15 Songs That Make Me Think Of My Ex

Nerve readers look wistfully into the distance, then ask you to change the station.

by nerve readers

The Mountain Goats, "Psalms 40:2"

When my ex and I drove across the country together, we listened to the Mountain Goats constantly through many adderall-fueled twenty-hour drives. On the last night of the trip, we spent the night in a Red Roof Inn, having sex and panicking about the future, before driving the rest of the way to Santa Fe, where I was dropping him off to go to school.

When we broke up, I couldn't bring myself to listen to the Mountain Goats for months. So when they came out with a new album, I was stoked; new songs I could enjoy with no associations with the ex! I put on the new album, and when the second song came on, I heard, "We checked into a Red Roof Inn, stayed up for several hours and then slept like infants in the burning fuselage of my days." So much for no associations. I swear John Darnielle is in my head.

— Rachel



Roxy Music, "Just Like You"

A suicide-hotline operator once called a squad of cops and paramedics to force me into a mental hospital. You quickly get to know people intimately in a psych ward, thanks to group therapy, hours of downtime, and the general emotional mushiness of the environment. I got close to a dental hygienist who was drying out from a manic episode. She gave me her number when she was released. Two days later, I was waiting for a bus to take me home. I turned on my newly de-confiscated Discman, which resumed playing Roxy Music's Stranded. "I know it sounds crazy/ But what can I do/ I've fallen head over heels, over you," Bryan Ferry sang on "Just Like You." Years later, long after the relationship blew up due to the to-be-expected erratic behavior on both our parts, that song still makes me want laugh and/or cry.

— Nick



Prodigy, "Smack My Bitch Up"

It started as a joke, but then it stuck. My ex and I were driving around Los Angeles when "Smack My Bitch Up" came on the radio. I joked, "Wow, I bet this is some couples' song." We both had a big laugh and agreed that from now on, it would be our song. After that, whenever the dulcet tones of "Smack My Bitch Up" filtered through the speakers we'd share a laugh. Now, more than ten years later, whenever I hear that song, I think of him and have a bit of a smile.

— Nicole



Cinematic Orchestra, "To Build A Home"

One of the cheesiest "think about your ex" selections possible, since its sole reason for existing is to make girls weep. And that I did. Back when I was a second-year graduate student, I had the misfortune of falling in love with someone completely inappropriate. We broke up, we made up, we rinsed and repeated several times over, before finally calling it quits in the fall of 2005.

Then came Facebook! We found each other again! Only he lived in Boston and I lived in New York. So we proceeded to torture each other some more with ambiguous email exchanges from afar. Often these would include song suggestions. When he sent me "To Build A Home," I proceeded to walk around the city for a few hours and cry, imagining the thousands of hidden messages that he meant for me to decode via its lyrics. We never got back together. I think that once I heard "To Build A Home" in an episode of Ugly Betty. Ugh, I hate myself.

— Lindsay



Airiel, "In Your Room"

Jim and I met in London while he was visiting from Sydney on a working-holiday visa. I moved to Sydney with him once his visa had expired. He didn't share my taste in music, but "In Your Room" struck a nerve in both of us. The innocent, dreamy lyrics, paired with the shimmering guitar flowing through the nine-minute running time still reminds me of seemingly endless summers spent together. It's a song that doesn't sadden me to listen to in hindsight, but one that takes me somewhere between here and now and there and then.

— Sharif



Young Money, "BedRock"

I know. I'm slightly — okay, hugely — embarrassed by it. But let me explain: my ex and I took a road trip from upstate New York all the way down to Florida for spring break our senior year of college. Our relationship was already going down the drain, and I guess this trip was a last-ditch attempt to save it. (Didn't work.) "BedRock" played constantly on the radio while we were on the road — and was the only song we listened to in its entirety and sang (er, rapped?) to each other every time it played. Those two-minute jam sessions ended up among the few highlights of what turned out to be the Most Awkward College Spring Break Ever. What can I say? We had a thing for ridiculous lyrics and Lil Wayne.

— Amy



Bon Jovi, "You Give Love A Bad Name"

On her thirtieth birthday, my wife demanded a divorce. I was devastated at the time. It took me a couple days to start telling my family and close pals. Their unanimous reaction? R-E-L-I-E-F. To keep my own wits during the separation, I hosted a monthly divorce theme-song contest via email. The best submission I ever received was the aforementioned hit tune. In a nutshell, it summed up our stormy relationship. Since then, I've remarried and enjoy a wonderful home life. Whenever I hear this Bon Jovi song, I smile, because I truly appreciate "heaven" after having been through "hell."



Pink Floyd, "Wish You Were Here"

When I was a freshman in college, I had a long-distance boyfriend from my hometown. Although I saw him almost every weekend, of course it wasn't enough. During one long phone conversation, he told me to listen to "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd, because it reminded him of us. I thought it was really sweet at the time. But now whenever I hear it it reminds me of how ridiculous we were, because it's not like we were never going to see each other again... we just had to wait a week.

— Elyssa


Commentarium (26 Comments)

Jan 25 12 - 2:40am

I think The Mountain Goats are just a universal cue to think about your last shitty relationship and pour yourself a drink.

Jan 27 12 - 12:28am


Jan 25 12 - 9:20am

Well, how nice to see "Just Like You" by Roxy Music here.... a really pivotal song in my life. It's all a matter of time and circumstance, where you are and what you're going through when you first hear a song, but almost no other song ever had the impact on me that that one did.

