The Breakup: A Modern Day Relationship Guide Essay

The Breakup: A Modern Day Relationship Guide

            The 2006 romantic comedy The Breakup starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston outlines several common relationship stereotypes in dramatic details. Each stereotype is considered to portray very vital points in modern relationship. The movie starts with a feuding couple who are having relationship trouble due in part to Vaughn’s character Gary’s immaturity and Aniston, Brooke’s, overzealous reactions. Both Gary and Brooke represent typical stereotypes of the overactive woman who nags about lack of attention and being taken for granted while Gary represents the one sided male who can pry himself away from video games for long enough to burp and scratch himself. The movie depicts the misleading communication schemes between men and women which often lead to nasty fights and revenge tactics towards each other.  Unfortunately the movie does not give any insight into human nature and how to avoid the miserable ending that the two main characters come to.

            Roger Ebert reviewed the film and points out that the first fight the couple has makes him think of his own shortcomings (Ebert, 2006, ¶ 5). This is probably true of most men watching the film because the fights and shortcomings of both characters are so universal.  This is illustrated in a comic scene in which Brooke explains that she is feeling unappreciated for the work that she does around the couple’s condo. Brooke clearly points out that she feels abused because she’s the only one who gives effort in their condo’s maintenance. She wants Gary to want to help out because he loves her and does not want her to have to be responsible for all of the chores. But Gary does not even grasp this concept. Gary does not understand why Brooke would want him to “want” to do the dishes. He believes that it must be the woman’s task to maintain the prim appearance of the condo. This is a classic relationship issue especially when both have a full time job. Since both of them are already jaded from the stress their job brings, their time for the condo “maintenance” is limited. More often than not, household chores are considered as one of the primary causes of the couple’s argument.  “But it is the laundry care (and the food shopping, meal preparation, vacuuming, toilet cleaning, ect) that is still an unsettling issue in many families where both adults have careers (Hartwell-Walker, 2006, ¶ 4) According to Hartwell-Walker women often feel resentment toward their partners for not contributing toward chores which have been dictated as “women’s” work by previous generations. It is not that Gary should want to do the dishes but instead that he should not want Brooke to have to do everything herself.

                        Men are raised differently than women. And according to author Ellen Sue Stern, women, even high profile executive women, are raised to be caregivers. “Although those of us with male children are making a real effort to be more giving than their older counterparts the fact is that most women are brought up to be caregivers – to put the needs of others before their own. In contrast, most males have been raised with a certain sense of entitlement and lack of emphasis on the importance of giving to others, especially if those ‘others’ happen to be the significant woman in their lives. (Stern, 2001, p. 58)”

            According to Stern, this is a bigger issue than Brooke just wanting Gary to do the dishes. Stern asserts that all people have an innate need to both give and receive and when women allow their mate to have this feeling of entitlement we take away their right to give. “Getting beyond our conditioning means accepting that other people, including our partner, want and need to give, even if his behavior does not reflect that. (Stern, 2001, p. 59)” Stern mentions that this need to give is so strong chances are that Gary was giving to Brooke, just not in the ways that she was most receptive to. This leads to another major issue between Gary and Brooke, miscommunication.

The Breakup is evidently based on miscommunication. The troubles between Gary and Brooke are deeply rooted in misunderstanding. The movie begins with a disheartened Brooke breaking up with Gary in an attempt to make him appreciate her more and the theme runs all the way throughout the movie until Brooke invites Gary to a concert and he stands her up. By this point, the relationship, which could have been saved in the beginning, is in total disrepair. Brooke had no understanding of Gary or his needs and attempts to please her. In this movie, as in many relationships, miscommunication has led to anger. “Anger is a toxic emotion in many marriages. It can tear away at the very core of what made you fall in love with your spouse (McGraw J, 2006, ¶ 1) Anger generated from this couples endless display of misunderstanding and miscommunication ruins what may have been a good relationship. There are numerous scenes in which one spouse embarks on a misguided attempt to make the other either jealous, as in Brooke’s entourage of suitors, or anger, as in Gary’s poker games and pizza boxes, that further the deterioration of the relationship. It is indeed very obvious that there hasn’t been much communication in the relationship and if it has, it’s always one-sided. This is considered as a major flaw in relationships, for communication is supposed to go both ways. Gary doesn’t even have the concrete idea about Brooke’s feeling. He’s always trying to guess what she wants for Brooke doesn’t tell him directly. One good example is that Brooke obviously wants her man to change, and instead of just telling Gary what she really wants out of the relationship, she tries to manipulate him to see things her way. Unfortunately, Gary is a guy who cannot decode what Brooke is trying to say, so he goes on asking why it’s wrong for him not to want to do the dishes.

When Brooke finally tells her real feelings about his guy’s nasty indifferences, Gary just gives him a puzzled look and simply asks “Why didn’t you just tell me that from the beginning?”

Critics of The Break Up gave the movie mixed reviews. Generally all of the critics said that the movie was extremely close to home. One of the most common issues that made this movie realistic is the fact that Gary and Brooke really do break up. Although the movie goer wants the couple to fall in love they do not. This is realistic. The movie definitely depicted that lack of proper communication between the two people involved in the relationship can lead to more disastrous and emotional situations. Anyone who has ever been through a break up knows the pain associated with it. “When you lose a close friend or love relationship, you are likely to feel great sorrow and heartache. Even when a bad relationship ends, there can be deep pain and grief (Rotary Club of Santa Monica, 2007, ¶ 1).  Both characters exhibit a great deal of pain. However, the pain causes Gary to grow up and reflect and Brooke decides to travel for an extended period of time before going back to Chicago, the couple’s home.

In conclusion the movie The Break Up exhibits several real life relationship issues including lack of appreciation and misunderstanding of needs, communication break downs and the pain associated with the ending of an intimate relationship. True to life the movie does not end with a Hollywood “happily ever after.” However, all is not lost because both character mature and learn from the relationship. Though it is a known fact that both of them eventually went different ways in the end, it’s still very humbling to know that each party gathered an interesting story to tell their future mates. The movie is indeed a very good portrayal of the common communication dilemmas or arguments a dyadic relationship usually encounters. It is a realistic look at relationships that don’t always seem to go as planned. Women should be aware that men are generally not mind-readers. They often get clueless with the messages that you are trying to convey with your actions. Although men and women are both equal, a huge discrepancy still lies. One shouldn’t expect that his man will also have the same interests, beliefs and habits like hers. Brooke’s complaints against her inconsiderate man are reasonable but the only wrong thing is that she never gave Gary a chance to know it directly. It is an informing movie for it provides a well-thought examination of relationships.


(McGraw Jay). (2006). Spouses at War [Television series episode]. In  (Producer), Dr. Phil Show. : Fox.

Ebert, R. (2006). The Break-Up. Retrieved December 1, 2008, from

Hartwell-Walker, M. (2006). Chore war: Household tasks and the two couple household. Retrieved Dec. 1, 2008, from

Rotary Club of Santa Monica (2007, September 28, 2007). Coping with a divorce or relationship breakup: Guide to grieving. Retrieved from Helpguide:

Stern, E. S. (2001). He just doesn’t get it. : Simon and Schuster.