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Songs About Heartache

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Listen to "Changed Your Mind," a pleasantly twangy piece by singer-songwriter Sarah Morris, and it's obvious that this young woman knows a thing or two about heartache and, specifically, divorce. In reality, she's a happily-married mother expecting her second child. Her good friend, P.K., inspired the song, along with "Good Fight," a song about trying to hold on to a relationship that's being tested. I recently met up with the two friends for an after-dinner drink at a cafe near the Mississippi River.

I asked the women to talk a bit about what "Changed Your Mind" means to them. "Lately, it's been running through my head all the time," said P.K., an actress, singer, dancer, and yoga instructor who positively glows energy, even if her eyes give away her sadness. Her divorce from her long-time love was finalized this winter. "It's always cathartic for me to sing," she said.

"It's got a good angry melody," Sarah added. "But it's a little more bitter than P.K.'s ever been." Sarah's protective of her friend, who she's known since elementary school. "When he told her he wanted a divorce, I was really mad," she said. Sarah liked P.K.'s ex, and it wasn't obvious to anyone but him what the problem really was. The couple had been struggling -- their first year of marriage had been hard -- but P.K. was still caught off guard.

After six months of marriage counseling, her ex had suggested that they didn't need to go as often. Assuming things were going to be okay, she'd started to look toward the future. "I started talking about kids," she said, "and I think maybe it hit him that this was for real." Though they'd dated for five years and had been engaged for a year, he freaked out just a year and a half into their marriage, moving out the day after he asked for a divorce.

For six weeks, things went back and forth. They lived apart but went on dates. P.K. recalled how he was amazed that she allowed him the time and space to decide what he wanted to do. "Most women would tell me to go to hell," he'd said to her. All signs were pointing toward reconciliation -- they had even picked out a date for him to move back in -- but things took a final turn for the worse.

When he came over to walk their dog about a week before he was supposed to move back in, something seemed amiss. "I just had this foreboding feeling," she said. Sure enough, when he returned from the walk, he laid it all on the line. She remembers exactly what he said: "I don't want to come home to you."

Since moving home to Minnesota last year, P.K.'s been keeping really busy. "I've never really gotten to just be sad," she said. She's been living with Sarah and her family, so on top of working a lot, she's also been around people constantly. We joked about the benefits of spending a few days alone, crying in your pajamas (which I did after leaving my ex), and she seemed to wonder whether she had missed out on something important by skipping that part.

When I asked about dating, P.K. said she's been on what she called a "hijack date," but the idea of going out with other men makes her feel like she's cheating on her husband. Still, she does see love in her future. "It hasn't ruined the idea that I can be committed to someone else for the rest of my life," she said.

Regardless of what happens in her love life, it's clear that P.K. has a pretty amazing friendship with Sarah. When P.K.'s marriage was breaking up, it was stressful for Sarah, too. "It was hard not to be able to fix it," she said. While she couldn't stop the divorce -- or keep P.K. from being hurt -- Sarah did do something incredible. She wrote songs that not only give voice to her dear friend's story, but may also tell a little bit of yours, too.

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Minneapolis-based writer Emma Wilhelm edits the blog Divorced Before 30 and also writes about life, love, and parenthood (with a little edge) at Emmasota.

©2012 Emma Wilhelm