Death, Sex & Money

Death, Sex & Money

United States

A podcast hosted by Anna Sale about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation. Email the show at deathsexmoney@wnyc.org.

Episodes

Bonus! Anna Talks Interviewing with Jesse Thorn  

"One of the really important traits of an interviewer is to communicate to the person you’re asking questions of that you are sincerely curious," Death, Sex & Money host Anna Sale recently told Jesse Thorn on his new show, The Turnaround. "Because your interview is only going to be as good as the person’s willingness to participate."

This summer, Jesse (who also hosts the radio show/podcast Bullseye) is turning the tables on interviewers and interviewing them about their craft. He's talked with people like Jerry Springer, Errol Morris, Audie Cornish, Marc Maron, and Annawho joined Jesse from her maternity leave last summer to talk about preparing for interviews, asking hard questions, and learning from interviewer heroes. 

My Husband Killed Someone. Now He Might Get Out.  

Ronnine Bartley dated her now-husband Lawrence when they were in middle school. "Even when we were like together at 13 and 14 years old when we had no business being together, we always talked about being married," Ronnine told me. But when Lawrence was 17, he was arrested and convicted of murder. They weren't dating at the time, but they stayed in touch and eventually got back together while he was in prison. And in 2006, they got married. 

But married life hasn't exactly been how Ronnine once imagined it would be. She and Lawrence have never spent more than 72 hours together as a couple. Their two boys were conceived during conjugal visits inside prison walls. And she's had to be the breadwinner and the decision-maker in their family. "Do I consult with [Lawrence]? Absolutely," she told me. "You know, that makes the relationship work. That makes him feel involved, but I'm the boss. Like in my head, I'm the boss!" 

Life for their family will look very different if Lawrence gets paroled. After 27 years in prison, he's going before the parole board for the first time next month. "I try not to talk about it too much," Ronnine says. "I'm not really prepared for if he doesn't get released." But, Ronnine says, even if Lawrence gets out, there are still plenty of challenges that they'll face as Lawrence adjusts to life on the outside and they adjust to life together as a couple. "I guess we're gonna have to go to counseling," she told me. "You know, that's a lot. It's deep." 

I Killed Someone. Now I Have Three Kids: Updated  

I first met Lawrence Bartley three years ago, inside Sing Sing Correctional Facility. He'd been behind bars for 24 years, after shooting his gun inside a crowded movie theater on Christmas night in 1990 and killing a 15-year-old bystander named Tremain Hall. Lawrence was 17 at the time. 

Lawrence was sentenced to 27 to 30 years to life in prison for his crime, with the possibility of parole. This August, Lawrence will face the parole board for the first time. So we're sharing his story again, and a few updates.

Next week, look out for my conversation with Lawrence's wife, Ronnine. She and Lawrence got married more than a decade ago, and have two sons together. We hear from her about how she's thinking about the possibility of Lawrence coming homeand what she wants for their future together. 

Several years ago, Lawrence participated in a documentary project called Voices from Within. In it, inmates at Sing Sing talk about their crimes and their regrets. Watch for Lawrence around the 7:30 mark.

 

Our Student Loan Secrets, Part 2  

Nathan realized he couldn't pay his rent and his monthly student loan payments. Beth* collapsed in tears while doing yoga because she couldn't stop worrying about money. Jordan set a calendar reminder to force herself to finally make her first payment. 

Hundreds of you have shared your stories about student debt with us, especially the mix of frustration and shame you feel about it. But we also heard stories of turning pointswhen something changed that redefined your relationship with your student loans. 

For Beth, that meant radically changing her spending and allotting close to half of her taxable income toward student loan payments. Nathan converted a van into a mobile apartment to save on rent while he chips away at his $200,000 debt. And Jordan, after first telling me how she's dodged her student loans for two years, finally set up regular monthly payments. 

"It started becoming something that was consequential but inconsequential at the same time. Something that can be controlled and doesn't control me," a listener named Krista said about finally getting help managing her student debt. "That was a huge revelation."

Go to deathsexmoney.org/studentloans for more stories and to see how your debt compares to national statistics and to other Death, Sex & Money listeners.

Our Student Loan Secrets, Part 1  

I have blatantly lied to my friends about student loans.

I feel fooled and bamboozled about the American dream.

It’s a stupid system. No one talked about this.

