The false romance of "winning her back"

Robin Thicke and Paula Patton in happier times.

Robin Thicke and Paula Patton in happier times. Photo: Getty

Let’s say your marriage had dissolved some months ago and you weren’t over your ex-wife; would you: a) get therapy, b) start dating again, or c) release an uncomfortably earnest R&B slow-jam entitled Get Her Back and hashtag your ex’s name on Twitter once the song drops and everyone wonders who it’s about?

If your answer was c) then congratulations, you are Robin Thicke!

Yep, Thicke amped up his campaign to win back the affections of his former childhood sweetheart this week, apparently seeking to offset the skin-crawling reaction Get Her Back has inspired in many listeners by keeping things short but sweet on Twitter:

It went down like a cup of cold sick with New York Magazine’s Kat Stoeffel, who wrote of Thicke’s antics, “the Very Public Get-Her-Back campaign appears to be the height of romance — he’s laying it all on the line for her! — but is in fact pure manipulation. It goads Patton into a conversation in which she must either acquiesce to his demand or disappoint the public, and makes her an involuntary part of his career for the foreseeable future.”

He’s not the only dude engaging in this sort of non-giving-up-spurned-guy routine - social media loves a show of romance and contrition - but all of them seem to have read and reread Wikihow’s ‘How to Get Your Ex-Girlfriend Back’ guide, then decided that simply behaving honourably is not enough; this thing needs an injection of spectacle, yo!

These increasingly high-profile acts of romance shouldn’t be that surprising; they are simply the cap the end of certain modern relationships the same way an over the top marriage proposal begins them.

Certainly in ~the internet age~, elaborate marriage proposals have leveled the playing field somewhat: where weddings used to be the sole domain of Bridezillas, taking charge of the catalysing moment means that men have well and truly entered the Wedding Industrial Complex Coliseum.

Daily Life’s Ruby Hamad wrote about showy wedding proposals as a measure of the male ego last year: “I know we are meant to coo with delight every time some dude interrupts a basketball game or TV show to propose, but public proposals manipulate women into saying ‘yes’ or risk backlash for not playing by the rules. They are the internet's version of those ‘romantic’ films where dorky guys chase after the beautiful girl of their dreams who foolishly resists their advances.”

(That’s if the dude in question even organises his own flashy marriage proposal; as I discovered when investigating the trend for Marie Claire, there are now countless “proposal organisers” who’ll do the job for you - for upwards of $10,000 in some cases.)

These “get her back” campaigns are bedfellows of similar missions to find “the one that got away”, such as Reese McKee’s quest to reconnect with “Katie” late last year; they are about the feelings of the man in question, not the woman he is searching for or seeking to reconcile with (indeed, definitely not the woman, particularly if she did the leaving).

The whole routine is an ego boost, designed solely to demonstrate that he is the most romantic dude in the universe and she’d be mad not to get back with him.

If I were Paul Patton, I’d lie in wait while Get Her Back climbs the charts, maybe gets used in a movie soundtrack or lucrative advertising campaign, and then emerge to go for the jugular with an uncompromising divorce lawyer who’ll insist all current and future royalties earned from Get Her Back are funnelled directly into my bank account.

Perhaps that’s why none of my exes have written a song about me - or, perhaps it’s just because they were able to cope with the momentary blow to their ego that a breakup inflicts. 

23 comments

  • Anyone that thinks over the top marriage proposals or "get her back" ones are related to the male's ego is sadly mistaken.

    They may not be every or even most women's cup of tea but they are driven by women's reactions to them and the media portrayal of them. Men aren't out buying most of the trashy "romance" and "bridezilla" magazines.

    Commenter
    Freddie Frog
    Date and time
    June 18, 2014, 8:14AM
    • No, it is about men and how they expect women to react because of media portrayals and movies. The actual, real-life woman is not the point.

      Commenter
      Mads
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 11:49AM
    • Mads,
      and why do you think those media portrayals are so common?

      Hint, it's not because men are buying the magazines, watching the movies that present them as a romantic ideal, it's because women are.

      Commenter
      Freddie Frog
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 1:04PM
    • Even those women who love the big romantic gestures in romcoms only appreciate them as spectators, ie outsiders looking in to the relationship and making a judgment call that 'they belong together'. From this perspective, the man is justified in making the big romantic gesture and should be rewarded (by, and with, the woman).

      It's different when you're the one who's just dumped a guy (for your own good reasons) and understandably wishes he would just leave you alone, or the one who's still not sure of where your relationship is heading and would rather not be forced to make the decision on the spot in front of a large audience of strangers.

      Commenter
      Spex
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 1:23PM
  • Can you imagine if a female behaved in the same manner? She would be derided as crazy and desperate not lauded as the dreamy lead in the imaginary romcom of which these fellows think they are the star.

    Commenter
    ...
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    June 18, 2014, 8:54AM
    • One would assume women would start with baby steps, you know work their way up to grand marriage proposals and grand romantic gestures to win their partner back but begin with something smaller like actually asking guys out rather than just hinting at it? I think there are a lot of guys who would certainly welcome that rather than the onus being on the man most of the time. Presumably along the way they could work at actually paying for dates or at least going dutch, and figuring out an equivalent romantic gesture for giving flowers and chocolates etc.

      Commenter
      Hurrow
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 11:46AM
    • Seems fair to me Hurrow.

      Commenter
      ...
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 2:16PM
  • Why must everything a man do be interpreted in the most negative light possible? A guy writes a song about a woman he wants back because he misses her? Nope, must be out of make money. A guy puts on a massive proposal to show a woman how much she means to him? Nope, all about his ego. If you go expecting people to be horrible, you'll find a reason to believe they are, no matter how much you have to wrangle things around.

    Which is fine, if you want to view the world through that lens. Your personal choice. But it seems a shame to use the fact that you have the ability to reach an audience to promote such a sad view of half of humanity. Is such division really a legacy you want to leave behind?

    Commenter
    Swarley
    Date and time
    June 18, 2014, 9:16AM
    • “Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes'.” - Stephen Colbert

      More for the other Clem but I think it is a decent explanation for the points you are raising.

      Commenter
      tish
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 3:48PM
  • Other than this part
    "The whole routine is an ego boost, designed solely to demonstrate that he is the most romantic dude in the universe and she’d be mad not to get back with him."
    I concur.

    I don't think that the whole routine is - by definition and always - solely and only for his ego.
    Yes, certainly he can claim he 'did so much' after she's turned him down.
    Yes, he certainly will gain support the broader the cross-section fo the public who see/hear about it.
    Yes, he does get be the person who did that thing.

    However there is also an element of simply "finding a way" to talk to her, to "prove" to her that he'll "do anything" for her. Including bad singing in public, including going on morning tv, etc. There's always a cross-section of the public who will call him a loser, who will laugh at him, who will offer her a date.

    There is an element of "things aren't going well and I'm admitting it in public" which I think you'd agree is a ballsy move for a guy who's interested in his own ego. Yes, he can of course be showing off how he's not an egoist by being so open and begging. But I think that desperation is the fuel more than ego.
    Don't forget that, like the big proposals, men are pressured into thinking these things will work and are good and he's got to do more more more to be good enough. sometimes by their girlfriends, sadly.

    But for Robin Thicke? She left you, she didn't do it publicly, she didn't commission a song about you being a dick, if you can't be un-public about this and can't not make it about you? What. a. loser.

    Commenter
    Raida
    Location
    chewing salty razors
    Date and time
    June 18, 2014, 9:17AM

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