How to Tell Loved Ones You’re Leaving

An e-mail I got this morning inspired me to write this post. She wrote:

We have also chosen not to tell our families about our plans for now. We love them, and are very close both relationally and geographically, but think things will go more smoothly for everyone if we present our decision after things are more settled, rather than give myriad immediate and extended family members the time to unload all their thoughts and advice and misgivings while we’re still pursuing our options. I’m still very happy with that choice, but it makes me feel like I’m living a double life in many ways. I also dread telling them, because for quite a few, their happiness is dependent on having the whole family together here in the DFW metroplex; the closer the better!

(no worries – she gave me permission to reprint it)

Wow. That message rocked me to the core. It’s so heartfelt, so real. And it reminded me of when my wife and I were in the very same boat nearly 5 years ago. We were living in New Hampshire, very happy with new baby daughter, our jobs, our house and most of all, our network of dear friends, the “urban tribe.”
But we had this tugging, this longing for some adventure. We knew the choice: either satisfy it, or in 10+ years, we’ll regret painfully that we didn’t.
After a week we had a few countries picked out, researched selling the house, even had a phone interview for a job. We were doing it. But when we do share it with friends and family?

Here’s what I shared in my reply e-mail to the above:

Ultimately here’s how we did it: we invited the friends to a group dinner. Doing that wasn’t completely unordinary, but it was obvious we had something to announce. We got a few guesses,…but we already had a child under 1 year, both happily employed (full & part-time) and loved our house of 4 years.
We spilled the news well before eating, unable to wait after the last friend arrived. We just said “Well, we love you all, but we’ve decided we need to have an adventure – we’re looking to move abroad.”
My wife and I had firmly decided we were going ‘somewhere’ and at that point Prague was likely it, but no deal-breaking decisions were made yet.
How did they respond? The result – 100% support. We were lucky.
Days later, we finally told family (especially our kid’s grandparents) – they were more reserved but also supported us when they learned it’s our final decision.

We felt so close to our friends, we couldn’t possibly continue that “double life” after we decided we were going.

But that’s the magic point -after you decided. If you let on that you’re considering to leave, you will get nay-sayers and discouragement from a few folks.

Oh, a related note, on a post I wrote for ITBusinessEdge I got this comment asking what to say to a boyfriend of 4 years:

Naturally, I didn’t feel right telling her what to do with her life. But I gave it my best shot:

In 3 different experiences, here is what I said (& the outcome):
1. “Wait for me?” – She did (4 month study exchange); But we ended it a year later.
2. “Goodbye.” – We parted and are still friends 15 years later.
3. “Come with me.” – She did (as my wife) and we’re still happily married with kids.

If there is anyone out there with a similar experience or facing the same thing today, drop a comment below. I would love to hear how you did it or will handle it.

-Jeff

Published by

Jeff

An American who likes to move around.
I now live on the eastern Canadian seaboard. My job? A stay-at-home dad for two cute but demanding bosses. My wife? Also cute; not so demanding.
My wife and I both love travel. We met in South Korea, travelled across Australia, India, Europe and beyond. We lived in Czech Republic for four years. Many stories to tell and experience to share. If you let me, I will help you travel as we do.
Enjoy.

17 thoughts on “How to Tell Loved Ones You’re Leaving”

  1. Hello,
    First, I always enjoy your posts and of course have a huge interest in the content. My husband Darrin and I have been traveling South and Central America for the past 19 years knowing that one day we would leave Alabama for a different life.

    We have spent the majority of our time in Mexico, where we have traveled through every state except Baha Norte. We have also traveled in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and Peru just hoping to one day find the right spot. And now finally we have, yeah! We purchased a small hotel in the Sonoran Desert, La Posada del Rio Sonora. You can check it out at MexicoEcoResort.com. It is pretty cool!

    We started working on the deal in March and finally completely finished l in September. Telling our family was actually pretty easy. Our daughter Chynna, who is about to turn 21 seems neutral to the idea. She has her own life to live and she is happy for us. The rest of our family we told during the process of working the deal, just as when we spoke to them on the phone individually, making it no “big deal”. Everyone has been so supportive and knows that we will be home from time to time, and that they have a really cool place to visit.