When we asked you to tell us your stories about how student loans are affecting other parts of your life, we were overwhelmed by your responses. You've shared more than a thousand stories in all, and they keep coming. We heard about years of incremental payments and the thrill of getting to a zero balance, but also about delayed weddings, tensions with your parents over your shared debt, and fading hopes of ever buying a home or saving for retirement. 

It makes sense that you have a lot to say about student debt. More Americans are taking out more in student loans and taking a longer time to pay it off. And it's fundamentally reshaping how you think about the value of education and the milestones of adulthood.

"You sort of feel lost and like you totally screwed up somehow because you just couldn't figure it out," a listener named Dena said about struggling to make loan payments ten years after college. "And the rest of the world is making money and paying their bills and there's this subculture of individuals who are book smart and world stupid." 

"I don't know how else to put it except that I almost made it," a listener named Sharif said. He put himself through school with loans to became a chemical engineer, but feels embarrassed by his six-figure debt and never talks about it. "I felt like a total, complete idiot that I put myself in this position." 

For some of you, that embarrassment has become denial. "I just didn’t pay," Jordan Gibbs told me about receiving her first student loan statement. "Like, I just felt like, how can you expect me to start paying you $700 a month? Which is just a crazy number. I can’t even afford to pay rent." 

In part one of this series, hear how our decisions about how to pay for education are having unexpected effects, long after graduation. 

Go to deathsexmoney.org/studentloans for more stories and to see how your debt compares to national statistics and to other Death, Sex & Money listeners. And look out for part two of this series for stories about how some of you stopped feeling stuck and started taking control of your student loans. 

Coming Soon: Our Student Loan Secrets  

More Americans are taking on more debt than ever before to pay for higher education: 44 million Americans have $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. But when we asked you to tell us how you feel about your debt, hundreds and hundreds of you told us about the guilt, shame and isolation that surrounds your loans. 

Next week, we'll share your stories about how student loan debt has affected your relationships, careers, families and more. For now, visit deathsexmoney.org/studentloans to join the community there: find out where you fit into the student loan landscape, explore other stories about student loan debt, and share your story if you haven't already. 

Who's Driving Your Uber?  

I’ve learned a lot about the Bay Area from Uber drivers since I moved here last fall. Some of them are new arrivals, like me, but others have watched the region change dramatically over the last few years. When I'm stuck in a car with a stranger at the wheel, I've been surprised by how personal conversations can get. 

So last month, producer Katie Bishop and I took our microphones and recording gear along on a bunch of Uber rides all around the Bay Area. The company has been in the news a lot lately, but we set out to learn more about the drivers and what keeps them on the road. We talked about money, competition from other drivers and how they spend their long hours driving and waiting for rides. They also told us about domestic violence, grave plot sales, and the long ripples of the financial crisis. And we heard why one Pakistani driver has decided it's better to not talk to his passengers. 

Hari Kondabolu and His Mom Answer Your Life Questions  

When we first met comedian Hari Kondabolu and his mom, Uma, a year ago, we found out that comedy runs in their family. We had such a good time with them that we invited Hari and his hilarious mom to join us on stage againthis time, for a live advice show in The Greene Space. Uma, who immigrated from India to the U.S. as a young woman, and Hari, who was raised in Queens and is now a stand-up comic, sat down with me to answer your questions about everything from money woes to relationship hurdles to pursuing a meaningful life. 

We hear from a listener named Kevin in California, who's unsure about his career path at 30. An anonymous audience member says her parents hate her boyfriendand wonders what to do. A listener named Judith asks how long parents should financially support their kids. And Katie, who lives in Boston, sent in a message about finding balance between her closeness with her family (physically and emotionally) and a potential dream job that could take her abroad. 

Uma lives far away from her family, and for her that's worked. "I left my country," Uma said. "And if my kids want to do it to fulfill their career, I think I would let them go. I think without happiness you find resentment later." However, Hari says his mom has taken that approach to the extreme. When his career was first taking off, he was traveling for weeks on end. In the middle of it, Uma had a heart attack. "She didn't want me to know," Hari said. "She didn't want there to be any regret."

Watch video of Hari and Uma on stage at The Greene Space below. 

 

We are still hard at work on our episode about student loans. We've got another assignment for you: Send us a picture of the amount that you owe on your student loans. Take a picture of your loan statement, or write out your number in a creative way. Make sure your hands are in the picture (no faces required!) and send it in to deathsexmoney@wnyc.org. 

