So Sick of Love Songs

“So why can’t I turn off the radio?”

I love a good love song. One that makes me picture myself dancing with my theoretical future spouse at my wedding, knowing I picked the person for me. One that makes me think back to how strongly I felt about my ex, and smile a little bit in appreciation of the experience. I LOVE a Taylor Swift album to cry over a breakup (not to be confused with loving breakups…I hate those).

But sometimes, I feel like all I hear in popular song lyrics is “I can’t live without you.” There are even a few songs by this name. And sometimes I can’t help but buy into the narrative – who would I be without this other person to tell me who I am to them? How could I tolerate the day to day without them?

Yes, I know it sounds crazy when I put it like that. But think about how often that message is out there, permeating our collective psyche.

In a recent country song (the tune of which I really like), Keith Urban sings:

“I couldn’t bear the cross
For everything I’d been through
And each day, I knew I needed change
But there was no way, no way

And then God whispered your name
And that’s when everything changed
And love came out of the rain
Talk about being saved

Suddenly I wanna live…”

It’s a beautiful sentiment, that a lover can come into your life and be everything you need. But it’s a fairy tale, just like the prince coming to wake up Sleeping Beauty. And we already know princess movies fuck us up.

What can save you when you’re in a deep dark place? Yourself. God. Yoga.

What can make you want to live? Finding your purpose. A good treatment plan from a therapist.

Not a lover. Even the best, most selfless life partner will crack under the pressure of holding your happiness in their hands. Or at the very least, they will be a human being and disappoint you sometimes.

They can hear you and support you and talk through things you are processing with you. But they cannot resolve your trauma for you. They cannot fill you.

You must be willing to do the work yourself. There is a way, Keith. And it is only fair to them that you become happy in and of yourself. Then your partner, current or prospective, can prioritize their own happiness, too. Then think about how happy you can be together!

In another pop song, JOHN.k sings, “If we never met, I’d be drunk, waking up in someone else’s bed, I’d be lost in a crowded room of fake friends….” First of all, waking up drunk in a casual partner’s bed isn’t always a bad thing…but if you want to stop doing that, and you want some real friends, it’s up to you to make those life changes. It’s up to you to fill your life with things that excite you. Easier said than done, I know; I’ve been there. But worth the work it takes.

In the hit Netflix series Love is Blind, Cameron says to his now-wife Lauren about life before he met her: “I wasn’t really that happy to be honest, and I think it’s ’cause I was missing you.”

I hope that he and Lauren are happy together, but I know it won’t be because Lauren makes Cameron happy all by herself. Cameron has to make Cameron happy.

Let’s replace “you make me happy” with “I’m happy, especially when I’m with you.”

And while we’re at it, let’s replace some more of the expectations that set us up for failure (in 50% of marriages):

Not only can we not rely on our partners to make us happy, we also can’t promise our partners who we will be and what we will need in 10 or 20 or 70 years.

A partnership is two independent human beings deciding to combine their lives in some way. And that can have so much value in it, even if it is not permanent. A relationship can be a success without ending at a funeral home, right? (I borrowed that last bit from Dan Savage.)

None of this is to say that whole people in healthy relationships don’t feel like they might die when they go through a breakup. But even in their deepest moments of pain, they know that the will be okay. Because what they have in themselves, no one can take way.

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