Music Hurts After a Breakup
Listening to music after a breakup can be heartbreaking. Music, places, physical objects and other things you love are intrinsically bound to the love you just lost. Our first instinct is to avoid these things or shut them out of our lives. We don’t want to deal with the pain. But when we do this, we lose pieces of ourselves in the process. When we throw out the baby with the bathwater, we get an empty tub and more losses to grieve.
This post is one of three about taking back the things you love when a relationship ends. Take It Back #1: Reclaiming Your Desire to Have Sex After a Breakup is about reclaiming your sexuality after a split. Take It Back #3: Reclaiming Belongings After a Breakup is about reconnecting with objects of sentimental value. This post tells the story of how I took back music after my breakup. It’s an ongoing process, but this is the wheels were set in motion. w
The Way My Music Died
When I left my ex-husband, Emitt, music became a minefield of emotional triggers. We’d been together for fifteen years. It was impossible to avoid songs that had been the soundtrack to our relationship. Many of these songs and musical artists were ones I truly loved. Listening to that music after my breakup was torture. But its absence from my music collection was painfully conspicuous. I missed my music and I wanted it back.
Breaking Up with Jason Mraz
My first victory in reclaiming the music I love came when I rediscovered my love for the song “Lucky” by Jason Mraz. This beautiful duet between Mraz and Colbie_Caillat was playing in the background when Emitt proposed. It was a song I’d always loved, and he chose it knowingly. The proposal took place on a balcony overlooking the ocean in Mexico. I knew it was coming, but when Emmit opened the green jewelry box and asked me to marry him, I felt joy like nothing I’d ever experienced. I’d never felt so overcome with love for another person. When I said “yes,” we both cried, and Emitt held me as though he would never let go. Two years later, Emitt was gone, and “Lucky” became a painful reminder of broken promises.
I tried to hide from this song for months – an exercise in futility given its popularity in big box stores. Then one day after I’d moved into my new condo, it started playing on the Google Music radio station I was listening to. I wanted to dive for my phone and throw it against the wall, but I couldn’t move. Instead, I stood paralyzed in front of the sink full of dishes I was washing. Standing there tidal wave of emotion swelled inside me. I remembered the joy I felt when Emmit proposed. Then the agony of losing that joy came crashing down. I cried with my whole body – like my heart was breaking all over again.
Making Up With Jason Mraz
But when the song finished, I went to my phone and played it again. And again. And as I forced myself to listen, I realized the song had touched me long before Emitt proposed. It has a sweet little melody that plucks my heartstrings every time I hear it. The lyrics in the refrain, “Lucky I’m in love with my best friend,” speak to a belief in love that is hardly limited to how I’d felt about Emmit. By the fourth playback, my face was wet, but my eyes were dry. I could sing along without choking up. What I thought was “our song” was mine, and I knew it had been all along. I still tear up a bit when I hear “Lucky,” but mostly because of what it means to me personally
Breaking Up With Neil Diamond
My second musical triumph was reconciling my relationship with Neil Diamond. Emitt was eleven years older than me, and he turned me on to a lot of music from his youth. Neil Diamond was one of these artists. On our second date, Emmit took me to see a Neil Diamond cover band called Superd Diamond. After that, we went to see them every time they were in town. I loved those shows. The crowd belting out the “Ba, ba, ba’s” of Sweet Caroline. Dancing in place to You Got to Me.
Tragically, Super Diamond became the smoking gun in the affair that ended mine and Emitt’s relationship. He’d already been outed on my sisters’ Instagram feed, but he was still maintaining his innocence. I was inclined to believe him, but the nagging doubt led me to search his laptop in the middle of the night. What I found was a receipt for two tickets to Super Diamond in his email inbox. They’d played two months earlier, and we’d missed the show because Emitt said he had to work. After that, I couldn’t imagine ever listening to Neil Diamond again.
Making Up With Neil Diamond
Then one evening, as I was installing flooring in my new condo, I felt urge to add some Neil Diamond to a 70’s playlist. I tapped a song into my phone quickly, then slid the phone across the floor so I couldn’t reach it. I waited anxiously, braced for the worst, wishing I’d been less impulsive. Then “You Got To Me” started playing. At first painful memories and angry thoughts began running through my head. But at that moment, I was too happy to succumb to the pain. I was covered in dust and flooring adhesive, proudly making my new home my own. I was starting over – free to make my new life whatever I wanted. Within a few seconds, I was singing along. Then my toes started tapping. And then, I got up and started dancing.
As I bopped around, I remembered how much Emitt hated dancing. He’d always refused to dance with me. It had always been a point of contention in our relationship for years. That’s when I realized that this was a love affair between Neil and me. Emitt might have introduced us, but he wasn’t why I was dancing like a maniac in my living room. I put on Neil Diamond’s Greatest hits and haven’t looked back since.
Empowered by Taking the Music I Love
These experiences brought the music I loved back to me after my breakup. But they also marked a turning point in the healing process. They reminded me of a powerful truth I’d lost sight of: No person or song can dictate the way you feel. Feelings are self-generated. They’re a function of our thoughts. That realization empowered me in every aspect of my recovery.
Everyone’s relationship with music after a breakup is unique. Some may find that it’s easier to just let go of the songs that harbor painful memories. I don’t pretend to have guaranteed solution to this problem, but I would like to share what’s worked for me. To come are three of the steps that led to my success.
Tips On Taking Back Your Music After a Breakup
#1 Face Your Fears
The unpleasant first step is sitting down and listening to the music you want to take back. I recommend doing this in a moment where you feel happy, content, and hopeful for the future. You may also want to do this in private so you can indulge your feelings without judgement.
#2 Immersion Therapy
Listening to a song repeatedly can help desensitize you. If you integrate it into your daily life you will start associating it with new experiences. When I listened to Neil Diamond while working on my condo I made him part of that memory. I’ve taken back other songs by adding them to playlists made for different occasions.
#4 Make It Personal
If you love a song, it probably means something to you outside of your lost relationship. Maybe you discovered it on your own. Perhaps you had memorable experiences listening to it in with other people or by yourself. Think about the song itself, and identify what elements speak to you. If you were hearing it for the first time what would you like about it? The melody? Lyrics? Beat? Instrumentals? Under your grief, what feelings does a song stir in you?
#5 Reframe Your Thinking
Reframe the way you think about the song. Instead of “our song,” make it your song. Take it back from the person you’ve lost. If you have to tap into resentment, do it. You don’t get to choose when a person leaves you or drives you away. But you can choose what they take with them when they go. Music is a fundamental part of who we are. It inspires. It tells our story. We may share it with others, but it belongs to us.
Photography By Stella Fae Bliss