    So for us, telling was the easy part. Selling the house x 2, managing our business and figuring out what to do with all of this stuff we have accumulated is the hard part.

    We can hardly wait to be there, and now it is so close, only 3 weeks away for our first long term visit, 4 months. You can also check out my husband’s blog and djandcheri.blogspot.com. to see more of whats going on.

    My advice to anyone thinking about doing it is go for it and dream on!

    Sincerely,
    Cheri Jones

    1. hey Cheri,

      That is Fantastic! I’ve heard from Darrin too. On the About page here, his comments tell us more. I’m very, very excited for you both. Like Darrin said, it’s the greatest, natural high.

      Congratulations – I’ll be counting the days with you. 🙂

      -Jeff

      1. Thanks Jeff,
        Didn’t know that DJ had already made a comment. His work has him on the road and I am a nurse, so I am stuck at home.
        Thanks for replying! We are both very excited as you can tell. Have a great day!
        Cheri

  2. I am in it right now, how to tell my dad that his only daughter have got a job in India and really want to take it becuase I am not sure when I will get another offer with this job situation. We live In Scandinavia, so it will be quite far away.
    I think I will tell him before I recive the contract to that he have some time to adapt to it.

    1. That’s it exactly AP. It’s a tough situation to be in. Perhaps being your dad (and you, his only daughter), he will care most about your safety and security.
      I can offer this advice (as a dad with one daughter): assure him you’ll be safe. Assure him you already thought about “Plan B” – what to do in case anything doesn’t happen according to plan.

      Best to you and good luck!
      -jeff

  3. I’m struggling/dreading having this conversation with my family right now. They have very limited knowledge of any other country/culture other than stereotypes, and that extends to India where I’ll be moving. Granted, there aren’t many of them to notify (there’s only 4 people in my family, none of them my parents or siblings), it is complicated because: 1) Hard to get them all together in one place at one time, 2) The closest two are women, who live with me, and are very opinionated, 3) I’m moving AND getting married there. They know I have been considering moving to another country for quite some time, but have never encounter the official “Go Time!” we are now in (2.5 months).
    I think this is going to have to be a 2-pronged approach. First, I am going to write them a very detailed letter and leave for a couple days. Then I’ll come back and we can all sit down and talk and everyone can air out their thoughts and feelings.
    Strangely enough, this has the feeling of a breakup. I can only hope that what love they have for me will eventually allow them to see that I must go where I must go. Home has not existed here for me for a long time.

    1. Noelle,

      I LOVE your brilliant comment! You really give a lot of value for everyone who reads this post. Thank you.

      Yes, it has the feeling of a break-up because that’s exactly what it is. And it’s not like one of those really bad, “ugly break-ups” – no, instead it’s more like a “Can we still be friends?” break-up. Some comments you hear will echo a break-up, like “Why are you doing this to us?” or “When will I get to see you again?” It can be a tough conversation.

      That said, it sounds like you have a plan, leaving them with your feelings in a letter, then coming back to discuss it. Very cool. I’m betting you know well enough, perhaps with experience, how well this will work.

      Hats off to you Noelle. I wish you the best. Please stay in touch as you lead up through the next 2 and a half months.

      Best,
      -Jeff

  4. I was reading your article and I love that there are people out there who know what I’m going through.

    I’m in college, but I’ve had the intention and goal to move to Germany as soon as I graduate. I’ll be a Communications major, so I’ll have luck with international jobs and the like. My only problem is my family. I’m so ready to do this and my heart is in it 100%. However, I’m dreading when I’ll have to tell them I want to go. My boyfriend of 2 years lives over there and they’ll claim it’s the only reason I’m going, but that’s not the case! I spent my entire summer there and fell in love with the culture. I can’t get enough of the land, the people, the history. I feel more at home there than I ever have anywhere. I have a few years to go before I graduate, but I figure the earlier the planning, the smoother the transition and less overall wait time.

