Review: Just Break Up
Just Break Up is a fresh breath of podcast air, with a revolutionary and refreshing approach to giving relationship advice
Watch a clip from Just Break Up.
I typically have a difficult time treading outside my tried-and-true territory of podcasts. It’s too easy to stick to my regular diet of daily news podcasts that rarely make me feel better about the state of the world afterwards. I also find that shows that run the risk of being too conversational usually lack substance.
Just Break Up, however, scratches all the right parts of my brain. Queer hosts Sierra DeMulder and Sam Blackwell carry the show not necessarily because of their expertise – a running joke on the podcast is that they’re exceedingly unqualified for the work that they do –but because of their emotional intelligence.
Downhearted readers across the world submit letters to DeMulder and Blackwell in search of relationship advice. In weekly one-hour episodes, the duo attempts to answer some of life’s biggest quandaries with humour and sincerity. Dilemmas range from “my partner wants to shag all the time and I don’t” to “how do I believe in love after spending years in relationships plagued by infidelity?”
No matter how elusive the shame or embarrassment, DeMulder and Blackwell offer calculated responses and measured acceptance to their listeners; an acceptance not delivered for the sake of comfort but in the implied acknowledgement that life is not as reducible as Instagram infographics suggest it may be. Slowly turning distant from a best friend is, in fact, common and not an indictment of one’s character. Staying in a toxic relationship because leaving feels scarier is all but normal in its humanness for our inclination towards the familiar. Accountability for bad behaviour does can be a commitment to do better. It’s a sort of micro practice of radical acceptance embodied through the audio waves of a podcast.
In episode 187 'The Sexisode: Labyrinth of the Labia,' for example, the hosts answer a question from a self-identified “porn vegan” about their partner’s adult viewing habits. As a porn vegan, the letter writer finds this aspect of their otherwise perfect partner morally objectionable because they themselves view pornography as morally objectionable.
I think most people’s initial reaction to the letter writer would be that if this is a value they hold close to themselves, then, yes, “just break up” is sufficient advice to avoid holding hostage one’s principles for the sake of a relationship. DeMulder and Blackwell, however, delicately unpack the writer’s one-to-one analysis of the ethics of porn as an industry and that of its micro consumption. They encourage the writer to view these realities as two separate issues. After all, isn’t there no ethical consumption under capitalism? Perhaps a world exists where businesses are immoral and not their customers and there is breathing room to stay in a relationship where these paradoxes rear their ugly heads. Or perhaps there isn’t; purchasing power is still power.
The indulgence of nuance–the admission of subtlety–allows complexity in the hosts’ answers to life’s biggest questions. Repeatedly, DeMulder and Blackwell insist that “right” and “wrong” decisions rarely exist where actions are often shrouded in multiplicity. And if this variance exists outside of ourselves and the circumstances we face, it exists in us, too. This is the overwhelming selling point of Just Break Up: profound forgiveness for ourselves enables its extension onto others. And if that becomes too much to consider, just break up.