Breakups: Getting Drunk with my Cousins


Breakups: Getting Drunk with my CousinsYesterday I broke up with someone very dear to me. There was nothing anyone could do; it was just a matter of bad timing and extreme misfortune. But no matter how cleanly and reasonably we may have parted ways, it still fucking hurts.

Over the past few weeks, as I’ve tried to save this crumbling situation, I’ve also struggled not to put the strain on my other relationships. Craving comfort and needing support, it is all too easy for me to show my red-rimmed eyes and curl up in someone else’s kindness. But I’m not at all sure this really helps. Conflicted and heartbroken, having several people to hold my hand is a blessing; but it also means I can skip from person to person, mourning and whining and not really processing anything. Not only does this have a detrimental effect on me, it means that I can’t be a nourishing or positive force in my relationships. In fact it’s almost frightening how deeply I can sink into self- pity, and how negatively this can effect them; I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked away from an intimate moment feeling as though I’ve left more trouble than resolution in my wake.

On the other hand, shutting myself off from everyone and withdrawing doesn’t help either. So what is the best thing to do?

I’m fairly sure this is not the typical way to get over a break-up, but I opted for getting together with all my female cousins, drinking far too much wine, and outing myself as not only non-monogamous but also kinky.

How wise this decision was has yet to be seen, but it was certainly distracting.

It started with me reaching, once again, for the wine. Someone commented that I was really getting through it fast, and I answered that I was allowed to drink because I had broken up with someone that morning.

Cue sad voices and curious questions from all my female cousins, luckily just at the moment all their boyfriends stepped out to go and buy – oh yes – more wine.

Huddled round the table with glasses, and bowls of apple crumble, they began quizzing me. What’s a munch? How do you end up sleeping with a married couple? What’s the difference between a submissive and a masochist? How do you find time for everyone? Who did you break up with? Why?

The conversation was cut short by the appearance of, first, my Grandmother, and then the return of their boyfriends. But I think, in the time given, I managed to give a reasonably human representation of non-monogamy and kink. I showed them my bruises and my eldest cousin commented that she gets worse marks from playing volleyball. I explained how my various relationships and connections all happened very organically, and that I didn’t set out to collect partners, but mindfully let intimacy grow on its own.

I think they all had questions hanging when we were interrupted – and maybe I’ll get the chance to answer a few more today – but it left me feeling as though I had done some good. Because it is through knowing people who are living in alternative relationships that we begin to accept and understand them. They know and love me as their cousin, as a creative friend, and (now) as a girl who can drink a lot of wine: and seeing this other part of me, there was no judgement in their eyes – only curiosity and surprise.

And this helped me immensely. Stepping outside of the immediacy of my own heartbreak, to look at and explain the bigger picture of my life, has proved to be far more therapeutic than wallowing in the initial misery. Not only has it given me some perspective, but I’ve put no more strain on my relationships, and may have just cracked open a few inquisitive minds.


Harper Eliot is a writer and podcaster whose work mainly centers around eroticism and social observation. You can find an archive of work, and links to all her other projects, on her website Harper Eliot. Harper lives in London, but rarely sees her own house, spending most of her time on public transport, listening to podcasts and tweeting too much. Her vices include cigarettes, lubricant, Earl Grey tea, opera, nail polish, and pinwheels.

1 Comment

  1. Really enjoyed this. Revealing is courageous – and how wonderful that you were well-received. Loved that they weren’t scared off by your bruises.

    And that the act of revealing helped your heartbreak? What an awesome win-win!

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