'Precious' Paid Off Gabourey Sidibe's Gym Membership Debt  

Gabourey Sidibe was 24 and working as a phone sex operator when she was cast as the lead in the 2009 film Precious. It was her first acting role. "It had better change my life for the better," she remembers thinking to herself. "That’s what I prayed for." And it did: she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, and has since landed roles in big-budget movies like Tower Heist and television series like American Horror Story, The Big C, and Empire.  

But financial success didn't come right away. As Gabourey writes in her new memoir, "This is Just My Face," she only made about $30,000 from that first role. And, she tells me, it went fast. "Not that I spent it on frivolous things," she says. "What I did with the money was I got out of credit card debt." Gabourey remembers calling a collections agency to pay off several thousand dollars from a Crunch Gym membership that had gone unpaid. "I was like, 'Lisa I'm gonna pay the whole thing off now,'" she laughs. "And she was like, 'Whaaaaat?' And I was like, 'Girl, I got a movie!'"

These days, Gabourey says she's financially stable, and enjoys the attention that's come with her career—mostly. "Before I was an actress nobody said anything about my body," Gabourey says. "It took a while for me to learn that I was never going to out-talent the fact that I should be skinny in, you know, somebody else's eyes." Everyone from directors to fans have told her to do something about her weight—that she should lose it or, at times, that she should gain it back. "People think that I don't care that I am bigger, that I don't notice," she says. "I know. I'm worried." 

That worry fueled her decision to get weight loss surgery last year—something she kept from her family, her manager and her agents. "I had made up my mind and I didn't want space for anybody else's mind to be made up about it," she told me."I wanted my opinion and my comfort and my safety to be the only thing that mattered surrounding the surgery." 

Kevin Bacon Shows Us His Cash  

"We all have a different relationship with money," Kevin Bacon told me on stage when I recently interviewed him at The Greene Space in New York. "It's just as complex as death and sex."

One thing I learned about Kevin Bacon's relationship with money in our recent conversation: he likes to carry around a lot of cash. No wallet. A wad—folded up in his pocket. "It's just a weird thing," he said. "I don't leave the house without it."

I asked the actor about how he thinks about money differently after he and his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, famously lost much of their savings in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. "It leaves you with a sick kind of feeling," he said. "However, I think you have to live your life trying to avoid bitterness." At the time, Kyra also had steady TV work, which Kevin says helped them get through their rough financial patch. 

Now, Kevin also has a leading role on a TV series: I Love Dick, Jill Soloway's latest project. Kevin plays Dick—who is an intensely sexual character. We talked about how he approached the role and how he thinks about sex in his own life now that he's almost 60. "Honestly I feel like it's become in some ways even more important to me right now," he told me. "I almost feel like I'm trying to cram as much of it in before it's over for good." 

Watch the video below for my full conversation with Kevin Bacon on stage at The Greene Space. 

Two Wheelchairs and A Baby  

When Nikki Villavicencio and Darrell Paulsen found out they were going to have a baby, their first question was: What now? "It was a scared feeling. It’s not that this was not the right thing or the right feeling, but it was, 'What do we do next?'" Darrell told me.

That’s how a lot of people feel when they first become parents. But for Nikki and Darrell, there were complicating factors. For one, neither Darrell nor Nikki has use of their legs. Darrell has cerebral palsy, and Nikki has a rare joint condition called arthogryposis, which means she doesn’t have much use of her arms either. Both rely on home health aides for tasks like bathing, using the toilet and making meals, and spend much of their time in wheelchairs. "I’m in my chair probably a good 18 to 20 hours a day," Darrell said. 

 

(A video from Nikki's YouTube channel)

Before Nikki got pregnant, neither of them believed it was possible for them to conceive. Their parents were told when they were young that it wasn't possible. "I mean, society tells us all the time that people with disabilities either can't have children or shouldn't have children," Nikki said. When they told their family members that Nikki was expecting, some of them were worried—including Darrell's mom. But, Darrell remembers, she found hope in the fact that the couple had a cat. "She used to say, 'Well if we can keep the cat alive for a year, I know you guys can be parents,'" Darrell recalls. "So we've kept the cat alive for a long time. We became parents."

Raising their daughter hasn't been easy. Home health aides aren't supposed to help Nikki and Darrell with tasks related to parenting, whether it's laundry or schlepping a bike across the street. But as their daughter, Alley, has gotten older, she's able to do more for herself—and for her parents. "We always tell her that she doesn’t have to do anything for us...but she will be insistent," Nikki said. "She's super independent." 

