#417: How do I let mutual friends know about my imminent breakup and move?

Happy 2013, everybody!

Dear Captain Awkward:

Here’s the deal. About 4 months ago I moved with Boyfriend about a thousand miles away from my family and friends for a job offer he received. The city we moved to is big and we figured that it would be easy for me to find a job there. That has not been the case, and I am still unemployed. That’s not the problem. 

I have decided to end the relationship with him. It has been waning and I am no longer happy in it, so it is time to go. I have the breakup planned and I will be moving back with my parents while I wait on some jobs that I have applied to in other places. 

My question is this. How do I let the friends I’ve made know? Boyfriend and I live together, so as soon as we break up I will be leaving and I likely won’t get a chance to see them again. I want to have a chance to say goodbye, but it doesn’t seem right to tell them I’ll be leaving before the breakup happens. I really like a lot of them and I was enjoying getting to know them, so I will miss them and don’t want to just leave without even a word. 

Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks!

Moving Friend

Dear Moving Friend,

I started to answer this in a quick email, and then I realized that a lot of people could probably relate to the awkwardness of letting people know about a breakup.

I suggest that you set up a casual farewell event before you leave town. Something where you will hold court for a few hours at a local bar or coffee shop and whoever wants to stop by can stop by (and you can sit there with a book if you like). Don’t invite people  yet – you are correct, it is pretty horrible to inform the friend group of a breakup before you do the actual breaking up –  but pick a venue and block out the time.

Then break up.

Then, I suggest an email, which you can tailor to each person as necessary.

Dear friend, I wanted to let you know some sad news. Sadly, (partner) and I have split up, and I’ll be heading back home where my family lives as of (date).

Your friendship has been really important to me since moving to (city), and I definitely didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye. I realize it’s last minute, but if you have a bit of time on (day), please stop by (place) between (time and time) and have a drink with me if you can. If not, I completely understand and hope we can stay connected with Facebook, Twitter, etc. and that you’ll look me up if you are ever in (city).

Thanks so much for your kindness and company these past few months, it’s meant the world to me.

Best wishes,


Does that work? It lets people know the facts & conveys your affection, and as a bonus, it saves your boyfriend from having to do potentially humiliating work of notifying mutual friends about what’s up. Hopefully they can reach out and buy him a beer once you’re gone.

Good luck getting through a really sucky time with grace and a minimum of emotional and logistical carnage, and good luck finding work that you like. Breaking up sucks even when it’s the right decision. I’m impressed with your clear head and your desire to be kind & mannerly while also taking care of your own needs on your way out the door.



15 thoughts on “#417: How do I let mutual friends know about my imminent breakup and move?

  1. (Sorry if this posts twice, my browser crashed while trying to post.)

    Hey! CA’s advice is awesome, as ever. LW, the way you have written makes me wonder if you are contemplating a cut-and-run?

    You write, ‘…as soon as we break up I will be leaving and I likely won’t get a chance to see them again. I want to have a chance to say goodbye, but it doesn’t seem right to tell them I’ll be leaving before the breakup happens.’

    This sounds to me as though you maybe plan to have all your stuff, and a foot and a half, well out of the door before you actually tell Boyfriend that you are breaking up. As if there will be literally NO time greater than an hour between the breakup conversation and you getting on the plane/train/bus back to Home City. If that’s what you need to do to feel safe and comfortable, then, no judgement. But if that’s the case, you really can’t tell your mutual friends about your leaving until after you’ve gone. It sucks, but there it is.

    If your breakup style is prioritising your safety because you fear Boyfriend’s reaction – and I may well be reading between the lines entirely wrongly, I know, but IF it is – then don’t jeopardise that safety by giving a heads-up to people who might give Boyfriend a heads-up. And, if it’s not an issue of safety, but only of wanting to not draw things out, then this is going to suck hard enough for everybody without the added complication of Boyfriend hearing about the breakup via third-party gossip instead of from you.

    Leaving mutual friends behind is the price of making a very sharp departure. You can’t guarantee that one of them won’t run to Boyfriend with the news, so it’s really only safe to make a goodbye space for these people if you can arrange it between the breakup and the departure. If breakup and departure are happening on the same day, then the shock to mutual friends and the not being able to say goodbye will, sadly, be necessary collateral damage.

