1986, Books, Non-Fiction

Uncoupling (1986) by Diane Vaughan

I interrupted my normal reading schedule to read this book specifically because I was going through a breakup – a relationship of nearly five years, the longest romantic relationship of my life, had ended. I chose Uncoupling of the books recommended to me because I found it the easiest but also because it appeared to not be a a self-help book, and I don’t enjoy the proscriptions of self-help books – I generally find them condescending.

On the whole, Uncoupling is a landmark study of the end of relationships and if you, like me, learn and grow from seeing yourself in the experiences of others, it should benefit you as well as it benefited me. Out of necessity, Vaughan creates two types in the relationship, the initiator and the partner. I found this typology helpful because I saw in my past behaviour both the initiator – albeit an initiator who had not yet acted – and the partner; that is I transitioned from one role to the other, as she notes many do. And I believe my former partner did the same, only the opposite direction – partner to initiator.

But far more helpful were the quotes of the interviewees – honest, raw, bare, naked, or whatever you want to call them, these people shared their deepest feelings about their dying or dead relationships and reading these made me feel so much less alone, so much less of a failure. And I must say that without this book I believe the end of my
relationship would have probably been rockier (at least for me). I am a strong believer that “moving on” requires knowledge and understanding and Uncoupling has given me that.

But the book does have a few flaws that I want to acknowledge:

  1. First, it is definitely dated. I would highly recommend seeking out an updated version if one exists or, if one doesn’t exist, I would hope that she has one planned.
  2. Second, though Vaughan admirably deals with problems with selection bias (and other biases) in the postscript, I did indeed detect a bias, albeit not one she focused on. That bias was an academic one – in trying to be inclusive as a typical sociologist, I found Vaughan’s interviews to be a little overly inclusive so as to not accurately reflect the population (at least in the way they presented them). I’m not sure this is really a criticism, it just seemed odd to me.

But overall I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has been through a breakup and has not moved on or is currently going through a breakup. And, if you can read it discreetly, I would highly recommend this to
anyone who is unhappy in a marriage or relationship and wants to save it. And I say this simply because had I known I was doing the things I was doing to show I was unhappy, maybe I would have talked to my ex about them, or maybe I would have tried to deal with the symptoms at the very least – or at least maybe I would have  recognized my own unhappiness and done something differently.


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