Songs For The Dumped

If someone breaks up with you, it’s okay to be sad.

It’s okay to be surprised. Confused. Bowled over. Wrung out.

It’s okay to ask questions like “why” and “how long have you felt this way” and “is there someone else”? You aren’t owed answers but it’s okay to ask.

It’s okay to want them to stay. It’s okay to ask them to stay.

It’s okay to cry.

It’s okay to not immediately feel relief or see the “It’s gonna get better!” on the horizon.

It’s okay to be filled with regret.

It’s okay to not be gracious or cool.

If the person says they did it for your own good, it’s okay to say “I don’t believe you” or “What?” or “Fuck you!” (P.S. Don’t ever tell people you’re breaking up them ‘for their own’ good. You may in fact think it is for their own good but you’re not the decider what’s good for them and nobody likes hearing that, ever.)

It’s not okay to threaten to harm the person, or harm yourself, to get them to stay. It’s not okay to physically block their exit. It’s not okay to force them to talk to you for hours and hours so that you can try to convince them or manipulate them or browbeat them to stay. It’s not okay to threaten or take revenge on them for leaving you. If they ask for no contact or space, it’s not okay to flood their phone and inbox with messages and calls, or to show up where they work. If you do this stuff, or feel like you might do this stuff, that’s an indication for you to seek professional help immediately. People are allowed to leave you.

But it’s still okay to feel as sad as you feel when they do.

Here’s a poem. And another one. And this one.

And here are some songs for you:


76 thoughts on “Songs For The Dumped

  1. I am, btw, going to make my son read your archives when he gets closer to dating age. He’ll still need some practice in dealing with stuff in the moment, but SUCH a great primer. I hope he will minimize, or at least recognize, all those mistakes I made. (And yep, that was not fair of me, Jason, kudos to you for calling me out on it!)

  2. Oh, Captain, these poems are just so beautiful. Thank you for posting this! I refer so many people to your blog and I really wish I’d had its insight when I was younger.

    Knowing how to break up with someone or be broken up with is a skill, just like learning how not to flub an interview or make grilled cheese or whatever, and yet you only learn it by going through it and doing it horribly terribly wrong many times, like I did.

    1. I think we should add: “It’s okay to not have any insight when you’re really young.”

  3. It’s not a breakup song, but for some reason it became one for me. It’s just overall sad, I guess.

    1. YESSSSSSS. Thank you! First thing that popped into my head when I saw the post’s title. Not sad, really, but sometimes you just need to feel pissed off for awhile. 🙂

      1. You gotta use the embed code to get it to display a video, you can get it by right clicking in the video while it’s playing.

  4. Am I the only one who isn’t helped by music after a dumping?

    I sometimes feel like the entire word is noise and smell and I so very, very desperately want a world without noise and smell.

    1. That’s so interesting! I can’t say that’s the case for me (pretty much all the music I like I discovered shortly after being dumped, so I’m probably the opposite of you in that regard) but it’s fascinating how we all have different coping mechanisms and reasons behind those mechanisms.

      If you don’t mind me asking, what does help you during a breakup?

        1. I totally relate to this. A counselor once told me grieving can make sounds seem more intense. Idk about smell though.

    2. Totally agree with you on the noise. Often I watch videos on facebook with the sound off, because I just can’t be bothered with yet another shouty white guy shouting things at me. It has the added benefit of making ads less invasive too!

      I found music after a breakup just lodges me very firmly in my sadness and nostalgia and anger.

      Much better to go out and do new things, make new memories. And even if it sucks, well, it’ not like things didn’t already suck! Might as well make some new friends and have new experiences!

      I’m lucky in that I don’t have a good sense of smell. So when I do find some smells really strong, it makes me angry about how invasive and offensive they are, because I’m used to a world without this crap intruding on me. (Bananas, coffee, and burning plastic are the worst for me.)

      1. For me it’s Febreze and other perfumes.

        I will never understand people who say Febreze isn’t a perfume. It’s chokingly strong and completely revolting.

        1. Ugh, yeah. So many things that are supposed to remove or cover offensive smells are offensive in themselves to me.

  5. For those who have been (extremely unhappily) dumped and are looking for something dramatic and emotional in the vein of Adele (but hopefully with fewer stalker undertones? Looking at you, “Hello”…) may I suggest pretty much the entire Maria Mena catalog? Hoo boy did she help me out a lot during my worst breakup. I know that melodramatic weeping isn’t everyone’s jam during a breakup, but I really needed it at the time.

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I needed exactly this thread at exactly this moment.

