How do I tell my friends my relationship has ended?
October 5, 2013 7:26 PM   Subscribe

(Asking for a friend.) My long-term relationship just ended, and I'm trying to figure out how to tell all of my friends and acquaintances about it with a minimum of drama. I'm thinking a mass email is the way to go (Facebook seems like a horrible plan) but I can't deal with the thought of composing that email right now. Help, please!

What I'm looking for is a short, clear, generic script I can use that will make it clear what's happened and also make it clear that I don't really want to talk about it right now. The actual breakup is well in hand, but it's pretty raw. We don't have a huge number of friends in common but everyone at work knows him and that sort of thing. This will be going to both close friends and also more casual acquaintances. Thanks!
posted by restless_nomad to Human Relations (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would go the same route that celebrities do. "Dear Friends, It is with sadness that I am writing to let you know that restless_nomad and restless_nomad_+1 have decided to end our relationship. This decision comes after much discussion and soul-searching, and we thank you in advance for respecting our privacy regarding the details of this decision."
posted by xingcat at 7:32 PM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

The good thing about breaking big news on Facebook is that once you do it, it's done, everyone sees it, and they for the most part only respond in the most generic, safe ways, probably because they know everyone else is watching. If you use language like "please respect our privacy" and also don't respond to anyone on site until the post dies down, that really could do it in an easy, fast way. YMMV depending on how many high-drama FB friends you have.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:37 PM on October 5, 2013 [10 favorites]

I don't think you need to do much of anything -- just bring it up as necessary. If people at work mention it, just toss out "Oh, we broke up" and make it clear with tone/body language that it's not up or discussion. With other friends, let it filter through as it goes. Tell who you're close to -- let other people figure it out.

I had a breakup a couple of years ago & we had many friends in common. While it was mostly friendly, we just let it filter through our friends group. I told who I wanted to know it, as did he. It worked out. I know that depends on the circumstances but I think coy announcements to specific parties work the best. Eventually, everyone knows but there's no grand announcement.
posted by darksong at 7:40 PM on October 5, 2013 [8 favorites]

xingcat's script is a good basic format. I've seen variations of it used for the ends of relationships and for things like major health crises where the circumstances are kind of similar--the word needs to get out, but the people involved don't want to talk about it a lot.

Another option is to have someone do this for you. I've also gotten messages like these. "Friend asked me to let you know that she and her partner have made the decision to end their relationships. Friend is doing well but hopes you understand that she doesn't care to discuss specific details right now. She does appreciate [things you would welcome, like invitations to outings, phone calls, and so on.]

That said, I've seen it done on Facebook. A woman I know who's been married for something like 40 years just recently announced that she and her husband were parting ways. As ThePinkSuperhero says, she made one just-the-facts-ma'am announcement about it, didn't answer any questions or respond to comments specifically made on that comment, and hasn't mentioned it again except indirectly as she talks about cleaning out their house in preparation to move to her new place, and that sort of thing.
posted by not that girl at 7:41 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Skip the email. Tell the biggest gossips in each group of friends. Be casual about it. "Yeah, it was a bummer, but it's better this way." Shrug.

Emailing everyone makes it a bigger deal. I would avoid that route.
posted by studioaudience at 7:41 PM on October 5, 2013 [22 favorites]

Oh totally enlist a good friend to do it. Really, it's the best way. You only have to tell one person - someone that you like and trust and don't mind talking to - and then you can rely on them to get it around the rest of the group. Must less painless and the goal that everyone knows is accomplished.
posted by smoke at 7:43 PM on October 5, 2013 [8 favorites]

Tell two people you (and your ex, if appropriate) like and trust, and ask them to spread the word.
posted by rtha at 7:44 PM on October 5, 2013

I completely understand wanting to make a public announcement - it rips the bandaid off and makes it more real. The announcement/no announcement thing is personal preference. There is no right way to do it.
I'd cc: everyone who was getting, so that they know it is a mass email - that way, they know this is the public announcement.
Xingcat's is a great template. This is a modified version based on one that I got from a friend, which I thought was handled well:

"I am writing to you all because you have been such great friends and supporters in the past, and knew me and [Ex] well. I wanted to let you know that as of [general date], [Ex] and I have decided to end our relationship. I'd be happy to talk about the specifics in the future, but for now, I am still trying to sort things out and am not ready to talk about it. However, I know that this is the best course forward for both of us, and wish [Ex] the best going forward."

