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?
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.
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.
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.