History is said to be written by the victors, but sometimes it’s written by its prisoners, those who just can’t stop thinking about it.
Take, for example, Relationship Obituaries (relationshipobit.com), the website created by NPR reporter Kathleen Horan to give the lovelorn a place to eulogize their dead relationships, remember good times gone, chew over old grudges, or just try to figure out what went wrong.
More than 1,000 contributors have posted their stories online and Horan has gathered the best of them into a book, Relationship Obits: The Final Resting Place for Love Gone Wrong.
The idea of a relationship obit makes emotional sense. There is real grief in a breakup. It came to Horan as she dealt with the twin shock of her father’s death and getting dumped by her boyfriend of three years. Writing her father’s obituary seemed to help her make sense of things, so she wrote another one for her relationship.
“It was a goofy thing to do, but it made it feel real so I could finally cremate the thing and move on,” she writes.
Moving on, however, seems to be a challenge for many of the site’s correspondents, like the guy who wrote a 20-year-old lament for a fling that lasted 10 days.
As for taboos about speaking ill of the dead, or the revisionist politeness that creeps into all but the best obituaries, little can be detected. Obit and autopsy are rolled into one as contributors are encouraged to diagnose the cause of death. Anyone with an ex will recognize some of these assessments, not without the sting of truth but also bearing perhaps a whiff of self-service.
Since they are almost all written by one party to a relationship, they are necessarily one-sided affairs, and some really put the bitch, bitch, bitch in obituary.
Not that a lot of it doesn’t sound justified. Utterly credible stories of cheaters, abusers, boozers and losers abound, sometimes all in the same obit.
“The cause of our demise,” writes one survivor, “was alcoholism, drug and sex addictions, infidelity, verbal and physical abuse, a complete lack of maturity, reasoning, rational thought or behaviour and a total disrespect for women.”
Most of the writers seem to be women. This may or may not surprise you. It didn’t surprise me. The freshly-ditched man is, in my experience, less likely to spend weeks or months meticulously measuring and apportioning blame than he is to immediately gather buddies and beverages to convene a rigorous Irish wake for the deceased. It’s just our way.