Family Business: How To Break Up With Your Ex’s Family, Too

Like any good gay navigating a break-up, you’ve already done your research. You’ve pored over The Best Break-Up Advice You’ll Ever Get, How To Navigate a Social Event with Your Ex, and even Texting Your Ex-Girlfriend in Five Easy Steps. Because your sh*t is so on point, maybe you’ve even set up a iCal-coordinated trade-off of personal belongings. After all, you are a grown-ass woman, and you like your break-ups to be of the grown-ass woman variety.

Yet there’s still a third party which needs addressing: Your ex’s family. You were never just dating a cute woman. You were dating a cute woman who is also someone’s daughter, granddaughter, bubeleh, mija, etc.

If you were lucky to date someone whose family was 100% embracing of her alternative lifestyle haircut, well-worn A-Camp tee and your presence: Kudos! You’re lucky. That sort of unconditional acceptance is still pretty rare. Her parents deserve a Very Special Award from PFLAG or something.

But the progressive familial sword cuts both ways. By calling it off with her, you are also calling it off with her folks. If you’re from a background dotted with intolerant relatives, then you know that the time spent with your former girlfriend’s accepting siblings and parents was invaluable. Those family dinners were not just about dinner — they were about community and actually belonging somewhere for once.

Losing that can cause an entirely different — but equally painful — heartache. It sucks. Luckily, we’re here to help you deal.+

Communicate With Your Ex


This probs goes against all the break-up advice that you’ve ever been given, including that from your mama and WikiHow. While clean breaks truly are the best things ever, it’s important to handle unfinished business before fully severing contact.

Keep things as short and sweet as possible. Text if necessary. Ask her if her family knows that you two have broken up. Under all circumstances, refrain from asking if her Nana hates you. Try to not make this about you, but her family. Listen for clues to how her parents might be feeling about the relationship’s end.

It is so much easier to have this conversation early in a break-up, as opposed to two months later when you call her up, yelling, “Please tell your f*cking adorable brother to stop sending me texts inviting me to his Little League games.”  Not that I speak from experience or anything.

If she has yet to break the news, make it clear that her family needs to know. After all, they are the ones who will always be there for her.

Make a Decision


What if you’re really close — adopt-me-already close — to your ex’s family? Is there a way to have your break-up cake and still enjoy these peripheral relationships too? Is it necessary to terminate these meaningful connections just because your relationship has ended?

This largely depends on whether your break-up was amicable or tempestuous. In some cases, it might be possible to maintain a relationship with her family. However, know that your role within the family may change, and it’ll be your responsibility to roll with it. Also, there will inevitably be shiny new girlfriends for her family to fawn over.

Some other questions to ask yourself are:

  • Am I disrupting my ex’s main support system by maintaining contact with her relative(s)?
  • Is my time with my ex’s family going to consist entirely of me complaining about my ex?
  • Is this an attempt to manipulate my way back into my ex’s life?
  • What would be the harm in waiting a few months before contacting her [relative]?

Social Networking Boundaries 2.0


Chances are good that you’ve already performed some variant of the impulsive, post-relationship Facebook friends purge consisting of your ex, friends of your ex and the terrible post-punk revival bands your ex encouraged you to ‘like.’

Often, an ex’s family is an entirely different creature — particularly if it consists of older folks whose respect has been hard-won.

There are two ways to navigate this:

  • Delete and block all of the relatives while silently hoping that they’re not versed enough in Facebook to notice and/or take these actions personally.
  • Place them all on a restricted setting which prevents them from seeing all of your melancholy statuses and those loosely referencing post-relationship one-night stands.

If you go with the former, refrain from sending messages that say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, I really like you and I hate to defriend you, but I’m going to anyway.” Be swift and unapologetic in your social networking sweep.

Say It in a Letter


You’re probably having a lot of feelings right now. What better place to put those feelings than on paper? Write a letter to the family member that is on your mind. It’ll be much appreciated over those aforementioned mixed Facebook messages or a hasty email. Assuming that you’re writing about your relationship with that relative and not the one with your ex, a  letter is guaranteed to say, “I’ve taken the time to think sh*t through.”

Whether we like it or not, each person we encounter shakes our lives up a little bit. Let the relative know that you valued your time together, even if it is drawing to a close.


No matter how many times you assured her otherwise, your ex was not perfect. Neither was her family. Remember that time her stepdad shrank your favorite holiday sweater in the dryer? What about that other time that her aunt misgendered you 12 times over the course of Thanksgiving dinner, or the time her little sister spilled grape Kool-Aid over your white suede oxfords?

The memory alone is enough to make you want to pull a whiskey kitten.

Whiskey Kitten understands

And you certainly should be drinking, or exercising, or your preferred method of self-care — just not in the name of memory erasure but celebration.

Because is the silver lining to this two-fold break-up: Along with the girl and her family, all of those little hellish experiences are also in the past.

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Sarah Fonseca’s essays, book reviews, and film writing have appeared in Black Warrior Review, cléo: a journal of film and feminism, Posture Magazine, and them. Catch her obsessing over Eartha Kitt at

sarah has written 57 articles for us.


  1. I was glad to be rid of my ex’s family. They took advantage of both of us, but she never saw it that way. They had no boundaries. Having an ‘open door policy’ meant they had a set of our keys and used them when they pleased…even when we were not home. I was the only one who thought this was a problem and eventually I stopped hanging out when ‘her family’ was over. That meant no more nightmare holidays with them. Nice that my ex never mentioned them when we first dated and then they ‘appeared’ when she Uhauled a year later. Yeah,, I’m proud to say I waited a year before Uhauling, but I should have seen the red flags soon after. Damn, it feels good to be free and single right now! For reals.