[depending on who this ends up being sent to] Thank you all for being such wonderful people in my life, I am incredibly grateful to have you as friends.
posted by troytroy at 7:44 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I understand wanting to let everyone know, but I think email is a bad way to go. The problem with mass emails is that many people hit "reply all" a little too freely. For topics of a personal nature that's problematic. Also, if I were your acquaintance, I'd feel pretty funny about being on the receiving end of an email about the demise of your relationship. If I see it on my Facebook feed, my response can be tailored to the closeness of our relationship, if it warrants one at all. At least with Facebook everyone understands that it's a public announcement and they will keep their comments benign. The "restless_nomad's friend is single" change in relationship status is plenty of information. You don't have to answer anyone's rude inquiries.
posted by stowaway at 7:53 PM on October 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

you are under absolutely no obligation to explain anything to anybody. i read somewhere that the british royal family has a maxim "never complain, never explain." take care of yourself, sort out your shit and keep your head up, but the entire concept of "mass emails" and "social media status updates" is an artificial, detestable corporate imposition on your native dignity and privacy. tell people one-on-one as you see fit.
posted by bruce at 8:02 PM on October 5, 2013 [18 favorites]

A mass email seems like a solicitation for hairpats, etc.. If that's what you want, fine, but personally, if I got an email like that, I'd have to figure out to whom I respond, and how and oh! the drama and --just tell people as it comes up.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:03 PM on October 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

You do not need to BCC everyone on this. That really just calls a lot of attention to it. And it will also result in a lot of, "OMG WHAT HAPPENED?" replies from people. Now people really do have mostly good intentions...unfortunately, people can also be tremendous gossips.

Tell one or two people you are close to (don't give details just, "we've decided this is best") and the news will filter out.

Whatever the case - once the news is out to ANYONE you won't be able to control what is said about either party so keep that in mind.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 8:08 PM on October 5, 2013

When I went through a painful breakup, a close friend Facebook messaged my other friends who did not live near me to inform them. I don't think I could have even had the strength to type anything clean and drama I recommend that route.
posted by thank you silence at 8:09 PM on October 5, 2013

I would find it weird to receive an email announcing the end of a relationship. I'm not sure people care as much about your relationship status as you do. I like the "tell two people I'm close to and let them run with it" approach.
posted by xyzzy at 8:11 PM on October 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

Were you together for a very long time? Did you live together? Do you have children/cats? Is there any reason whatsoever why your (non-mutual) friends, coworkers, family, etc. might have felt invested in this relationship? If not, you don't owe anybody an explanation, and you don't need to make an announcement. Don't introduce it as a topic of conversation if you don't actually want to talk about it.

If it comes up in passing, you can just say that you're not together anymore and that you don't want to talk about it. Repeat that second point as many times as it takes, making stern faces as necessary. Most people will get the hint. Don't engage further with people who don't.
posted by wreckingball at 8:13 PM on October 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

The way I handled the breakup of my long-term relationship was that I first told the people I was closest to personally, then made a very brief announcement on Facebook to explain why I was changing my relationship status in my profile "Hey all, me and partner are no longer together. It's been tough, but it just wasn't working out and we couldn't see that changing, so we've decided to break up. I'm fine, and I don't want to make a big deal about it." Then I just brought it up as necessary when people who hadn't got the memo asked about me and my former partner.

