Editorial | Why Taylor and Joe’s breakup is so devastating — and why you can still believe in love

In 2020, Taylor Swift penned the line “​​Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?” in her surprise pandemic album “folklore.” “Peace,” a song thrumming with anxiety, desperately asks her partner if Swift’s love is enough to make up for the trials of being a couple in the scrutinizing public eye. This week, Entertainment Today reported that it wasn’t.

While the reasons behind Swift and longtime boyfriend Joe Alwyn’s breakup are unclear — short of a vague “the relationship had just run its course,” the initial announcement didn’t give much detail — its impact on fans, and even casual listeners, was instant and dramatic.

It’s understandable to be sad about the news. Many people grew up on Swift’s music and want to see her thrive not just in her career, but in her personal life also. Swift’s lyrics are often intensely emotional and deeply personal, which can lead listeners to feel like they’re living vicariously through her experiences. 

Throughout her career, she’s taken us through first love, breakups, her mother’s battle with cancer, a sexual assault lawsuit and the COVID-19 pandemic. Though notoriously private in interviews and reluctant to identify the subjects of her songs, Swift’s lyrics reveal many of her most vulnerable thoughts. It’s her storytelling that keeps her cultlike following of “Swifties” so engaged in her music and life.

Many of Swift’s songs discuss the ups and downs of romantic love, from the childlike enamoration in “Teardrops on my Guitar” to the mature hindsight of “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve.” Her lyrics about past loves are often full of fear, regret and uncertainty — all of which seemed to change when she met actor Joe Alwyn in 2016. 

From then on, fans have been treated to love song after song seemingly about Alwyn, full of heartbreakingly romantic lyrics like “Your love is a secret I’m hoping, dreaming, dying to keep,” “I once believed love would be burning red, but it’s golden” and “Please don’t ever become a stranger/Whose laugh I could recognize anywhere.”

It’s unsurprising, given the six-year streak of adoring songs that emphasize Swift’s feelings of security and happiness in her relationship, that the news came as a shock and prompted sympathy from Swift’s fans. After all the obstacles and vitriol she’s faced as a woman in music, if her happy ending isn’t real, then how are any of us to hope for our own? 

For many, their sweet relationship represented continued faith in the power of love and the possibility of a fairytale ending. While it lasted, their relationship led many to “hope this never ends,” as Swift herself wrote in “Cornelia Street.”

While it is easy to fall into an obsession over the news of her breakup, it’s also important to remember that even celebrities deserve privacy in their personal lives. An artist like Taylor Swift — known for her personal lyrics and emotional openness with fans — makes it very easy to empathize with her personal struggles offstage, but we cannot get lost in the private life of someone we’ve never met.

Life will carry on, and Swift is no stranger to emotional upheaval. Love can still be beautiful, no matter how ephemeral, and Swift will likely continue to show her fans all new kinds of love in her performances and lyrics.

So don’t get too caught up in the sadness. After all — breakups happen every day, you don’t have to lose it.