Nikki and Darrell's story is a collaboration with Cosmopolitan.com and journalist Kathryn Joyce. Read their piece here.

Newlywed and Paralyzed  

"I want to understand if this isolated feeling is normal." That’s what Rachel Swidenbank wrote to me just six weeks after a cycling accident left her husband, Hiroki Takeuchi, paralyzed from the waist down.

The accident happened last summer, less than a month after Rachel and Hiroki got married. They'd also recently bought their first home. Quickly, almost everything in their lives changed. After major surgery and five weeks in the hospital, Hiroki had to learn to navigate the world in a wheelchair. He couldn’t dress himself or use the bathroom without help. Rachel shuttered her company, a tech startup, so that she could spend more time with him.

Physical intimacy is different, too. "We're still in the stage of sort of shock, when it comes to that regard," Hiroki told me. Rachel added, "It's probably the hardest thing to deal with in the relationship." They're not sure how Hiroki's accident will affect their sex life in the long term, and how it will affect their chances at becoming parents. 

Rachel says she's gotten angry at Hiroki about the accident. But there are ways it's strengthened their bond, too. "The emotional connection that we have is so much deeper than it’s ever been before," Rachel told me. And despite all the changes in their relationship, some things have managed to stay the same. Hiroki is still learning how to manage his wheelchair one-handed, but he makes it a point to bring Rachel her morning cup of coffee every day, just as he always has, even if it means spilling a little bit of coffee on the kitchen floor. "It is very bittersweet," Hiroki said, reflecting on the accident, "both survival and loss mixed into one."

Alec Baldwin Talks Money, Family, Fame and Cocaine  

"I completely forgot that this is an episode of Death, Sex & Money. We're taping this for your show!"

That's how Alec Baldwin responded after I started our on-stage conversation at the Brooklyn Academy of Music by asking him about money, and how he thinks about accumulating it. It's a topic he addresses head-on in his new memoir, Nevertheless, explaining that the reason he wrote the book was because he got paid for it. While Alec told me he believes "a lot in providence, financially," he says he's often made clear career choices motivated by the paycheck. It's a tactic he says he learned early on, from older actor mentors. "Embrace the commercial," Alec says, "But then when you can, you run off and do these other things for your soul." 

That willingness to say yes has led Alec into a very public existencehosting Saturday Night Live a record-breaking 17 times, engaging in local politics and philanthropy, and maintaining an active social media presence. But being in the spotlight has also led to regular spats with the tabloid press, a cocaine habit in the 1980s, and his very visible custody battle in the 1990ssomething he also covers in his book. When asked what advice he would give to a friend going through a split now, Alec said, "Find a way that you can get into therapy and get into the collaborative divorce. The dignified divorce. You're gonna regret if you don't." 

Alec remarried in 2012 and has had three more children in a little over three years. He says he's embraced the chaos that has come with having little kids back in his life. "My role is to support her," he said of his wife, Hilaria. "I kind of accept that in order to make things easy. As my dad taught me, parenthood is a contest between two people where the dad always wins the bronze medal."

Pleased to Meet You, Nancy  

I first met Kathy Tu and Tobin Low two years ago, when they had an idea for a new podcast. The two friends wanted to make a show that would feature fun, honest and edgy stories and conversations about all things gay. And today, I'm so excited to finally introduce Nancy, their podcast, to all of you!

The story we're sharing with you is from one of their very first episodes. It's about Kathy and her mom, and coming out with the help of Google Translate. 

You can find out more about Nancy at nancypodcast.org. Subscribe today!

Why Rashema Melson Left Georgetown  

I met Rashema Melson in the middle of her sophomore year at Georgetown University. She'd made national headlines the year before when she graduated as valedictorian of her D.C. high school class after spending several years living in a homeless shelter. It was a feat that landed her a scholarship at Georgetown—and saddled her with a lot of pressure. "I can't fail, I mean what would I do?" Rashema said as we talked in her dorm's common room, weeks before finals. "Do I want to believe that I didn't work hard enough or there is something more that I could have done? I just—yeah, no, I can't fail." 

After our conversation, I kept tabs on Rashema through her video blog—which is how I found out that just months after we talked, she left Georgetown. She married a longtime boyfriend in the military, and transferred to a new school in Tennessee to be closer to his base—hundreds of miles away from her old life in Washington D.C. He was in the car with her when I called recently to find out how she was feeling about all of her big life changes. But our call quickly took an unexpected turn, and Rashema told me she's considering a return to Georgetown. "Why run away from what I'm destined to do just because people are showing me that they’re on my side?" she said. "When I had all these people in my corner, I didn't know how to receive that."