    Sounds like this sucks for you, I wish you the very best of luck with it, and of course, jedi hugs.

    1. I’m reading the same thing between the lines as Griffy Kate. If that’s the case, LW, that you’re wanting a quick exit because you’re concerned about his possible reactions, you’re going about your planning just right (except for planning a friendly get-together). Unfortunately, many mutual friends won’t put your safety first unless they get proof positive (like a broken nose) that they should have done so, at least not if it’s the first they hear of it. Staying in touch by mail is a fine way to handle the friends you may want to keep.

      I’d advise a check-in phone call to your local domestic violence hotline. They can help you assess risk better than we can here. They can have very good suggestions and local resources about making a safe exit. They’d much rather talk to you before you put yourself at risk than afterwards. If you have time enough for reading, let me strongly recommend “why does he do that?” by Lundy Bancroft. It’ll clarify what you may be thinking about, help you prevent a recurrence, guide you through the exit in a safe way.

    2. I have done this, and it really fucking sucks. If it’s the case for you LW, my experience was that no, I didn’t get to have a goodbye with anyone. Through random happenstance we’d managed to see basically everyone I’d met there very soon before I left, so I got to have a sort of internal-to-me goodbye to them that they weren’t aware of, but that was it. I did text one good friend when I was on the train leaving, and he was really not surprised and didn’t remain friends with my ex. (While I had spoken to some people before I left about it, they were people I knew independently of my ex and they helped me with some of the practicalities like the guy who got me a top-up card for my phone and sent me the code so I *could* use it.) One option if you aren’t able to have the “come see me” time at a cafe or whatever is to do something like a change of address card – either email or physically send letters to the people you like telling them where you’ve gone and why.

  2. Also, while it is shitty to announce a breakup to your larger circle of friends before you break it to your partner, it’s fair to tell one discreet friend, and ask if you could stay with him/her the night of the breakup and maybe a day or two before you head off to your parents’. That would give you that little window of time in which to say a fond farewell.

    1. Absolutely, yes – you can tell your closer friends anything you like and ask for anything you need from them: A place to stay for a night or two, emotional support, whatever you need. In the case of a “Hey, I like you but we’re just not meant to be” breakup it is unkind to *ANNOUNCE* it to the wider mutual friend group before you’ve told the breakup-ee. But as other commenters have said upthread, if you’re afraid for your safety or worried about some horrible scene, all bets are off.

  3. Also, you don’t need a special reason to hang out with friends. You could make plans with some of your closer friends about hanging out at (place) and (time), and then send out the email about your breakup at the last minute. This way you know you will get to see people before you leave, and you don’t have to announce it’s a breakup-and-farewell until the 11th hour.

  4. I don’t have much to add, because the Captain’s script is lovely. I just wanted to point out that it is totally tweakable for friends you know you want to keep in touch with after you have left, if you don’t have a chance to have a good-bye event because of Reasons.

    E.g. “Dear friend, I wanted to let you know some sad news. Sadly, (partner) and I have split up, and I have moved back home to where my family lives in (city).

    Your friendship has been really important to me since moving to (city), and I am sad that I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye in person. I’d love to catch up with you by (method that you’re comfortable with like phone or IM). Perhaps (date, time that works for you)? At any rate, I hope we can stay connected with Facebook, Twitter, etc. and that you’ll look me up if you are ever in (city).

    Thanks so much for your kindness and company these past few months, it’s meant the world to me.

    Best wishes,


  5. Oof, LW, I’ve been there and I think Cap’s advice/script is a very, very good one. One thing I would suggest, too, is if you and your boyfriend have shared friends/acquaintances through some variety of social media, consider making an announcement (using basically the same script as the Captain provided) on LJ or Facebook or whatever. Keep it short and sweet, and you may want to end it with “this is the last I’ll mention this here” or similar, but it’s so much easier to just make the announcement to people you may not talk to/see frequently than to spend months having to tell people over and over that you’ve broken up, for both of you, not to mention saving friends/acquaintances the awkwardness of accidentally bringing up the former relationship because they weren’t aware. I wouldn’t use this for close friends, them I’d talk to individually one way or another first, but there are inevitably so many people floating around your social lives (both on and offline) who knew you were together, it’s so much easier to just say it once to all those people and be done with it rather than have people awkwardly trying to ask without asking what happened.

