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.