A Prison Guard In Transition  

Mandi Hauwert was 32 and a few years into her career as a correctional officer at San Quentin State Prison when she started to wear eyeliner to work. "Just a little bit," she tells me. "Just to have some sense of feeling when I went to work that I was being secretly feminine."

At the time, Mandi hadn't come out being transgender. She'd struggled with her secret for years—becoming depressed and suicidal as a teenager, joining the Navy to feel "a little more manly," and finally gathering the courage to open up to one of her female coworkers at the prison. "She was super accepting," Mandi told me. "And then it got me thinking, like, maybe—maybe—I could come out." But after another colleague started to ask questions about the makeup she was wearing, Mandi got called in to her supervisor's office. "I immediately told them that I was transgender," she says. "And their immediate response was that they don't allow cross-dressing."

Mandi eventually got permission to come to work as a woman, and since July 2012, she's done just that. The health insurance she receives as a state employee also covered most of her gender reassignment surgery in 2015. Still, continuing to work as a guard hasn't been easy. Early on, inmates called her names. And while that's eased up over time, Mandi says her colleagues haven't gotten over her transition yet. "It's walking into a room full of officers and having everybody move their chairs over to one side, away from you," Mandi says. "I hate the negativity." 

Mandi's also gotten some pushback from the trans community, which she says views police officers and guards with a lot of suspicion. "To be fair, law enforcement has historically treated trans people very poorly," she says. But Mandi is holding firm to the idea that being a part of the system is what could eventually bring about change. "Who knows?" she laughs. "I could be the first transgender warden."

I Was Your Father, Until I Wasn't  

Tony* wasn't sure what to say when the woman he'd slept with told him she was pregnant. First, he says, there was a long pause. They weren't a couple, and he didn't want to say the wrong thing. "I told her that it was her choice and if she chose to keep it, then I would be a good dad," he remembers. "I was freaking out." 

At the time, Tony was in his mid-20s, working as a bartender and photographer in a college town out west. Tony started paying child support for his daughter near the end of the pregnancy, went to prenatal appointments, and took parenting classes along with the baby's mother. On the day his daughter was born, Tony cut the umbilical cord. 

And Tony was an active father. As soon as his daughter could take a bottle, he says he started sharing custody of her, sometimes watching her three or four days a week. "We were really just good buddies," he says. "It felt good to have purpose, and it felt amazing to love something so much, in a completely new way." 

Money became a source of tension, though, between Tony and the baby's mother. So did the fact that as his daughter got older, she started looking less like him or her mother. Tony decided to get a paternity test when his daughter was about a year old. "I couldn't play it dumb forever," Tony saysbut he also feared the results. "That's not something that you want to know, especially when you love something so much."

Tony quickly learned the truth: he had a zero percent probability of being the biological father. He called the mother to tell her, and soon after that, he met Victor*, the man who is his daughter's biological father. Over beers, they talked about Tony's shock, Victor's suspicions from the sidelines, and their plan for the little girl they both considered a daughter. More than two years later, they joined me to talk about the logistics and emotions of the transition that followed, which included packing up a pickup truck with nursery furniture to move it from Tony's place to Victor's. 

*Last names have been withheld for privacy reasons.

Live from the Internet: Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires & You  

We met Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires three years ago to hear about their love story. They met when Jason was still struggling with sobriety, and got married about a year before we first sat down. Since then, they've continued to create new music, moved into a new house together, and had their first child—Mercy. After our recent episode on breakups, we couldn't think of a better duo to take your questions about heartache, relationships, creativity and loss. 

A caller named Rebecca in Alaska wants to know how the two strike a balance between their creativity and their love for each other. "Happiness is the most important thing," Amanda says. "You've got to make yourself happy first, and be the truest self you can, before you can even try and be happy in a relationship." Russ calls in from Adairsville, Georgia to ask Jason and Amanda if they share their works in progress—especially if they write about each other. "If it's true and honest—no rules," Amanda says. "If the piece of art is good enough, no one can argue with it," Jason adds.

We also hear from Lori in Ukiah, California, who lost her husband to cancer. She wants to know about Jason's relationship to his faith these days. "For me, it's about not needing too many answers," he responds, adding he still relies on his faith in God for support. Muhammad from Boston shares his struggle to stay authentic as a Middle Eastern musician playing Americana music. "Americana is America," Amanda says. "Play your folk songs. It's going to kick ass."