I think that that dealt with the situation with a minimum of fuss. My former partner was a bit put out by the Facebook announcement, but I figured that people were gonna ask what was up if I just changed my status from "engaged" to "single" without commenting. I definitely wouldn't do a mass email, that just seems a lot more in-your-face somehow. If I hadn't had my relationship status in my Facebook profile, I would've skipped that too and just told my loved ones directly and then everybody else as needed.
posted by Scientist at 8:13 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds like your goal is to not have to talk about it over and over again with folks. I think sending the mass email will be counter to that goal. Let word seep out. Tell your close friends. They will want to talk about it with you regardless, but they you can tell, "Not now. I am really not up to talking about it right now."
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:17 PM on October 5, 2013

(Seriously, making a social media announcement about the end of a relationship reads less like "clearing the air," than a cry for attention/support. If you genuinely don't want to talk about it, just don't talk about it).
posted by wreckingball at 8:20 PM on October 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Re: facebook - in case you don't already know this, when you change your relationship status on Facebook, it becomes a wall item that will go in your friends' feeds. I've actually seen quite a few people do this as a low-key way to announce a breakup. The advantage is that you don't have to write anything, and most people won't feel the need to respond, beyond an "I'm sorry" type message.

You could pair that with an email to just your closest friends, the ones you feel ok saying "this is raw and I'd rather not talk about it right now" to.
posted by lunasol at 8:20 PM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I THINK but am not positive, that you could change your relationship status without it posting to your wall. A friend of mine was listed as just "in a relationship" but recently it has been updated to add the name of the person the relationship involves, and there was no announcement (and I even went to his timeline to look for it, because I am one of those very nosy people!). Anyway, doing that would be pretty easy and low key. If people came to your page, they would see that you were not engaged anymore, but it wouldn't be as much of a public address.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:14 PM on October 5, 2013

Yeah, I think I would just change your Facebook status to "single" or whatever and let it be. If friends are curious, you're probably going to see them in person anyway. If it's people on the other side of the country, you can type up a couple of vague sentences beforehand that you can then just copy-and-paste into canned responses to them:
"Yeah, kind of a bummer, but it just didn't work out / we had been growing apart for a while and we'll both be in better places to go after our goals this way / whatever.

Don't really want to talk about it right now, instead trying to enjoy my weekend by focusing on brighter things--enjoying walks in the autumn sun and the company of my friends/nieces/whatever"
Just something that let's them know you're not a couple anymore, but isn't all "OMG, let me spill all the dirty laundry of what happened!"

Typing up a big pre-emptive email feels like a press release from a company-- one fearing the loss of investors after a CEO steps down or something--that, or it comes across (to my ears) as being written by someone who is really fragile right now--like
"Hey, be sure not to mention lasagna in front of Tom because that was Sue's favorite meal, and Tom will totally breakdown into sobs..."
which sounds like it is not the case in this situation (where the person is still "raw", but more in a "yeah this sucks" way and less in a "I fear for this person's safety if left alone" way).
posted by blueberry at 9:20 PM on October 5, 2013

When my best friend passed away, I felt that the entire world had changed. I was frustrated to realize that it wasn't the entire world that had changed... Just mine. I felt the need to tell everyone, so that they could understand how truly big the loss was, and how dramatically different things were. However... I did that for myself, and most emphatically not for them.

You are grieving and your world is different. If you feel the need to tell people, then OK. But do it for yourself, not for them.
posted by samthemander at 10:22 PM on October 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

As for how to tell people at work, I would say you could just deal with it as it comes up. A colleague of mine who works in another city - who I like very much - was quite gracious when she and her long time partner broke up. We were talking on the phone, just the two of us, and I asked after her partner.
"Hey, how's Denise doing?"
My colleague replied, "She's ok, but we separated a few weeks ago. It's been a bit rough."
Me: "Ah, I'm so sorry. Please let me know if I can help at all."
"Not at the moment, but thanks for offering."