  2. My ex had one of those families, that were open and accepting and I fell in love with them all, when we broke up I still stayed in semi-contact with her mom and sister though, even taking her sister baked goods, we would run into each other occasionally and be able to talk. She (my ex) passed away almost a year ago, and having that relationship with her sister, that has gotten much closer since then, is one of the best things in life, and I value it so much!

  3. My baby brother (15) wrote “I miss you” on my ex’s Facebook wall today. And then proceeded to rant at me for breaking up with her.
    So this article was so timely. Although, not for me.

  4. I miss my ex’s Mom’s cooking. For the 2 years that her daughter and I lived together, *Mom* always cooked my favorite dishes. Now that my ex has a new GF, I’m kind of afraid to go to their house to eat, if I ever get poisoned, I wouldn’t be sure who did it.

  5. Occasionally, it’s downright pleasing to break contact with your ex’s family- I was dating a super religious girl whose parents were very convinced I was the anti-christ. I attended her graduation and was so relieved that I didn’t have to ever, ever, see them again after that.

  6. Wow this is a timely article. My relationship of 5 years ended 2 months ago and for 4.5 of those years, we lived with my gfs mum and dad while we both attended uni. I was their adopted daughter. Her dad treated me better than my own family (who weren’t the most accepting). He often told me that it was their loss and his gain. I spent holidays with their entire family. I was a cousin, a niece, a grandaughter, a sister and a daughter as well as a gf for 5 years and now it’s over and it fucking sucks. Sometimes it hurts more than the breakup itself. Oh well. Better days ahead.

    • This mirrors my situation now exactly. I know this was posted in 2012, but it’d be really helpful to hear how you moved beyond it. If you don’t feel like you can comment on here, consider PMing me at [email protected]

  7. Sooooo timely. It is v. important to remember that social boundaries are re-drawn post-break-up, lest you get drunk with your ex’s brother or re-build her uncle’s fence.

  8. It’s been nearly a year ago. I am dating someone else and pretty much in love. And yet, sometimes I miss my ex’s family. The wrost of it is that sometimes it fools me into thinkink I miss my ex too. Which I don’t really (I think). But yeah, miss my ex’s mum the most. It got me close to tears.

  9. My ex’s dad and brother are two of the coolest people I’ve ever met. I don’t have that many men that I’ve clicked with, but they were so easy to be around. They loved old things: history, music, movies—and I loved their jokes. Past tense, hah. yeah.
    I hate how we lose the people we love.

  10. Wow this is super timely. Awkward story: my ex is now living with my family…


  11. Totally just had a bbq with my ex’s family a couple weeks ago. I still haven’t found out how to break up with them.

    Worst part is, it’s my one and only ex-boyfriend. Long story short, we both knew I was gay before/during/after we dated for two years, so I didn’t break up with him for girls or anything. And his family is still so supportive of me, even though we’ve been separated for over a year, and he’s been with a new gf since, and I’m a homo.

    His dad said it best when he said “I don’t care if his new gf thinks it’s weird. What’s weird, that we treat you like a person instead of my son’s accessory?” Like wtf. I wish they could hate me or something.

  12. I had a bad break-upish thing almost four years ago, which involved moving out of my lady-friend’s family’s house unannounced (teenagers are assholes, I feel bad about this now..). It was a necessary cold turkey situation, but I missed her family so much. We’d been best friends since freshman year of high school and I’d been part of her family since about the same time. We were always cooking and making art and working in the garden and it was so hard to not have those things. I missed her and her parents and her dog. I reconnected with her and them this summer and it was really wonderful. So sometimes you can wait a few years and then be part of that family again.

  13. This article was good but made me really sad. I’ve been broken up with my ex-wife for two years now, but thinking about her family sure kicked up the dust. I was really close with her family and tried really hard to win them over (they were not accepting of our relationship and it took a lot of work). They babysat the kids after school so I saw them every day and we often ate meals together. Anyway, my point was that after my ex left me for a man, her whole family cut me off too. I tried calling for probably three months before I gave up because it was too painful to keep trying. I think it took me longer to get over losing all of them than it did her.

  14. Sometimes these things work out! My brother dated a lovely girl for about 3 years and when they broke up my mother and I were devastated. A couple years later, she is now my very best friend, I hired her at my work, and she plays for team gay! It’s rare we spend a day apart, and she’s now seeing a good friend of mine too!
    It was hard for my brother to adjust to at first…but he just had to accept she was a good fit for our family even if she wasn’t a good fit for him!

  15. My partner’s ex is still best friends with The Mother. They go to France together and sunbathe topless together.

    I have no idea how this works.

  16. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thanks, However I am encountering difficulties with
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  17. This is the hardest thing for me to deal with right now with my break up. I live with my current ex girlfriend and see her mom on a daily basis because we work together and get along very well. I tear up as much thinking about losing the relationship with her mom as I do with her because we are so close.

  18. Interesting article. My last serious girlfriend’s parents weren’t exactly awesome to me, (I think they had a complex about her sexuality and blamed it on me?) so that shit was pretty simple.

    On the other hand, my current lady’s family is incredible, and I’m actually pretty afraid of ever losing them- I feel closer to them than all of my extended family. Talk about heartbreak hotel.

    Apparently I need to get a damn dog.

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