The song “Heartbreak Warfare” by John Mayer (Mayer) talks about the issues that almost every couple in a romantic relationship faces at some point. The title of the song is self-explanatory and quickly tells the reader that the song may be the story of an individual with a broken heart. The overall message of the song is that the key to a healthy and loving relationship is communication and misunderstandings are often the result of lack of communication.
In the first two paragraphs, Mayer imagines the scene of a military battle and claims that it has become difficult to live because there is no peace in his heart just as explosions create a noisy environment in the battlefield. Even though he is going through a difficult phase, it is not the actual pain but the inability to communicate his feelings to his lover that hurts him more as he states, “Dream of ways, to make you understand my pain” (Mayer). Mayer’s heart has just become like a battleground in that it is only filled with sufferings and clashes among his numerous emotions.
By “No one really wins, in heartbreak warfare” (Mayer), Mayer tries to convince his lover that no one really wins in a fight because both parties get nothing but pain and sufferings. Just as war brings destruction on both sides, fights among lovers also hurt both sides with gain for no one. Here the singer reveals his pacifist side that he doesn’t ever see a conflict as a solution to any problem and instead, conflicts only worsen the situation.
Mayer tries to convince his lover that problems should not be solved through conflicts but through communication. He argues that one should not be vague in what he/she may desire from his/her romantic partner but instead be straight forward and clear, “If you want more love, why don’t you say so?” (Mayer). He states that if he was lacking in his commitment and care to his lover, his lover should have tried to resolve the situation through open communication rather than through conflict.
Mayer may be implying that women are usually vague in what they want as opposed to men and they usually expect men to anticipate their lovers’ needs and desires. On the other hand, men prefer honest communication because they are not really efficient at recognizing vague hints from their lovers. The beginning of the song made it seem like Mayer’s lover was not as devoted as him but eventually it becomes clear that the conflict has occurred due to lack of open communication. Mayer’s lover wanted more attention from him but she didn’t express her desire directly and Mayer didn’t realize it until the issue had already turned into a conflict.
Mayer addresses his lover that pain is no way of measuring the extent of one’s love when he states, “How come the only way to know how high you get me, is to see how fall I fall” (Mayer). Mayer complaints as to why his lover believes that only by breaking Mayer’s heart can she understand the true nature of his love. Mayer claims that his lover would only realize his love if she tries to understand him and doesn’t create artificial barriers between them as he pleads, “God only knows how much I’d love you if you let me” (Mayer). He mourns the fact that he cannot express the true extent of his love because there are barriers to communication as well as misplaced conceptions in his lover’s mind about the relationship between pain and love. It is not that Mayer is not capable of giving the love his lover desires but the lack of communication between them which has resulted in misunderstandings.
By saying, “I don’t care if we don’t sleep at all tonight, Let’s just fix this whole thing now” (Mayer) Mayer makes it clear that he doesn’t want the conflict to continue any longer and wants to resolve the issues on an urgent basis. He says he wants to talk about the problems between them even if it means they have to skip a night’s sleep. Mayer also emphasizes the fact that discussion should not be about personal ego or winning but instead about a sincere desire to resolve the issues which is why he requests his lover to adopt a cooperative attitude. But it seems that Mayer is failing in his efforts because his lover is still engaging in confrontation and Mayer again reminds her that the disappointment leads to nothing but a broken heart.
This song reminds us of some of the common issues faced by romantic couples that are often the result of personality differences between men and women. The first thing we learn is that men prefer open communication because they are probably poor at recognizing non-verbal cues. It may also be the case that women often have higher expectations from their lovers than men. There is also a possibility that men are generally poor at expressing their feelings as compared to women or men probably desire greater degree of privacy than women.
We do feel at times that the song is biased in Mayer’s favor as he himself wrote the song. Mayer mostly presents himself as a victim who is not being given a chance to express the true nature of his love. We do not see him admitting anywhere that he might have fallen short of expectations or probably neglected the rights of his lover but instead we see him trying to pin down the whole conflict on lack of communication. Mayer may be right that lack of communication has created the distance between the two lovers but it is also possible that he took his lover for granted and never really tried to understand her or her desires.
At the same time, it is also apparent that the conflict has deeply affected Mayer and he wants to resolve the differences on an urgent basis. He is also vowing to demonstrate the true nature of his love if his lover gives him the opportunity. It is clear that Mayer and his lover had different expectations from each other and the lack of communication only worsened the situation. As Mayer suspects, his lover may be intentionally prolonging the conflict to get back at him but Mayer argues that the true nature of one’s love should not be measured by the extent of the pain one goes through.
But Mayer should get the credit for emphasizing the importance of communication in a relationship in this song because as he points out, conflicts like wars rarely benefit any party and do nothing but cause pain to both sides. He is also right in pointing out that relationships should not be about competing with each other but about compromise. But while he suggests a cooperative approach to conflict resolution, he fails to notice the fact that he has presented himself as a victim in the song. One of the keys to securing cooperation in a relationship is the willingness to accept at least some of the responsibility for the conflict.
Mayer warns his lover at the end that their failure to sort out the differences will result in disappointment for both. Mayer stresses that love is not a game in which one should try to win and he is also trying to convince his lover to cool down because one cannot achieve a solution to the problem through emotions or without being in a calm state. It seems that Mayer’s lover is experiencing emotional outbursts which are creating a hostile environment for Mayer and he is trying to create an ideal environment for the communication process.
Mayer’s song “Heartbreak Warfare” is his attempt to describe his condition due to a conflict with his lover and how he desires a speedy solution to the conflict. He tries to convince his lover that the real problem is not his lack of love for her but the breakup in communication, thus, she should take more open approach to communication. Mayer also reminds her lover that pain is not a true measure of love, thus, they should clear out the differences between them instead of prolonging the conflict.
Mayer, John. Heartbreak Warfare. 30 January 2013 <http://www.lyrics.com/heartbreak-warfare-lyrics-john-mayer.html#>.