  7. Thank you. As someone who has been on this end much more often than on the breakup-initiating end, I’d add a couple of things:

    It is okay to ask the person who broke up with you for no-contact, or for space.
    It is okay not to want to hear what the breakup is like for them.
    It is okay to react with a “sorry, no” if they want comfort from you because they miss you. (With or without a “what the fuck?” appended.)
    It is okay to turn down a renegotiation that doesn’t work for you (e.g., FWB, if what you want is partnership).
    It is okay to prioritize your own healing, even if you were friends / partners for a very long time, and even if you have mutual friends who wish y’all could just get along like you used to.

    For whatever reason, most exes who’ve known that I still wanted to be in relationship with them have done a lot of boundary-testing. There are people who can be friends / flirty friends / confidantes / occasional sex partners with someone who just broke up with them. I’m not one of them: it results in me feeling like an emotional labor- and sex-dispensing machine, and it doesn’t help me get over them. I can’t be responsible for making an ex feel good about themself by hiding or downplaying my hurt. I’m figuring out where else to seek support; they need to do that, too.

    1. Yes. Of all the things to remember 15 years down the line of having my first love dump me unexpectedly, it was when he told me he had cried about it all night. I’m like, YOU cried? Seriously??? Did you cry into the shoulder of the woman you dumped me in order to date?? Was that HARD for you???

      Having since become a dumper (many times) I understand how dumping someone can often make you feel sad and shitty, but your dumpee has enough emotions to deal with without having to deal with yours, too.

  8. Shut Up and Drive. No, not that one, the country one by Cheryl Write.

    “You’ll only miss the man you wanted him to be.”

  9. In the depths if it, I listen to Joy Division Love Will Tear Us Apart Again.

    Once it stops hurting and I’ve reached righteous indignation, then it’s the Magnetic Fields You Must Be Out of Your Mind

  10. What a great thread! Also, not specific to this thread here but it didn’t feel appropriate saying it on somebody else’s thread about something serious – CA, I really, really appreciate that when you post gifs etc. you give a description of what media the item is from! I’m someone who often feels alienated on a lot of sites I otherwise really like because I don’t know much pop culture, and constant references to things I don’t know feel frustrating. Also it’s showed me quite a few new shows etc. that I had vaguely heard of before!

    1. ❤ I love this too! It is also great for blind / vision impaired users who use text-to-speech software to read. I am not vision impaired, but two of my friends are, and sometimes if there's no caption it's difficult to tell if there's an image there or if there is text that, for some reason, the tts software isn't picking up (due to an error of some kind).

  11. There is a cultural narrative that says dumpers are bad and dumpees have been wronged, and it’s sticking in my craw right now bc sometimes you dump someone bc they are thoughtless, inconsiderate, don’t value your needs, gaslight you, twist everything you say, manipulate you, etc, and that’s not even getting into abuse, emotional or otherwise. I mean, just read this blog. I guess those people can listen to sad music if that’s what it takes to avoid the cognitive dissonance of realizing that they did, in fact, act like ass-berets, quite contrary to the rosy view of themselves, but let’s put together some validation for dumpers:

    When you dump someone, it’s okay not to answer their questions, or even stick around to hear them ask

    It’s ok not to give the laundry list of hurtful things they have said or done

    It’s ok not to agree to any talks to give them “closure”

    It’s ok not to care about their feelings post dump

    It’s ok not to give them another chance

    It’s ok not to fight for the relationship

    It’s ok not to try everything

    It’s ok not to want to be friends

    It’s ok to block them everywhere

    1. The angry green monster icon that was arbitrarily assigned to me expresses my feelings on this matter.

    2. If you want some validation for that perspective, all you’ve got to do is read the post before this one. CA posts a lot on this subject.

    3. HEY. Really golden peanut? You’re being an asshole right now.

      If you read the post before this one (and if you’ve ever read almost every post on breakup up on this site, which I know you have, since you’re a regular commenter), I go through exactly this list and make the point that people do not have the obligation to give you closure and it’s okay to block them and not be friends, etc. Kind of half my reason for running this site is to give people permission to let go of and not fight for relationships. MORE THAN HALF THE POSTS ON THE SITE ARE VALIDATION FOR THE DUMPERS.

      However, when people are getting broken up with, they aren’t assholes for having *feelings* about it. Feelings are different from actions. *That* is the topic of this post. There are replies to your comment so I’m not deleting it. Also, people don’t have to be “ass-berets” for someone to want to end a relationship. You can end relationships with good people when it’s not working, and I’m not going to mock people for having feelings about being dumped.

