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Released last winter, James TW's song “When You Love Someone” has only recently begun to climb the Billboard charts. One need not listen to the lyrics (and I generally don't) to tell that “When You Love Someone” is one of those soft, bittersweet songs about saying goodbye, something like “I Will Always Love You.”

In fact the song is about a family being split by divorce, sung as if by a father to his son. The divorcing couple are presented as being truly faithful, if not to each other, then to love: “Sometimes moms and dads fall out of love/ Sometimes two homes are better than one/ Some things you can't tell your sister cause she's still too young/ Yeah you'll understand/ When you love someone.”

The father tells the boy that his room won't change, and there's no one to blame: “You gotta believe us, it's all for the best.” This is not one of those unhappy cases of abuse or abandonment, just a simple parting of the ways.

James TW wrote the song after talking to a boy whose parents were divorcing. “The first thing I thought was, how they were going to explain it to him in a positive way and one that he would understand? … I wrote ‘When You Love Someone’ because I wanted there to be something he could listen to which would make him feel better about everything going on.”

I applaud James TW's desire to console, but I wonder to whom “When You Love Someone” gives more comfort: the children who suffer divorce, or the parents who choose it?

Matthew Schmitz is literary editor of First Things.

Header Image: Fair Use via Youtube.

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