    The issue with my parents, mostly, is that I have a handicapped sister. A severely handicapped sister who requires nursing 18 hours of the day. I also have a younger brother. To my parents, I was made to do everything they can’t in our daily lives. I’m their Cinderella, and their attitude towards me about sums up “evil step-parents”. They never want what’s best for me if it compromises the family. If I leave, then I won’t be able to take care of my sister when they’re too old to do it, and they’ll have no one to clean the house and pick up the slack. My thinking is that it seems selfish to leave when they need me for something like that, but she’s not my daughter… I’m not here to be held back by her. I still have a chance to do what I want and live the life I choose. My life shouldn’t be hindered and dreams shouldn’t be crushed because my sister needs someone to take care of her.

    I don’t know what to do about this! I NEED to move to Germany… I love that place too much to stay away from it. I have to get there, but I don’t know how to approach this and have my parents at least accept that I want to leave, or even better, support my decision. I don’t want to just wait until I disappear across the ocean and Skype them that I’ve moved to my new home, but if I have to do it, then I will…

    1. Wow Brandi.

      This is quite the comment. I also thank you for the e-mail of the same message. For more privacy, I chose to reply with a much longer note directly by e-mail.

      To sum up my message, I offer that we all must decide by whatever makes us avoid regret later in life. We think ahead 5 or 10 years …how to feel about where we are if we stayed? Or if we go? Or if we compromised?

      My short advice is: Go. Go now, while you (and your family members) are young. Go now with a definitive length of time in mind. Be completely open and honest when discussing this with your parents.

      Best of luck to you,
      -Jeff and the rest of the readers.

  5. Hi! I realise I’m a year or two late to comment, but I’m so glad I came across this post. I guess my situation is very similar.

    I’ve just started my first year of studying at a university close to home, but I have been staying in a residence and I’ve really been having a great time. But that is mostly due to the amazing friends I have made here, 2 especially – I’m not really sure if I’m studying the right thing for me.

    At the end of last year I applied to a few Ivy Leagues with no expectations really, but I’ve been accepted to one. And I am so grateful and it’s the opportunity of a life time I’ve been waiting for. A liberal arts education is what I’ve been dreaming of!

    But what kills me is to have to leave my friends behind on another continent completely. I don’t know how to say bye. I’ve never really had such close friends or ever felt so at home in a group. They are fantastic people who seem to love me for me and I’m so afraid of losing them.

    I have to tell them soon though since I’m “dropping out” of this varsity in less than 4 weeks’ time. But my one close friend has just lost another good friend who’s also moving to another varsity. And I just feel too bad to make her cry – again. I know she’ll be all right without me, but I know it’ll still hurt us both.

    I also thought of the dinner approach or of writing a letter, but I don’t know what to say or how to say it without bawling my eyes out. And I’m worried that when I tell them the atmosphere between us will be all different. Maybe they don’t want to spend that much time with me anymore, and that’s understandable because they need to make other good friends now. I’m just so scared of losing these amazing friends because I don’t know if skype will really keep us close or if we’ll grow apart etc. Guess I’m hoping that when I visit twice a year or so we’ll get together and do something crazy and just click like we’ve been together the whole time. But maybe that won’t be the case…

    Do you maybe have any idea of how to break it to them?

    Thanks so much for any input!! I really need it…

    1. hi Anja,

      Great note!

      My idea for you is this: tell your friends from your heart how you feel. Be honest. Tell them why they are your best friends, what else you need (why you are going), what you will miss about them, and why you are already looking forward to seeing them when you visit.

      My guess is they will understand.

      Yes, of course, they will be sad you’re going. But they are your good friends, so they will want what makes you happiest.

      Good luck — and I suggest a nice dinner you make for them.

      -Jeff

  6. Hi Jeff,

    I just ran into your post today and I thought it was very good.
    I’m planning to move as well. 5 years ago I moved to London with my parents and sisters but now I want to move back to Portugal. I’m graduating in June and I want to go back after graduation in October. My aunt in Portugal already knows I want to go back but I haven’t told my family. My parents suspect but I haven’t told them yet because my father has a very strong hatred for the country and most people. He is one of those people who thinks that others have to like what he likes and do what he does. So i’m a bit scared to tell him. My mum will be fine, I’m sure as she moved from London to Lisbon when she was 21 as well. My younger sister is 9 and I’m also scared of telling her in a way that she can understand easily. My other sister is 19 and I know she will be fine with the whole thing.

    Do you have any suggestion?

    Thanks so much in advance for any help you can give me.

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