Featured image credit: Green Tree Bloomsbury
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