Time to split? Here’s how to do it, from the queen of breakups
She's got a podcast, comedy show, award-winning books and celeb following - Rosie Wilby is the one to listen to if you're breaking up
You’re dubbed the ‘breakup queen’. Why is that?
A decade ago I got dumped by email in the first week of January. It was a real blow but I felt much better about it once I’d corrected her spelling! (Ouch!). But that’s what began with my obsession with understanding the psychology of breakups, which led to the trilogy of comedy shows and then the podcasts and then the books.
January is the peak time for starting divorce proceedings and breakups. As someone who’s been on the receiving end, why do you think that is?
If people are thinking new year, new you, then I guess part of that is putting behind you a relationship that isn’t working. I suppose also that at Christmas you wait – it feels too cruel, or maybe you’re waiting to see what present you get!
It’s also been made worse by the pandemic – there have been a lot of people breaking up in lockdown. Relationship therapists always say that couples need their own space, friends and interests. We weren’t getting that in lockdown.
What’s your advice for people in the midst of a break-up?
Well, there is an optimistic note to my book and that is the unexpected joy. Once we’ve got over the hurt and rejection, it can be a thrilling time. Many studies show that people report positive mental health changes after a breakup – particularly women. They transform themselves, try a new career, travel, and often feel a sense of sexual liberation.
It also helps to share your story. When we record the podcast live, people come to watch and share their stories. It definitely helps.
And what if you’re the one doing the dumping?
If you want to be kind and compassionate, it’s good to really know your partner and what’s going to work for them. At my live shows I ask the audience how they’d prefer to be dumped and while most say face-to-face, a minority actually do prefer a text. There’s even a ‘break up shop’ in Toronto that you can pay to dump someone for you!
The key is to avoid the sense of their control being taken away. The third in my trilogy of shows – The Conscious Uncoupling – was about the end of relationships, and while that phrase has this whiff of pretention about it because of the whole Gwyneth Paltrow separation, it’s the right kind of approach.
Is being ghosted still the worst way to get dumped?
I think it’s the worst – you are so uncertain – why did he or she just disappear? A fellow comedian who I interviewed for the book was ghosted and wondered for ages what had happened. Then she found out he’d gone to prison!
Ghosting is common though (when your other half stops contacting you and basically disappears out of your world). And the uncertainty is hard. There’s loads of these phrases now around dating – one I recently came across is ‘Marlying’ – when you get ghosted, then they pop up again at Christmas!
Have you met or bonded with any celebs over the course of your work?
Ghosting is a big part of the story in Dolly Alderton’s latest book (Ghosts). She’s on my podcast, The Breakup Monologues, and in that episode we talked about ghosting and also about break-up energy – basically having a re-birth after a break-up. I’ve also chatted to the comedians Richard Herring and Shappi Khorsandi and the writers Katy Brand and Miranda Sawyer.
As a gay woman would you say that there’s a common theme to break-ups regardless of the nature of your relationship?
There’s so much that is universal about breakups and generally it’s healthy to stay friends when you’ve shared all that history.
I tend to have long-term relationships with women, and it’s female partnerships have the highest divorce or separation rate – lesbians divorce at several times the rate of gay men! It makes sense when you know that in 75% of hetero divorces are initiated by the women. They seem more ready to call time on a relationship because they’re unhappy or not getting they want from it. Men might just decide to live with it, or have an affair instead. So that explains the difference in lesbian relationships.
So that puts you in a good position to be an expert then?
I am a serial monogamist and have had five serious relationships with people I would have considered marriage potential, had it been available at the time. That would put me on a par with Joan Collins!
Rosie Wilby’s latest book, The Breakup Monologues, is out in hardback now and available in paperback from June