I figured out why Better Man is so heartwrenching. Like, aside from all the obvious implications that it made about the relationship and what it did to her, Better Man is heartwrenching for the same reason that Sad Beautiful Tragic and The Moment I Knew is.
Because most sad Taylor songs at least have that line, that one moment where she points out the silver lining. For Dear John it was the bridge. White Horse had ‘I’ll find someone someday who might actually treat me well’. Most of her sad songs has that moment.
But Sad Beautiful Tragic didn’t. SBT is just ‘it ended and there’s nothing i can do about it’. The Moment I Knew was ‘i had so much hope but i was miserable on what should’ve been a happy day’
Better Man is another step forward. Because yeah, she ran and she knew it was the right thing to do and the listeners knew it was the right thing to do, but even that ‘silver lining’ had the tone of ‘it shouldn’t have gotten to this I tried so hard all you had to do was meet me halfway and i loved you so much that i still miss you but now im so brokenhearted and it shouldn’t have come to this it shouldn’t have come to this it shouldn’t have come to this’
SBT and TMIK is heartwrenching because there’s no silver-lining. Better Man is heartwrenching because there was barely a silver-lining, but it was still more painful than it was comforting.