Monday, 24 March 2008

Break-up gossips

People so often jump to knee-jerk conclusions about why a relationship failed and whether it was A's fault or B's fault. In fact the truth is usually a lot more complex than such simplistic name-calling.

Obviously I'm thinking of a certain well-publicised divorce* where one individual is getting pilloried ruthlessly by the media while the other is being help up as a saintly icon who's been taken to the cleaners.

The fact is that nobody outside a relationship can truly understand how it works, or doesn't work, and glib judgments about fault and misbehaviour are usually based on false assumptions and prejudices that have little to do with reality.

While everyone else claims to know exactly what caused the break-up, the couple themselves may be completely mystified. They may have genuinely wanted the relationship to work and been baffled that their best efforts and noblest intentions came to nothing.

It's easy to side with one person, particularly if they're a personal friend, and blame their partner for all the problems and failures. But the real-life cocktail of personalities, expectations and emotions that decides the fate of a relationship defies such black-and-white loyalties.

Sure, some break-ups can be pinned fairly and squarely on one person - the alcoholic husband who beats his wife or the wife who discovers she's gay. But I think they're the exceptions that prove the rule.

And might I suggest that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones? Those who delight in picking over the entrails of other people's wrecked relationships should maybe take a closer look at their own and see if their behaviour meets the exalted standards they apply elsewhere. Or sooner or later the wagging tongues could be fastened on them.

* Oh all right, then, Heather and Paul.

The postcard mentioned in Red's comment. Nice one! It was posted on


red said...

I saw this postcard on postsecret and your bit on throwing stones reminded me of it:

Nick said...

There was something wrong with that link, Red, Google couldn't find it, but I managed to track it down. Go to and scroll down to photo number 20.

It's an amazing seascape with the comment: "We celebrate other people's divorces. Outlasted another one." Yes, I guess that's a more common sentiment than we like to admit - maybe we all have a gloating streak deep down. But it's always sad if it's a longstanding couple who seemed to be made for each other.

Matt said...

About half of marriages end in splitsville. Relationships are personal, context-based and difficult to get right, and in many cases depend on factors beyond one's control. It doesn't seem to stop some people from having a misguided, lurid picking over of the visible scraps. I think it's OK to look at other people's relationship mistakes and try not to make the same, so I'm not suggesting one must turn a blind eye to it. But I concur, judge not lest ye be judged.

Wisewebwoman said...

As if we couldn't guess, Nick!
All breakdowns, to me, are a 50/50 responsibility no matter what the plaintive, bleating narrative is from either side.
Paul's eyes were wide-open when he walked into this one, it was far too soon after Linda, for one and he was advised against it very strongly. And her motives? Well I honestly believe we have to think they were pure, as well. Although I think it must make a woman's head spin to imagine she will have all that wealth surrounding her. I can't even imagine it! It would affect one, I would think.
I always feel so sad when long term partnerships break up. To throw away all that shared history and memories. But I never attribute blame to either. It takes 2 to tango as the old saying goes.

Nick said...

Matt - Very true, the mature reaction is to learn from other people's mistakes rather than apportioning blame.

www - Exactly, throwing away all that shared history and memories seems such a terrible waste and so much fruitless effort. And yes, neither party can be completely innocent in such a complex two-way deal.

Baino said...

Can't speak for what goes on behind closed doors other than to say that when my brother in law divorced, he resented me remaining friends with his ex wife.

Re The Mills McCartney debacle. He knew what he was getting into, no pre nup and the objection of his children .. it annoys me that she receives all the bad press for being a gold digger. Maybe she was, maybe she wasnt but he should have paid less attention to his flattered ego and more to drawing up a financial agreement. Fortunately neither will be on the bread line come retirement!

Nick said...

Baino - Yes you would think someone in his position with a lot to lose would have drawn up a pre nuptial agreement. Perhaps he thought it was too cynical and he wanted to be more trusting than that. After all, he's still awash with dough so it hardly matters!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Schadenfreude seems to be an inescapable fact of the human condition.

We could do better than to celebrate the pain of others.

Los Angelista said...

It's all such a shame. I feel awful for their daughter but I don't feel to sorry for Paul McCartney. He's a big boy and he's probably just as responsible for the breakup as she is.

Nick said...

Heart - You're right, it's a very common trait. Unfortunately people are often oblivious to other people's pain, or think that it doesn't matter very much.

Liz - Yes, people have suggested several reasons why Paul is equally responsible for the break-up. It's all too easy to take sides out of laziness and prejudice.

Medbh said...

I'm so sick of people falling all over themselves to pity the incredibly rich and powerful McCartney.
He doesn't seem too put out.

Nick said...

No he doesn't, Medbh. Though he never shows much of his private feelings in public so he might be more distressed than we think. But he still has to share responsibility for the break-up.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Nick. I am fed up with the 'saint' and 'whore' polarising depiction of their divorce.

Nick said...

And it happens over and over, H, this simplistic labelling of the goody and the baddy, when it must be obvious it isn't as cut-and-dried as that.

Anonymous said...

I don't think reasons for the break up come into the whole Heather/Paul story so much - I think people were generally more disgusted by how Heather conducted herself afterwards. That's how I see it at least.

Nick said...

Yes, Heather's post-breakup behaviour was the big talking point. But no doubt some people assumed she had been too wacky and temperamental for him.