      In short, I AGREE with you that people are pressured to fight for relationships and to put the dumpee’s feelings before their own. But since I’m getting a bunch of “wait, do I suck because I was sad when I was dumped, or asked questions?” comments, I wanted to make one post to say “It’s okay to have sad feelings. It’s not okay to pressure people to stay, but your feelings are valid.”

      So, uh, thanks for “setting the record straight.” I guess you’ve never been broken up with and felt sad about it?

      1. I never said anyone was an asshole for having feelings over being dumped, and yes, I have felt sad about being dumped. In some cases, I was the ass-beret who deserved to be dumped.

        I have also dated ass-berets who deserved to be dumped, and I refused to listen to their sad feels, especially since the very expectation that I would was part of the ass-beret behavior that led me to dump them in the first place. And at that point, I wonder if their feelings really are valid.

        I wonder who you were quoting with the words “setting the record straight”. I never said that. You should attribute that quote.

        1. Correct, you never said “setting the record straight.” Apologies.

          I generally agree that the dumper does not owe the dumpee a general airing of the feelings. You’ve read the rest of the blog so I know that you know this.

          I think you were very insensitive for deciding that this particular post needed that particular comment.

          You are making me very tired today, golden peanut. Your contributions are generally valuable, but like, go away from this thread please. That is a hard, moderator hat on boundary.

    4. Gee, thanks, golden peanut. It’s been a week since I’ve been broken up with by the person who cheated on me throughout our relationship. That same person told me it’s all on them and that I’ve been wonderful. Care to explain how I’m the ass-beret in this scenario?
      Or maybe, just maybe, in the future you’ll consider several angels, not just your own, before rage-commenting on a post that’s supposed to provide comfort to people who need it.

      1. “Sometimes” =/= every time. If it’s not about you, don’t make it about you.

        1. One might say the same about you and the original post, golden peanut!!!! This is not your best look. Come back another day, another thread.

  12. I like my music all-purpose (like my flour), so for sadness, gladness, heartache, or a general sense of existential angst, I listen to The Who–sort of like the Beatles, if the Beatles had been a bunch of angry dudes with violent tendencies (Seriously. More than a couple of stories end with, “and then a fight broke out.” These were…not nice men.) The Who didn’t do songs to salve the hurt, but when you want a musical expression of anger and alienation–which you will at some point in the grieving process–these guys are pretty good. Also really funny, if you’re looking for that (_The Who Sell Out_ has a great song extolling the virtues of deodorant!).

    Really, the next time anyone is thinking sadly of a douchebag gone by, dial up “I Can See For Miles” absolutely as loud as you can without violating local noise ordinances and just windmill the FUCK out of it. You’ll feel better and you’ll have gotten a great workout!

  13. “Don’t ever tell people you’re breaking up them ‘for their own’ good.” Amen. One of my most memorable being-dumped moments (a year out of college) involved a line like this. “I think you need a friend now more than a lover” or some such. DON’T TELL ME WHAT *I* NEED, YOU WANNABE HIPSTER. Of course for the unenlightened dumper it can be more comfortable than saying “This is no longer good for me, I’m ending this relationship”, but my wish for all of us is steady growth in our ability to own our choices and actions without projecting them on others.

  14. The White Stripes have a lot of great selections for the wallowing. I think this Dusty Springfield is perfect for the self-pitying yet pissed off phase:

  15. This is so helpful, thank you, Captain. What I’m going through isn’t even a breakup, it’s just the sudden end of an intense flirtation that was getting my hopes up after an epic dry spell, one where I worried I might be compromising my standards but didn’t care as long as he would kiss me and let me touch his skin. I prayed things could be consummated before I found something about him that was a rock-bottom dealbreaker. Now I don’t have to worry about that.

    Instead I think I might have to record myself reciting those poems (the Frida Kahlo one in the Speedy Gonzalez accent that I think is a prerogative of my heritage) and put them in a playlist with Green Light by Lorde, and play them over and over as I walk laps around the city until I feel better again.

    1. I feel this. I have been seeing this guy, and I told him I didn’t want to see anyone else, and he wasn’t there yet–fair! And reasonable! But I ended up getting an incredible opportunity in the last two days (essentially, an internship I thought was off the table is back on, and in ten days I’ll be leaving the country for ten weeks) and that kind of puts the end to things. I know I’m fortunate that i have this new work to take my mind off things, but man I spent some time feeling rotten about it. Jedi hugs.

