The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: What’s so bad about ‘running away’ from a breakup?


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Almost two years ago, I moved across the country to be with my serious boyfriend and to fulfill my dream of living on the other coast. I found a great job, a good group of friends, spent time with boyfriend’s family, but always thought that we would make our way back to the other side of the country for grad school or the next job.

Then, a few weeks ago, we suddenly and unexpectedly broke up. Our chances of reconciling don’t seem great.

I’m trying to be practical and wait until emotions are less raw, but I’m aching to pack up and move as soon as my lease ends in four months. I’ll be at a good transition point in my work, the majority of my good friends and all of my family are across the country, and my closest social networks here are tied up with his.

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

I’m torn between feeling like a wuss for “running away” and thinking that it is really the most logical step. Any thoughts on how to approach this decision?

Running Away or Moving On

You were expecting to go back, you want to go back and now you have an opportunity to go back that is imminent but not rushed. My only thought is not to overthink.

Re: Moving On:

Here’s a second for going back. Last year, I went through a divorce knowing we would both be moving back to where we lived before. It was rough; within one month, a house was listed, sold, closed on, cleaned up and left . . . and left within 48 hours of the divorce being final.

You’re not running away, you’re moving on, and sometimes life hands you those opportunities. If you’re still feeling too raw to embrace it fully, then wait a week or month. You have the time. But more important, have faith. The timing may be a gift.


Thanks. There’s always going to be some sense that you’re picking up your carefully built life and shaking it, hard. Just because you have that feeling, that does not automatically mean you’re being rash or overcorrecting or running away when you use that upheaval to make other big changes. Sometimes it’s rash, yes, but sometimes it’s merely opportunistic.

I think once you accept that sense of upheaval, you start to see big changes as realistic instead of overwhelming.

Re: Moving On:

Twelve years ago, I was faced with something similar. The way I see it, I was indeed both running away and moving on. What’s so bad about running away? You run away from a burning car, a rioting crowd, etc. Why not add “a disastrous relationship” to that list?

Anyway, I agree with the other encouraging post, but I think there’s something to be said for sometimes embracing your inner coward, if only to get comfortable with the idea that sometimes the so-called cowardly thing is just right for you.


Emphasis on the “sometimes” — which my inner coward forced me to add.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at



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