WARNING: Don’t Mix Good Music With Your Relationship

I used to live with my ex-boyfriend in London. One night, after a boozey evening in Manchester—during which I had performed a moving rendition of swan lake before jumping off a stage only to sprain my ankle—said ex-boyfriend picked me up, put each one of my feet atop each of his and grasped me tightly around the waist. We swayed from side to side to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” while a girl in a polka dot dress and laced brogues puked in the corner.

He leaned down and whispered in my ear, “this is the song I want to dance to at our wedding.” It was the last song of the night and his breath stank of rum and cigarettes but it was still the most romantic moment of my entire life.

Eight months later we broke up and I moved home to Melbourne. As if walking away from The One wasn’t painful enough, I had to give up another great love—Karen O. And I love Karen O. Not the way I loved my ex-boyfriend of course, more in an “omg-I’m-front-row-at-the-Yeah-Yeah-Yeahs-concert-and-the-guy-next-to-me-is-dripping-perspiration-into-my-mouth-and-I’m-screaming-so-hard-my-throat-is-bleeding-but-I-don’t-care-I-just-want-to-do-it-more-and-oh-no-here-come-the-hysterical-tears!” kind of way.

So not only did I lose the man I thought would some day fulfill all my biological urges and most cringe-worthy romantic fantasies, I had to give up a song I used to bawl through a hair brush in front of my bedroom mirror during the wee hours of the morning when I couldn’t sleep, wearing my makeshift Karen O cape (bed sheet) and headdress (pillowcase). What at one time had been so joyful to me was soured by that exact same joy. The sound of a song that once comforted me, (and allowed me to entertain myself when all alone in my insomniacs delirium) now only caused distress. I even had to remove the track from my music library to avoid inevitable shuffle induced ambushes.

Music has always been a very important part of my life, enduring the comings and goings of boyfriends, but I never realized how important it is to keep good music out of relationships until recently. Sure, I’ve had boyfriends and meaning-riddled songs and breakups since I was in high school, but somehow Bon Jovi power ballads and the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack were much easier to give up than the songs I love now.

It’s been almost 2 years and slowly I’ve allowed Maps to creep back into my life. I have to admit, it took an epiphanic experience at a Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert where Karen O literally reached out and touched my hand for me to finally Let Go Of My Issues. If not for that experience, I probably would have washed my hand in the weeks directly succeeding that concert—or worse, I may have lost Maps forever. TC mark

image – Sorrell Schneider


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  • Anonymous

    I make a conscious effort to associate my future exes with pop songs that I won’t miss and would never admit to liking anyway.

  • http://twitter.com/raystraight Ray Straight

    So, what you’re saying is we should listen to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs?

  • mozart

    pussy bitch

  • Jordan

    Totally agree.  Last girl I dated I made a mix tape for as things went along; songs that were ‘ours’ or songs that I learned from her or reminded me of her and all that.  When we broke it off, now I conveniently have a list of a bunch of good songs (and their respective albums) I don’t want to hear anymore…

  • http://twitter.com/cmyungtweet C M Yung

    Oh man, same thing with me and John Legend. The ex and I both loved Legend. I bought a copy of his Knitting Factory CD and it was the greatest thing ever. I’d wake up next to him and think of “Sun Comes Up”, we’d cuddle on a snowy winter day and he was my “Refuge.” We’d drive around town singing along in the car. We went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and belted out “Hard Times” together, as he hoisted me up on his shoulders so that I could see above the crowd. And then he dumped me and cut off contact completely—and for months, I couldn’t listen to any Legend without bawling.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=40304029 André Gooren

    I have found that (1) this tends to get easier as you get older and (2) if the music is good enough it takes on a life all its own and just shakes of the old memories with relative ease.  Also, I was just completely unwilling to let go of Animal Collective.

    • http://somuchtocome.blogspot.com Aja

       I would concur about the getting older business.  Good music is never ruined but sometimes you have to put it away for a little while.  But I do end up savoring it later, like a letter from a long lost friend. 

  • A.T.

    Ugh. YES. I’m guilty here. Can’t listen to Explosions in the Sky, Discovery, Bon Iver, and The XX, among others. It fucking sucks when music that you loved now makes you want to puke. I really have no idea how to stop doing this…how to stop associating good music with relationships. Date someone with terrible music taste?