Jan 25 12 - 10:33am
sara marchetti

This is a great list. I like it. I am a big fan of Bon Jovi, I hear it in every moment of my life. Sara of prestiti on line

Jan 25 12 - 11:53am

Ugh. I have whole albums I can't bring myself to listen to because of my ex..

Jan 25 12 - 1:25pm
Shae's ex

She never knew it, but that Nelly and Tim McGraw song "Over and Over Again" was what I was listening to when we were dating. It had just come out and was on the radio every 5 seconds, but because I was infatuated, I would sing along everytime if I was alone in my truck. Still takes me back to that time on the rare occasion I'm listiening to an FM station and it comes on.

Jan 25 12 - 2:55pm
Saratoga Slim

The songs that remind me of my ex are "H-A-T-R-E-D" by Tonio K., and any song that mentions killing a ho.

Jan 25 12 - 6:02pm

Ray: The original hatefucker. Tip of the cap.

Jan 25 12 - 6:33pm

Amy- me too, god that Song!

Jan 25 12 - 6:45pm

I feel an inescapable twinge any time I hear any Bruce Springsteen song. Which is an awkward experience in itself when the song is The Boss's version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town".

Jan 25 12 - 8:49pm

The Tallest Man on Earth "The Gardener". Discovered this band with my ex. Bought the album when we were together, it took me months to be able to listen to it again.

Jan 25 12 - 9:53pm
Be silent, memory

The first night I went home with the man who would subsequently, as cheesy as it sounds, completely and irreversibly break my heart, we drank beer and sang along to "Angry Inch" from the movie's soundtrack. It may not sound like much to anyone else, but to me, that night remains beautiful.

Little did I know, he was engaged to somebody else. I continued seeing him even after this fact was revealed. I loved him. I was very young and very stupid. About a year later, he abruptly stopped speaking to me, thus ending our affair.

I have not been able to watch Hedwig or listen to the soundtrack ever since.

Jan 26 12 - 4:48pm
NW lovin'

Anything Alexi Murdoch

Jan 26 12 - 6:05pm

saetia. some natures catch no plagues. i loved a screamo kid once, guilty as charged.

Jan 26 12 - 6:09pm

How can you not list "Song for the Dumped" by Ben Folds 5?!?!? It is ultimate break up song ever! Give me my money back you bitch! And don't forget my black t-shirt!

Jan 26 12 - 6:16pm

Like a Hurricane - because she was a hurricane woman and you only get to spend your life with them if you're lucky. I wasn't.
When You Dance (I Can Really Love) - Saw her dance once. That was it for me.
Carol - 'cos her name was/is 'Carol'.
Pretty much all of 'Flesh and Blood' by Roxy Music, but especially 'Oh Yeah' and 'Running Wild'.
Sigh. So it goes.

Jan 27 12 - 12:13am

"I dont wanna get over you" by The Magnetic Fields. I couldn't listen to them for months after one of my breakups. UGH.

Jan 27 12 - 5:52pm

"Sometime Around Midnight," Airborne Toxic Event. Came out just as my marriage was ending. Rough song to hear.

Jan 29 12 - 2:51am

Into the night by Santana and Chad Kroger
My ex fiance used to request that song every time we went salsa dancing and I still can't listen to it a year later

Jan 29 12 - 11:17am

I had a crazy girlfriend in college that I couldn't give up - mentally and emotionally we were toxic together, but sexually we were made for each other (same turn-ons, complimentary fantasies, and we just physically *fit* together really well). The song "Candy" by Iggy Pop, as cheesy as it is, makes me think of her. That was our song.

Jan 29 12 - 2:41pm

Ten Years Gone by Led Zeppelin. Crazy thing is, we met ten years later just to talk, which is what Robert Plant does in the song.

Jan 29 12 - 5:28pm

The jerk who rejected me sent me Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye with zero explanation after a month without contact. "But you didn't have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened
And that we were nothing
And I don't even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger
And that feels so rough." NICE.

Jan 30 12 - 3:57pm
in Bed With Married

Elliot Smith makes me yearny for exes i didn't even have.

ps it is really awful when you hear a really bad song that you once got all moony over but now feel...just stupid that you liked it. mine is sea of love by the honeydrippers. so lame! i am ashamed of my past self!!!


Jan 31 12 - 1:12am

She's My Ex


Feb 03 12 - 3:11am

Several songs by The National remind of me of my first girlfriend from the end of high school, especially Apartment Story, which she erroneously compared to us getting ready for our senior prom. Also any song by Wolf Parade. Spencer Krug's yelp makes me well up every time.

Jun 06 12 - 12:11am

Its corny but HIM. I started dating my ex almost immediately after bad breakup with someone I lived with for years. He was significantly younger than me and only just sort of getting out of that teenage angsty gothy thing. We were like two wounded birds flinging ourselves against each others glass, like a scab that you can't stop picking even though it hurts. We lived in a trashy apartment with lots of roomates and I bought cheap brightly colored booze because he was too young to buy and didn't like beer anyway. We stayed up till 5 am having sex in the pool or on the patio and sometimes when he cut himself with a razor like he did, I would do it to, just because, well, why not. Of course the soundtrack to this was varied, ranging to math-core metal to just general rock like Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson, none of those stuck though. The music that still to this day gives me a little twinge of nostalgia for that sad beautiful boy is of course, HIM, the only music as romantic, ridiculous and morbid as our love had been.