Let us know what you think of our live-call in format! If you enjoyed it, tell us what you'd like our next call-in to be about and who should be our guests by emailing us at deathsexmoney@wnyc.org.

 

Jason & Amanda's Playlist

Leonard Cohen, (ANY Leonard Cohen song, Amanda says)

Ray LaMontagne, "Lesson Learned"

Willie Nelson, "You Are Always On My Mind"

Willie Nelson, "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground"

Willie Nelson, "Remember Me"

Willie Nelson, "On the Road Again"

Jason Isbell, "Flagship"

Amanda Shires, "You Are My Home"

 

Cristela Alonzo's Lower Classy Comedy  

Comedian Cristela Alonzo says she didn't grow up with much. Her mom raised four kids on her own in an abandoned diner with no running power or water in South Texas. Things are different for Cristela these days. "I have the kind of money where I can go into a Target and go on my own Pretty Woman shopping spree," she tells me.

Cristela became the first Latina to develop, write, produce and star in her own network TV show. The self-titled sitcom, Cristela, premiered in 2014, but only lasted one season due to disappointing ratings. Still, for Cristela, failure isn’t enough of a reason to stop. "The worst that can happen to me is I end up being as poor as I started, and I know what it's like to live life that poor," she explains.

Cristela spent a lot of time in front of the TV as a kid while her mom worked double shifts at restaurants to pay the bills. Cristela's mom moved the family into the abandoned diner when she discovered her husband was having an affair, leaving him behind in Mexico. "She was trying to survive and trying to get us to survive," she says of her mother. "She had no community. She had nothing, and you can tell how hard it was on her."

In high school, Cristela struggled between obligations to her family and her own professional aspirations. She enjoyed theater and acting, which eventually drew her towards Los Angeles. After a series of fits and starts, she ended up back in Texas when she found out her mom was gravely ill. "In my family, the parents pick the kid that will take care of them when they're older, and my mom picked me," she remembers. "It's kind of winning a really resentful lottery."

Even though her show was cancelled in 2015, Cristela's stories about family and money are still a big part of her comedy—especially in her latest comedy special, Lower Classy. "I like talking about where I came from to show people why I am the way I am now," she says. "The poverty I grew up with made me want to work really hard to not ever be that poor again."

Cristela Alonzo's customized shoes that translate to "badass." (Katie Bishop)

 

Cut Loose: Your Breakup Stories  

When Nan Bauer-Maglin was 60 years old, her husband left her for his 25-year-old student. "I thought about suicide. You know, there’s a great feeling of rejection especially if you’re older," she told me. "You just feel ugly and invisible and sad and quite gray." 

Nan wrote a book inspired by their breakup and called it Cut Loose. "First I was gonna call it 'Dumped.' But that’s so negative," she told me. "Cut Loose is also about freedom." 

Nan is one of hundreds of listeners who shared their breakup stories with us, after we asked for them last year. And she's not the only one who mentioned a potent mix of rejection, liberation, and confusion at the end of a relationship.

A listener named Drew remembers when his boyfriend went on a trip, left his dog at Drew's house, and never came back. Thomas*, who got married right out of college, is 25 and unsure of what his life will look like after his impending divorce. Mia sent in a voice memo about leaving her boyfriend behind, and struggling with the decision years later. Identical twins Matthew and Peter Slutsky realized they needed to break up after years of living parallel lives: attending the same college, working the same jobs, living with their families in the same neighborhood. Creating some distance was part of growing up, but that doesn't mean it wasn't hurtful. 

In your breakup stories, you also described how hard it can be to know when it's over. Steve* knows he's not happy right now, but isn't sure if the problem is him or his long-term boyfriend. "I love him and I don’t want to hurt him," he told me. "This just seems like kind of a way to wipe the slate clean and start over." 

Sometimes, though, breaking up can also feel like a long overdue exhale. Beth, a listener in Philadelphia, recalls the day when she was riding her bike on her commute and choked out the words, "I don't want to be married!" She was divorced within a year, and looking back now, wishes she hadn't waited so long to be honest about her feelings. 

Whether you're in the middle of a breakup or you've been through one in the past, check out our Breakup Survival Kit. It's a Google doc created by all of you that's filled with your best suggestions about what to read, watch, listen to and do after a split. 

 *Name changed for privacy reasons

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