Most Couples You See Are Going to Break Up

Whenever I see people together on the subway, I assume that they have always been together, and that they will always remain together. That they emerged from the ether as one, and that they will sink back into it, eventually — also as one — and that it is only I who emerged and will likely be receding back into the ether in solitude.

But then, the other day, for whatever reason, when I was pretending not to watch a cute young couple bicker intimately on the train, I thought, You know what? They’re probably going to break up. Each of them was probably dating someone else pretty recently, and they’ll probably date other people again soon.

It’s hard to guess how many breakups happen in any given year, in the world, but if roughly 40 percent of American marriages end in divorce (per 2017 CDC data) and most of us date at least five people before getting married in the first place (a conservative guess), then that’s basically infinite breakups. Infinite!

This tiny mean thought — no one is forever as happy as they seem in any given moment — felt harmless and buoyant. Heartbreak is widespread. I mean I, too, have ridden the subway holding someone’s hand, leaning on their shoulder. It’s funny how performative public transportation can be, for relationships. Honestly, it’s basically like a wedding. The difference is that it costs only a couple dollars to be a guest on the subway.

 

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