No one is immune to breakups — not even celebrities. But with the benefit of hindsight, and a few good stories, maybe we can all move on. We asked 15 notable figures, from Arianna Huffington to Chris Lowell, about what happened when their relationships ended, and what, if anything, they learned.
Liam Neeson: Oh yeah! I remember it well but I’ll start crying if you make me tell you. I think I was about 17 … she was a very, sweet lovely girl. I didn’t know the word dumped at the time but, oh yeah, she dumped me. And there’s been a couple since. Everybody has been dumped; it’s a rite of passage.
Beau Garrett (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce): Man, there’s a couple. But I would have to say — not naming any names — my last big relationship was the biggest heartbreak, just because I thought it was the one. The horrible story is that I left in the middle of the night with all my stuff and never saw him again. But in a way it created the best year of my life, afterwards.
Melissa Gorga (Real Housewives of New Jersey): I might have hung onto a car window and been like “don’t leave!” as they were driving away. And the car actually starts to move and you’re still hanging onto the window, and you realize that person is such an idiot and is not good for you. Fortunately I’ve had the most amazing marriage and I have a great husband, but I kissed frogs before I got married, that’s for sure.
Lisa Edelstein (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce): The worst breakup I had was when I met this other woman who was also in a relationship with my boyfriend. When I called his best friend to find out who knew, his best friend tried to make me feel better by reminding me that I was the girlfriend. She was the other woman; I was the girlfriend.
Luann de Lesseps (Real Housewives of New York City): I caught my boyfriend in a very awkward position with another woman … you don’t know what that person looked like. I thought, Oh my God, all right, it’s time to move on. It actually catapulted me to move to New York.
Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black): I dated this one guy in high school and he had given me this teddy bear when we were together, and when we broke up he wanted it back and he walked around campus with the teddy bear. It was so weird. I think he is gay now.
Lea DeLaria (Orange Is the New Black): None of my breakups are funny; they all try to kill me afterward. Look at me, would you like to be involved with me? Think about it. You think I’m easy? So no. I’ve had everything. I’ve had … one girl took every one of my dildos, every one of them. [Laughs.] Stole them! She castrated me!
NYM: How many were there?
DeLaria: I like to give a girl a choice. I like to say “Pick one out.” You know what I mean? It’s one of the finer points of having a dildo rather than a penis. You give a girl a choice. Although none of them are shaped like a dolphin and I have no, like, sparkly ones either.
Annet Mahendru (The Americans): My ex-boyfriend grew up with his best friend and his younger sister, and I remember I was wondering, Why aren’t you with the little sister? She’s not that much younger than him. They were just perfect, they grew up together, and I always said that. And then when we actually were breaking up, they got together. And I was like, oh my gosh! Did I plant the seed for this? It’s kind of like I almost knew and was always wondering, like, why aren’t you together? So it was heartbreaking but also I’m actually really happy. Because I think they’re a good match.
Alysia Reiner (Orange Is the New Black): I was 13 years old. My boyfriend at the time told me he wrote me a song ‘cause I found out he was cheating on me and then he was like, “No, no, no, no, I didn’t.” He gave it to me on a cassette tape — which really says I’m really old. And I played it and I loved it and I played it for one of my best friends and she’s like, “Yeah, this is on the B-side of Fame.” He totally lied again and didn’t write the song! And so I didn’t believe her. I was like [desperately], “No no! He wrote it for me.” And then I tried to make him play it on the piano and he couldn’t because he didn’t actually write it.
Cat Greenleaf (Talk Stoop): I try to hit all of the main tourist stops for my horrible breakups. One of my early New York City breakups took place in Times Square. I don’t remember it that well anymore, but it was full-on screaming my head off and him standing there blankly and not talking. Then, I went storming off into the night, except there was no music and credits weren’t rolling. It would have looked amazing onscreen, but it sucked in real life. I have another that’s even more epic. We were at Rockefeller Center under the tree, and we just watched another couple get engaged. I turned to him, and I was like, That’s so amazing. He cut me off by saying, We’re not getting engaged. That will never be us. I was like, Fuck you. So, that was the end of that.
Arianna Huffington: I have kind of a funny story about a man I broke up with years ago. I adored him, and I had been with him for seven years. But, he didn’t want to have children, and I really wanted that. So, I left London, where we lived together, and I moved to New York. I didn’t trust myself enough to stay in London, because I knew I’d go back to him. And, now, everything that could have possibly ever happened to me actually happened. None of this would have happened to me if I stayed with him in London.
Reid Scott (Veep): I got broken up with via radio when I was in eighth grade. My buddy and I, we were both dating two girls who were close friends, and we went to the mall to see a movie, and we decided, “We don’t like these girls anymore,” so we ditched them at the mall. I grew up in upstate New York in Saratoga County, and that night, on the local request line, my little girlfriend Amber requested “Cold-Hearted Snake,” and the DJ is like, “This is going out to Reid, and Reid, I don’t know what, man, but you are a real scumbag.” At the time, I’m like, “This is amazing, they said my name on the radio!” but then in school the next day I was just shamed.
Chris Lowell (Veronica Mars): Oh man, nutty breakup stories. I remember one time I got dumped by a girl and then, like, I was crying on the floor, which is a pretty sad but for me pretty anticipated state, and then her dog bit me. Which is pathetic, ‘cause then I was bleeding and she was tending to me. She was like, “I don’t want you to think anything of this, but you need stitches.” It was the worst.
Thomas Sadoski (Take Care): Are there any worse than the first ones, the ones that just rip your guts out? Oh my God, it’s like somebody took, like, an ice-cream scoop to your soul. I had a bad one in college. I still carry that one with me a little bit. It was sort of a mutual thing. I was removed from college. Mutual decision between myself and the university I was attending. My then-girlfriend was away visiting family at the time, over like the Christmas break, this time of year. And so I left a note, ‘cause this was before the days of cell phones. I left a note, but I wasn’t clear … she just sort of assumed that I left school because I didn’t like her anymore. So that went bad. That was pretty ugly.
Liz Tuccillo (Take Care): I had to go to Paris to take care of a friend who had gone through a sort of personal tragedy, and when I came back my boyfriend never returned a phone call of mine. That sort of put a very definitive end to my need to date bad boys. It had taken me a long time to get the message, but finally I got it.
Reporting by Alyssa Shelasky, Stephanie Eckardt, Sarah Caldwell, Victoria Gan, Jamie Sharpe, Noah Hurowitz, and Heather Schwedel.