Breaking Up Blues by Denise Cullington

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Breaking Up Blues by Denise Cullington

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Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ceri Padley
Reviewed by Ceri Padley
Summary: Breaking Up Blues is a practical self-help guide to coping with the ups and downs that come with any type of break up. Denise Cullington is the 24 hour friend that is there in times of desperation with quick-thinking advice on how to start moving onwards and upwards toward a better life.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 296 Date: March 2008
Publisher: Routledge
ISBN: 978-0415455473

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Whether you're married or single, the dumpeé or the dumper, at one time or another, we've all had to deal with the trials and tribulations of the dreaded break up. Whether you're thinking of leaving, have just ended a relationship, or are still trying to recover from the one that got away, Denise Cullington's Breaking Up Blues is a self-help guide to coping with the bitterness and rage, emotional emptiness and endless depression that can come along with it.

The book is divided into easy to find parts focusing on the different stages in a break up: prelude; trauma; how to cope; moving on, etc. As a psychoanalyst who has dealt with her own painful divorce, Cullington assures her readers that she can help them live the better life that's currently just out of grasp.

When I started reading this book, I found myself getting infuriated with what seemed like a condescending tone Cullington used towards her readers: her instructions for problems in a relationship seemed to be simply, 'Don't think about working on your marriage; i8t'll only waste time.' I was horrified that the focus seemed to be on pushing towards a relationship split rather than figuring out how to overcome any obstacles. The author seemed to be explaining scenarios that were obvious, and I quickly assumed there'd be nothing new to learn from this book.

However, I soon began to realise that this isn't a book about how to work on your marriage; this is a book about how to deal with the inevitable break-up that has been looming in your life for quite some time. I realised that her tone was not as patronising as it may seem; the idea of facing up to the end of what was once a beautiful thing can leave you feeling naive and shell-shocked. Cullington is simply trying to soften the blow.

Once the original question of whether to stay or go has been discussed, Cullington takes us step-by-step through the stages that can knock us down: a sense of loss; rage; legal battles; hatred; depression. She is quick to emphasise that it is important we embrace these troubles rather than push them aside as many would have us believe. With her maternal and knowledgeable voice, she shows us how to face these feelings head on, confront them, and, eventually, break through them.

While Breaking Up Blues does focus primarily on the breakdown of a marriage, anyone who is experiencing difficulty with the demise of a long-term relationship will find this helpful too. Each section states what is about to be covered clearly, so those not having to deal with legal issues or the affect a split has on children is able to turn quickly to whichever segment is needed in their own personal case.

This book isn't to be taken lightly when reading. Cullington spares the fluff that could be found in other self-help books and cuts right to the chase about what needs to be done in your life. As a result, I found it quite a heavy read at times: a mass of information throws itself at you on every page which can be quite tiring, especially if you're facing an exhausting break up.

However, in spite of this, Breaking Up Blues does what it sets out to do. Denise Cullington doesn't just provide examples of what you should do: she holds your hand every step of the way. She covers every moment of regret, jealousy, and feelings of failure. She is even willing to take another step back with you in moments of doubt. Eventually she'll see you to the very end, giving you encouraging words of wisdom about how to begin starting a better life, and always reassuring you that you've done the best thing. She is the friend that doesn't judge you and is there to give you advice at any time.

Breaking Up Blues isn't just limited to women in failed marriages. This speaks to both men and women that are going through any type of bad relationship but too afraid of the unknown to leave. As I've previously said, this isn't a guide on how to strengthen a relationship; For those looking for advice with that, I'd recommend Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray, a superb book that helped me with my own relationship and how to understand men and women better.

Breaking Up Blues is a must read for anyone who is feeling unhappy in their current situation and is looking for a way to escape with a helping hand.

I'd like to thank the author for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For anyone in an abusive relationship we can recommend Dragonslippers: This is What an Abusive Relationship Looks Like by Rosalind Penfold.

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Denise Cullington said:

Dear Ceri and Bookbag,

Thanks for reading the book and for ending up giving it such a warm welcome.

It gave me a pang when you found early chapters patronizing: I was trying to address those bits of readers – all of us when under stress – which are some combination of a panicky infant, a stubborn toddler and a stroppy teenager feeling that we know it all. And I rather urgently wanted to say

Listen, this is important! This is why…

I am sorry if I seemed to skirt too quickly over the possibilities of making things better. Given that break-up is not as easy as we might hope, plus the fact that external pressures can end partnerships as much as problems within the relationship, I do think that it can be a good idea to think very carefully about whether there is anything that can be done to make things better, rather than rush to leave.

I am gloomy though if couples stay together in the same old way, possibly because the thought of leaving is too alarming but without taking any action to change things. 'Staying for the sake of the children' can be a convenient cover for this.

If a couple decide to stay, both need to feel at least a bit committed to making things work better. One who wants to leave but has difficulty in doing so directly, can put his (or her) head down, be stubborn – basically inviting the partner to tell them to go. In this case it is very dispiriting for the partner who thinks they are trying to make things work.

It can be helpful then to separate – particularly for the one whose foot is half out the door. It can be useful to know what and who is out there – and that an exciting new affair can have its downsides once it begins to settle down.

In the book I give examples of three couples: one who stayed together and made things work; two others who returned after separating and affairs – the first couple after eight months apart; the second after six years.

Later in the book I spend four chapters on what we individually bring to relationships; how conflicts are inevitable in any close relationship; anxieties between men and women; and how each of the life stages we go through present their own difficulties. I think these chapters are pretty useful whether trying to make it work with a current partner or with a new one.

Ceri says the book is motherly, big-sisterly. Good, it’s meant to be: it’s full of as much of the best advice I know, based on all the various bits of experience I could find. Like all mothers and big sisters it can be bossy at moments or go on too long. The advantage of a book is you can shut it or skip bits when you want to, or you can come back to a bit you don’t like in another mood and see if it makes any more sense.

You can read the first chapter and hear an interview with me here.

I am also planning to set up a web site in September that will have more extracts from the book; invited contributions from others; links to other helpful sites; and a forum where anyone can add suggestions or share what works for them. So hopefully it will be a hub for useful ideas around divorce and break-up. I will let you know when it is up and running.

And thanks Bookbag for the chance to comment.

Denise Cullington

All best,


Sue said:

Do send us the link, Denise - we'd be delighted to add it to this page. And thanks too for responding to the review - we love it when authors get involved!