    2. I feel you–this is exactly what I am going through right now as well! Epic dry spell, finally meet someone I’m really into, who gives all the signs of being into me, but ultimately ended up acting consistently flaky after telling me they were interested in me and wanted to hang out solo, etc. So frustrating, and I still am looking for a song that feels just right because most of the breakup songs feel a lot bigger than what I’m going through–but it still really sucks. And same about compromising standards. I felt like I would throw common sense out the window just to have a night with this person. Lust after a long dry spell (especially one where I just wasn’t really interested in anyone because I was still so hurt from a bad breakup last year) is incredibly intoxicating. Hope you feel better again soon *hugs*

  16. When I saw the title “Songs for the Dumped,” I knew what it would be, and yet, for a moment I thought it would be everyone’s tales of the song their ex sent to them the next morning after dumping you. But I suspect, as I did then, that most dumpers don’t send their dumpee a “this is how I see the break-up” song.

    Anyway, in the spirit of the post, Paul Simon’s Graceland plus Hearts and Bones were really comforting to me.

    1. ooh has that happened to you? Have you done that? I have so many questions. I had no idea this could be a thing.

      1. I didn’t know it could be a thing either. My ex ended our decade plus relationship and the next morning sent me a song link saying it reflected their hopes for my future and how special I am, a sentiment I might have appreciated if it had been a mutual decision. It was confusing.

  17. Here’s a good one for those moments when you get a painful twist of longing, way after you thought you were over them.

    And here’s another one for when you feel like the relationship was pointless and you’re glad its over, but you’re still sad and a little baffled that it ever ended

  18. Thanks for this. Just as it’s okay to leave somebody for any reason at any time, to put your own needs first or to fall out of love or to change your goals/priorities, it’s also okay to be really freaking sad, and to feel unsettled and shaken, when you are left, and to still be in love with the leaver (see, Golden Retreiver of love). I’ve done breakups (on both sides) before, but nothing has been as bad as being the dumpee at the end of what had been a good relationship, when the reason is just “I don’t want this anymore; I love you but I’m no longer in love with you and don’t want to keep building a future together.”

    With the “whys” and the “please stays,” once they are said once during the breakup, it’s over, right? So as a dumpee, what then? You can’t reach back out to ask “why” again, or for reconciliation, weeks or months later, can you? What about when you just can’t shake that you disagree in your bones with your ex’s choice, even though you know you must accept and respect it? How long is it okay to feel horrible for, to have these questions, to still love your ex, despite doing everything you are “supposed to” do to heal? Any tips on how to better accept that you did not get what you wanted from love, and you aren’t allowed to try again to get it from the person you still love?

    1. You’re right; I think you get one, “wait, please stay” moment, and then you have to quietly walk away and accept that this is a one-way door, and you’re not on the side with the handle. One of my favourite, “Dear Sugar” posts says, “You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.” I try to repeat this to myself whenever I want to go back and say that ONE THING that will CHANGE EVERYTHING, but probably won’t. Even when you disagree in your bones with their decision, you get past it by accepting that their reality is not your reality. What logics in their brain may never logic in yours, and it’s fruitless to try.

      I also try to respect their critical thinking skills, you know? Most people put thought into something like a break up, so if the end has come, it’s something they decided to choose, and keep choosing, even though it hurts. As was once written on this blog, it’s not like they don’t know you exist. They could reach out, but they’re done.

      I think there’s no timeline for lost love, so you just keep feeling it until other feelings take over. Something you may consider doing is remembering that you were at least 50% of an awesome pair. You’re not starting again from nothing, you’re starting with you. Eventually, you’ll be part of other equally awesome and totally unpredicted pairs. Hang in there! Sorry you’re in pain right now. I hope you gentle your way through to a better place.

      1. Thank you, your response was very kind and helpful. I’m struggling with the “just being with my grief” portion of the breakup; I so badly want, like you said, to go say the one thing that will change everything, or at least find out how he is doing.

        And I do respect his intellect and his logic, so I know he must really think it’s the right choice for him. I also knew him well enough to have an impossible-to-confirm idea of why he ended things, and my jerk brain screams (internally) that his thought process was flawed and it’s because he struggles with emotional intimacy and we could’ve worked through it, but the rational part of me recognizes that I don’t actually know what’s right for him better than he does, and that I’d be a total jerk for going down that path. Trying to let go of all my need to fix, and just work on grieving and accepting, and finding love for myself somewhere. UGH. Hugs to everyone who has ever gone through a shitty break up (so, most people). I appreciate the kind words and advice.

    2. “nothing has been as bad as being the dumpee at the end of what had been a good relationship, when the reason is just “I don’t want this anymore; I love you but I’m no longer in love with you”

      You are speaking to me right now – my husband left me three months ago. I asked why, he wouldn’t say. I’m trying really hard to accept that, but it fucking sucks. I veer between crying my eyes out, being furious with him, and trying to remember that I’ll probably get over it and be ok.