I can understand not wanting to go through that conversation over and over, but at the same time, receiving an email from her out of the blue stating that she and her partner had broken up would have seemed really weird.
posted by RogueTech at 10:33 PM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

There seems to be an assumption that everyone needs to be told about this right now. But why?
posted by Dansaman at 10:51 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, my last big breakup, I told my two best friends and my sister, and I explicitly told them that I wanted everyone else to know, but that I didn't want to talk to anyone about it. They spread the word for me, and let everyone know that I was fine, that I didn't want to be comforted, and that if anyone was up to anything fun, they should invite me. It worked pretty much perfectly, and I got exactly what I wanted.
posted by decathecting at 11:19 PM on October 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

An acquaintance of mine did this by posting a really sensible and drama-free statement on Facebook saying something like "x and I have mutually decided to go our separate ways, there is no drama and we just wanted to let y'all know. We woul appreciate it if you didn't comment on this post". I thought this was a smart way to go and the no comments comment worked really well as of course no one commented.
posted by hazyjane at 11:38 PM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, my last big breakup, I told my two best friends and my sister, and I explicitly told them that I wanted everyone else to know, but that I didn't want to talk to anyone about it. They spread the word for me...

i think what decathecting did here is how most would handle breakups before social media. you just let your good friends know and if you want them to tell others then ask them to. also, just let casual acquaintances know on a need-to-know basis. it's pretty simple and fuss-free really.
posted by wildflower at 12:10 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Say nothing, right now, except to those whom you are closest.
Even though your break-up is well in hand, you still have a tsunami of emotions to process.
Allow yourself the time to regain your composure before you announce to the world at large.

Regardless of your speech or silence, word will spread like capillary action. It always does.
The earth continues to turn and you're still on it. Take care of yourself first.
posted by Pudhoho at 3:14 AM on October 6, 2013

I don't think it reads as wanting sympathy if you send an email or post it on Facebook. A good friend of mine sent an email to her closest friends and that was that (she doesn't use Facebook).

My current SO finally had to make a Facebook announcement because his ex was too chicken to tell people they had broken up. She moved to another state and would run into people they both knew and have a whole conversation without mentioning that she was now divorced. Then the mutual friends would call up my SO and say "Oh, we saw ExWife today! Are you moving up here with her at the end of the semester?" It was NOT an amicable breakup so every question like this was like twisting the knife.

Choose wisely.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:31 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I emailed my very close friends who had been a part of our relationship a short email saying we had broken up and that we were sad but ok.

a couple weeks later I changed my fb status but did it privately. just set your relationship to private before you do it and it won't show up on your timeline. I kept my relationship status private and let my friends do the talking (with occasional self-deprecating jokes about going out on dates and buying wine as a single lady) and eventually everyone who I wanted to know knew.
posted by kerning at 8:06 AM on October 6, 2013

I just did this in the spring when my long term relationship ended. The first few weeks I was really raw, I cried about everything and I wanted people to know so I wouldn't have to talk about it, even if it was just to say – we broke up, I don’t want to talk about it. So, I understand why you might want to do this.

I pretty much did what Scientist said up-thread - my Facebook post said something along the lines of “I just want to put this out there to get it over with quick - Ex and I broke up. I'm really sad, but starting to realize that this is for the best.”

I got some nice comments on that post, mostly of the I’m thinking of you and let me know if you need anything variety but not any drama or anything, which was pretty much what I expected. I didn't respond to any of those posts or say anything else about it on Facebook.

By the time I saw anyone that hadn't heard through the grapevine or seen that Facebook post, it had been more than a month and things didn't feel so raw and it was easier to talk about.
posted by Sabby at 8:07 AM on October 6, 2013

I'd think about what your friend does want. Like there may be thing that would be helpful to them that weren't "talking about the breakup" such as distractions and/or help moving or dealing with logistics if it's one of those situations. So while I agree with people upthread that starting a conversation about it is the worst way to not talk about it, opening a conversation that ha the breakup as a data point "Hey D and I broke up and I'm going to be moving to my own place. I would really appreciate some folks to have dinner with over the next few weeks" can help people 1. get the news and 2. focus on practicalities 3. maybe actually help your friend with the next few weeks which, even in the best of breakups, are often not great times to be alone.
posted by jessamyn at 8:55 AM on October 6, 2013

When my husband separated from his first wife he just told the biggest gossip he knew (me) and let them do the information spreading for them. He told me, said "Pass it along if you wish. Tell people I'm fine, Im glad it happened, but I don't really want to talk about it.". With 48 hours everyone knew. Problem solved.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:42 AM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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