  6. I was peripherally friends with someone in a very similar situation. My BF’s (of the time) buddy broke up with his GF, and she had recently moved to a different city. They had been dating for quite a while, had mutual friends, had the same hobby circle, etc. Buddy broke up with her while she was visiting, and she had to head home before she could talk to their social circle. So she sent a mass email when she got back explaining the situation. The point of this share is that sometimes there is not time to tell everyone personally, and in that case, go ahead and use other notification options. People who are ok with it will be ok, and people who aren’t, well, you don’t live in that city anymore and don’t have to see them.

  7. Related: how do we tell friends when neither of us moving away?

    Background: she and I have been together for over 8 years. She is sponsoring my immigration to her country and will continue to do so until that’s finished (another 2+ years). All of my friends here are mutual friends. She is my best friend, but I’m not in love anymore, and we’ve agreed to stop being romantic partners (this is not really a 100% mutual decision, as she is still in love). We’ve gotten a lot of pressure from our friends to be The Perfect Couple because it is So Romantic I moved countries for her, or something (I moved because I love it here and my family of origin is abusive, and also because she’s here). For monetary and immigration purposes, we need to stay living together for the conceivable future despite both of us knowing a physical separation would be much better. I have no idea how to tell my friends–our friends–what’s happened.

    1. Unfortunately, I think you have to be very careful how you proceed, because your breaking up might endanger your immigration status. Please consult with an expert before proceeding; you may have to choose between pursuing this immigration path or publicly acknowledging your breakup.

      I think you negotiate with her what you do. You’re going to have to keep extremely positive relations with her, which will be difficult enough, and I think that keeping things sweet between you is more important than anything else you can do regarding your friends.

      1. Let me second that strongly. If you want to discuss your relationship status with close friends in person, fine. But be very careful of any general announcement, especially in writing, which can and will be held against you. Be especially weary of facebook messages or change in status. So yes, among other things you may have to put pursuing other relationships on hold till your immigration status shakes down, as well as moving out. But that’s the price. I’d advise a conversation with an immigration lawyer before you do anything at all..

      2. Thank you. We’re legally keeping everything as it is–she feels really strongly about my continued immigration here and it’s been a huge part of our communication. She’d do this for any of her best friends, and while we’re struggling with some boundaries now (how much cuddling do we have? Can we have any? Wtf why is this so shitty?), we’re in a pretty tolerable place as a not-couple for only a few days post breakup. We’re planning to keep living together and all of that for the forseeable future. I get that this route is pretty much never advisable, but none of the options are good.

        We’ve actually told a few friends, including my secondary (??) partner, and the reactions have been mixed but overall supportive of the faking it for immigration plan.

  8. I don’t have any clue what city you’re in or what your financial situation is like, but if you don’t have a friend to post-break-up crash with, I would maybe suggest renting a hotel for a night and flying out the next morning, rather than cut-and-run break-up and jump on a plane (taking into account any safety concerns, of course–this comes first). You can usually find even nice hotels for $40-$50/night on sites like Kayak and Hotwire. Staying in a hotel alone post-break-up will probably be depressing as hell… but that’s kind of the point. Because you know what else is stressful as hell? Getting on a plane/train/bus/solo road trip immediately after something emotionally traumatizing as a break-up (even a needed one). For me at least, I don’t fall apart in public by force of will and I really need to fall apart a bit right after a break-up. Having a night to cry it out alone, grabbing brunch with everyone to say goodbye the next day, and then getting on my plane would be a much better option for me. Maybe not for you, but thought I would suggest it as a serious option.

    It also avoids the problem of getting badgered to stay and talk… just long enough to be in danger of missing your plane. I hope your soon to be ex isn’t enough of a jerk to do this, but I’ve had ones who tried to pull crap like this. It’s an unnecessary added stress.

    Regardless, all the Jedi hugs you want and good luck!

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