      I would love to hear any tips that anyone has, cos going running and taking up belly dancing and crocheting baby clothes and reconnecting with my friends and family are not really touching the sides.

      1. Hi Sharkie, I have no advice, just hugs and solidarity. Well, maybe advice– therapy. It’s the one hour I look forward to each week; I actually feel better when I leave. It’s not sticking yet, but maybe it will soon. Hope things brighten up for you soon. I’m sure we will both be okay, it’s just a matter of getting there. I wish I knew how to make that journey less painful, because I’m with you: it really sucks right now. Be kind to yourself.

    3. It takes as long as it takes, I think. Therapy probably helps. But in my experience, it just takes a long time. It took me at least a year (or more…) to feel all the way better after the ends of my 3 most significant relationships.

  19. Wow, I…didn’t expect to need this post this week? Captain, you always provide.

  20. Never commented before, but this Scottish band called Frightened Rabbit have two albums (‘Midnight Organ Fight’ and ‘Winter of Mixed Drinks’) with some of the best breakup and recovery songs I’ve ever come across – hurt, angry, triumphant and uplifting all in one.

    I’ve failed to pick one to post here, but if you’re not over your ex, try ‘Good Arms vs Bad Arms’ or ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’; if you’re trying to start seeing other people but still feel broken, try ‘ Modern Leper’, ‘Nothing Like You’, or ‘Keep Yourself Warm’; and if you’re finally starting to recover, ‘I Feel Better’, ‘The Twist’, or ‘Living in Colour’.

    Also just want to take the chance to say thanks Cap – I found this site about 6 months ago, and have got so much better at boundaries and dealing with conflict thanks to your wisdom and that of all the lovely commentators!

  21. Some of my favourite break-up albums: If you’re in a wallowing mood (a la Adele), try “Long Gone Before Daylight” by The Cardigans, and “Wounded Rhymes” and “I Never Learn” by Lykke Li.

    If you’re in a venting mood, try “Coral Fang” by The Distillers and “Raus!” by Spillsbury. That last one doesn’t even have that many break-up songs on it, but boy is it cathartic.

  22. I’m a loud, angry music girl and these 3 have gotten me through depression, breakups, etc.
    Stabbing Westward – Save Yourself
    Bon Jovi – It’s My Life
    Linkin Park – New Divide.

  23. I have a list. Luckily there’s a fantastic chance that I never need them again. But these got me through so many heartaches that they feel soft and cozy like a warm blanket.

    -The Mountain Goats “Woke Up New”

    – The Avett Brothers “I Would Be Sad”

    – Sarah Siskind “Lovin’s for Fools”

    – Rilo Kiley “Breakin’ Up”

    Some upbeat, some downright heart wrenching, just like a break up can be.

  24. My go-to songs are “I Love Myself Today” by Bif Naked…because sometimes you need to be lifted up in an angry way, and “Let Your Soul be Your Pilot” by Sting because sometimes you feel a bit more contemplative.

  25. As someone who was just dumped, -via text message-, by someone who until the day before had been saying nothing but how great everything was, where said dumping was the first even remotely inconsiderate behaviour on their part, this post is…comforting. I suspect the reason for this was the other person’s MH, and have been trying to be supportive of them and put their needs first, but have reluctantly accepted that doing so is bad for me, even though we clearly both still care about each other a lot. I’ve realised that I need to set some boundaries to protect myself and that is okay, however much I care about someone. Otherwise it just ends up with a very unequal situation, and that’s not okay. He also did the “you deserve better” thing, which makes me so angry because I have to a) tell him he is okay when he’s just dumped me and b) he really was okay up to that point so it seems like a bad call.

  26. This was my turning-point break-up song. It felt like Charlie Fink was speaking directly to me.

  27. Suzanne Vega.
    Even if I am in love with you/ all this to say/whats it to you? (Marlene on the wall)
    Today I am a small blue thing/ like a marble, or an eye…(Small blue thing)
    We go to the playground /In the Wintertime/ The sun is fading fast on the slides into the past/ and the swings of indecision… (Freeze Tag) Solitude Stands by the window/ I am struck once again by her black silohette/ by her long cool stare and her silence… (Solitude Standing)

    And so many things by Paul Kelly… I go up and down/And every single sound says/No you! No you! No you! No you!/No you, no you, no you! (No You)

    I may have spent too much energy in my life being heart broken…..

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