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“Dear Embodied”: Breakup Advice for the Brokenhearted

A hand holds a playing card. It's an Ace of Hearts, but the heart is broken in two.
Petri Damstén
Breakups are awful, there's no way to sugarcoat it. But getting advice and telling stories can be helpful in healing.

With the help of two relationship advice columnists, Embodied responds to listener stories about ending romantic relationships.

From classic poems and romantic comedy plots to the numerous musical careers that have been built on the heartbreak anthem, it’s clear that we’re endlessly inspired by breakups. But when you’re still in the middle of one, the feelings of grief and isolation can seem like the end of the world.

In this episode, host Anita Rao talks with relationship advice columnists Meredith Goldstein and Stacia Brown. Goldstein writes for The Boston Globe’s column “Love Letters,” and Brown writes for Slate’s “Care and Feeding.” Both columnists respond to listeners’ voice memos about breakups and their often messy emotional aftermath. Prompted by these stories, questions, and perspectives, they explore a wide range of breakup-related topics, including the question of whether to go no-contact with an ex, the process of consciously uncoupling, and the healing power of breakup songs.

Embodied’s Breakup Playlist…paired with advice from this week’s guests!

Track 1: “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn

Direct communication is best when it comes to a breakup conversation. It’s important to give your reasons, but you don't have to justify them.

“Don't get into things that are in the weeds,” said Stacia Brown, who gives parenting and relationship advice through Slate’s “Care and Feeding” column. “Just talk about why you feel like it's over.”

Track 2: “Break Up Together” by Theo Katzman

For a breakup that's more along the lines of conscious uncoupling, consider whether there's a meaningful or symbolic way to mark the end of your romantic relationship.

Meredith Goldstein, who gives relationship advice through The Boston Globe’s “Love Letters” column, shared that she once interviewed two people whose breakup had included an uncoupling ceremony. As a way to signify the end of their romantic relationship, they jumped into a pool from opposite sides.

“I think it was sort of like this ‘new relationship baptism’ of: Now we are back to being friends,” Goldstein said.

Track 3: “thank u, next” by Ariana Grande

For some people, the adage about "getting under someone else" can be helpful, but it can be just as healing to focus on your friendships after a breakup.

As for when it’s time to “get back out there,” Brown says the time is right when you’re no longer comparing prospective partners to your ex.

“If your criteria for finding someone else is now completely independent of what you went through with your breakup, that might be a good indication that you've processed enough to move on,” Brown said.

Track 4: “The Story of Us” by Taylor Swift

Breakups can be devastating, but it’s also possible for your creativity to flourish in the wake of a split. Activities like writing, painting, and making music can all be great ways to process the range of emotions that come with the end of a relationship.

“It can be an incredible thing to remind yourself of your own talents and also give yourself a distraction,” said Goldstein. “I'm all for doing something creative, even if it's just playing a keyboard in your living room … you're probably working out some stuff you don't even know.”

Plus! A breakup playlist by Rose Bender, who contributed to this episode.

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Audrey Smith is a writer, educator, and temporary producer of "Embodied" based in Greensboro, NC. She holds a Master's degree in Secondary English Language Arts Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (2018) and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Nonfiction Writing from Oregon State University (2021).
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.