    • Katgeorge

      EXACTLY. My last bf said our song was Mumford and Sons ‘Lion Man’. Needless to say, it was an easy band to ditch…

    • JEN

      damn and explosions, bon iver, and the xx are AMAZING! love them all. Im sooo sorry

    • Ms C

      That’s an idea! Sadly, if you meet someone like that, you probably wouldn’t wanna date them for exactly that reason.

    • CRO

      I promise it’ll go away. I had the same thing with Explosions in the Sky, but it’s mine again.

    • Anonymous

      I saw Explosions in the Sky live a few weeks ago and bawled. It was one big torturefest seeing as how it just reminded me of my ex.

  • Mayra Ruiz

    how odd , i was thinking about the same thing you wrote here, btw everybody’s “never let me go” song is maps isn’t it?

  • Anonymous

    Or never let them make you a cd when they’re about to study elsewhere.  My ex made me a cd with all these songs to help me sleep while he studied in Brighton for a quarter and I here in California.  Needless to say, song number one, “Lucky” by Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz, became that song…and cue the big sigh.

  • your cousin

    We broke up somewhat reluctantly, and we collaborated on a mix we called “This Is Dildos.” My current boyfriend saw it on my iPod the other day and turned it on. It was weird.

  • Fresh Kid

    I broke up recently with a girlfriend of fours years, and all I ever did was show her new music I was really into. So I gave up approximately 15,000 of my favorite songs. It sucks.

  • Anonymous

    I asked my sister why she gave me her Feel Good Lost album, mostly because I know she loves Broken Social Scene. She explained to me she had sex to it with her ex, multiple times… Being the immature little sister I am, I washed the cd with dish soap immediately after she told me, but I least I got free music out of her breakup.

  • http://maxwellchance.wordpress.com Duke Holland of Gishmale

    Well, at least you’re weren’t missing out on much: that song sucks. 

    • Anonymous


  • http://twitter.com/commandervenuss Ricardo Malit

    I totally get it! When I make mixes or just play music when my GF is around, I always think twice and ask myself: “is she worth sharing this song with?”. Most of the time I answer with a “No”.

  • http://twitter.com/laurenmcmurray Lauren McMurray

    This was written so beautifully! Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tarynn.law Tarynn Law

    The reason my favorite bands are just that, my favorite bands, is because for some weird reason I’ve never associated them with a relationship (for the most part). I wish I didn’t relate to this article as much as I do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1135492806 Ischra Centeno

    But I can’t date boys with bad taste in music, even though eventually it means that I’ll have to suffer.

  • Mr Shankly

    Read that as ‘Bon Iver power ballads’ and spent a good while wondering what that might sound like.

  • http://twitter.com/inaccuratemap Morgan

    yeah, it’s a lot worse when someone throws you away in exchange for a member of the band you both really like and then they join the band and you actually literally can’t like or think about that band anymore and to make it worse you hear them on the radio or television and you discover you can’t escape the slow and bitter repetition of your inadequacies.
    that was a few years ago but for sure, don’t mix good music with your relationship with a musician.  

    • Croy1317

      My ex wrote me a song. Shit right? I can’t delete it, but I want to break things whenever it pops up on shuffle. 
      A (stereotypical) male

  • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

    I lost “Maps” too. Almost three years and it still hurts (but has gotten wayyy better, i.e. I no longer feel like puking when I hear it).

    My ex and I made up words to the song, and every time I hear it a deluge of our inside jokes just floods in.


  • Fred

    Totally over this! Seriously guys, you just have to make yourself listen to those songs a lot after you break up and trust me, the associations disappear. Or…maybe it’s an age thing and I’m just less emo than you lot. ;-) Not, but really, this feeling doesn’t last forever and you can beat it.

  • http://twitter.com/whoismau Mauricio

    Ugh. This is exactly how I feel about “Love and Mathematics” by Broken Social Scene. Funny how exes can slightly ruin your favorite band of all time. Now to rip off that band-aid.

  • http://twitter.com/whoismau Mauricio

    Ugh. This is exactly how I feel about “Love and Mathematics” by Broken Social Scene. Funny how exes can slightly ruin your favorite band of all time. Now to rip off that band-aid.

  • Anonymous

    Sigh. “Good music.”

  • JWG

    Me and my first girlfriend listened to ‘Maps’ a lot in high school, like whenever it came on the radio. I’m pretty sure it was my first ‘song’, like a song that captures a particular moment in life and I live that part of life again when I hear it.

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