We can credit Ariana Grande for many things in this world: five studio albums beloved by Arianators worldwide, the resurgence of the ponytail, doughnut licking, making Pete Davidson a person we talk about.
Now, we can add a dating trend to the list: “Grande-ing.” Inspired by the lyrics of the chart-topper “Thank U, Next,” Grande-ing is taking a breakup in stride, learning from your experiences with your ex and moving on, knowing you’ll be A-OK on your own.
In the song, Grande name-checks her exes and gives props to each with the breeziness of someone going over their weekly grocery list: “Thought I’d end up with Sean/But he wasn’t a match/Wrote some songs about Ricky/Now I listen and laugh,” she sings.
She thanks Davidson, too, and the late Mac Miller “’Cause he was an angel” before dropping her powerful post-split thesis: “One taught me love, one taught me patience, and one taught me pain, now, I’m so amazing. I’ve loved and I’ve lost, but that’s not what I see. So, look what I got, look what you taught me.”
The messaging is worlds away from scorched-earth breakup anthems like “You Oughta Know,” and has none of the desperation of a song like “Nothing Compares 2 U.” (Don’t get us wrong; we love those songs, too.)
It’s a new kind of breakup song ― and it’s clearly resonating with millennials. In a survey conducted by the dating app Plenty of Fish in December 2018, 50% of singles say they made a point to follow Grande’s lead and let go of any negativity toward their exes.
Though she primarily works with older millennials, Sara Ouimette, a therapist in Oakland, California, sees many clients who want to preserve memories of happier times with their exes and learn from the more difficult ones. Usually, it’s so they can walk into their next relationship with a smarter approach to loving someone.
“They desire long-term relationships, so therapy is a chance to reflect on serious relationships that didn’t work out,” she told HuffPost. “When this happens, it’s time to take a closer look at what might be happening. Who are we attracted to and why? What are our wounds and how can we clearly and kindly communicate them? Are we pursuers or distancers in our relationships?”
That’s a lot to unpack after a split, but the more we know ourselves and the better able we are to communicate, the more successful future relationships will be, Ouimette said.
Grande-ing fits in nicely with another cultural trend in relationship psychology: conscious uncoupling, which Gwyneth Paltrow made part of our permanent lexicon when she split from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin.
The idea behind conscious uncoupling ― which was coined by marriage and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas ― is that a marriage or long-term relationship doesn’t have to end in ill will. (That no-drama, blame-game-free approach to separation is especially helpful for couples with children.)
Amy Baldwin, a sex educator and co-host of the “Shameless Sex” podcast, is currently in the process of a conscious uncoupling with her ex and finds the concept of Grande-ing just as refreshing.
When Baldwin and her boyfriend of five years decided to part ways, they did so with the intention to respect all they’d shared together.
“We actually sat down and discussed the future and the parameters of how we would be in each other’s lives,” she wrote in an email. “And we committed to making choices that continued to respect and love the other. In a way, we are still partners because we are still working together in this uncoupling in a loving way.”
“The only way to succeed is to learn from our mistakes and failures and do differently in the future, and your exes really can play a positive role with your self-development and partnership skills.”
The two also had a desire to stay in each other’s lives. (Grande herself remains buddy-buddy with many of her exes, including two “Thank U, Next” references, Big Sean and Ricky Alvarez.)
“Our title has changed and all the expectations we had for our relationship flew out the window,” Baldwin wrote. “All of the sudden we could finally see each other as the sweet, loving being and friend who was always there.”
While Grande-ing is great, Baldwin cautions exes not to rush into that stage of a breakup and shortchange dealing with the harsher points of a split.
“You can’t bypass your hurt,” she said. “You have to feel all of the feels after a breakup. Sadness, anger, fear ― these emotions are here for a reason. The trick is to allow spaciousness to feel and move through all of the emotions and then looking back at our experiences and asking ‘what did I learn here?’”
And of course, you can even ask that question without being as “f**king grateful for your ex” as Ariana.
“Be thankful that you are no longer spending time with someone who isn’t right for you so you can eventually focus on finding someone who is,” said Julia Bekker, a matchmaker and relationship coach in New York City.
“If you never learn you will find yourself in the same patterns, and if you do not enforce what you have learned you will not be able to have a successful outcome,” she said in an email. “The only way to succeed is to learn from our mistakes and failures and do differently in the future and your exes really can play a positive role with your self-development and partnership skills.”
Long story short? Love ’em and leave ’em, but also love what they taught you in the process.