Wide Angle

Curing a Heartbreak

When life gave her lemons (heartbreak), Florence Williams made lemonade (a book).

A collage of "Heartbreak" book covers.
Photo illustration by Slate

Gabfest Reads is a new monthly series from the hosts of Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast. This month, David Plotz spoke with author Florence Williams about divorce, affection, good friendships, and her new book Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey. This partial transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.

David Plotz: You saw a 20-year marriage collapse and wrote a book about heartbreak. The book is a personal scientific journey. When life gave you lemons, you made a book, trying to figure out to make yourself happier and get through it. What did you try?

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Florence Williams: When I found out how imperiled I was in terms of my health, there was this incredible urgency. I just felt like I needed to get better as quickly as I could. I tried things [to cure heartbreak] that had some scientific evidence behind them. I also debunked quite a few myths that don’t have so much science behind them. There’s a certain amount of pablum that we’re told.

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Like what?

Oh, like you shouldn’t get into another relationship too soon. You have to love yourself first before you can enter another relationship, and you have to be in a great place and already have done your growth. Sometimes it’s repeated that for every year of marriage, you should wait six months. I was like, forget it. I’m going to be spoon-fed by then. That’s just not going to happen.

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I did try flinging myself into the arms of other relationships, which for me did provide a certain measure of comfort. Also, I had written a book called The Nature Fix about how being in nature cures everything, so I was very invested in the idea that if I just go hiking and rafting and into the woods, I’m going to feel so much better. So I did a lot of that. It partly worked, but not completely. I tried psychedelics as a kind of a breakup drug. We sometimes hear of things like MDMA [ecstasy/molly] being used in couples counseling, but lately people are starting to talk about it also as a breakup drug, so I thought that was absolutely worth trying. Did that.

To listen to the full interview with Florence Williams, subscribe to the Slate Political Gabfest on Apple Podcasts or listen below.

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