Here Are Your Best 15 Stories About Breaking Up in Public

"After we ordered dessert, I excused myself and went to the bathroom to see why my phone had been buzzing all night—turns out my friend found out he had been cheating on me and was trying to tell me."
Hannah Smothers
Brooklyn, US
15 best public breakup stories

When commitment feels rare and everyone’s lonely, Change of Heart is a Valentine's Week investigation of what makes relationships so hard—and how they can be better.

It may feel uniquely cruel, but getting dumped in public is, unfortunately, quite common. All week long, VICE has been collecting your public breakup stories, in the name of building a big map of all our most cursed spots. We’ve learned a lot: People love to break up in cars and parking lots, the National Mall is nice for serious conversations, and every one of us has cried and/or “made a scene” in public. Please think of your comrades in public heartbreak as you pass through the spots on our map, and enjoy this final roundup of the wildest, grisliest stories y’all shared this week. Happy Valentine’s Day 💘!


In front of his freshman dorm at the University of Oregon

“We had been seeing each other for three and a half months. He was from the Bay Area and I thought that was so cool, but really I thought his sister was cooler. I told him that I needed to be friends because I wasn’t getting what I needed. He said that was unfair but didn’t seem that sad about it. Two days later I realized I was gay. Like, really gay.”

Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Oregon

“We dated exclusively for three months. Negative [and] unhealthy personality traits (on both of our parts) began to expose themselves about three weeks prior to our ending it, and I began to realize it wasn’t gonna work out. We had a date to go see a show at the Doug Fir on Valentines Day, and I suggested we meet at the venue. Directly in front of the will call window, she loudly proclaimed that she didn’t want to even see this show, she was just doing it for me. Then she berated me a bit as an entire line of people watched. I took her ticket and handed it to a stranger, then went into the venue and enjoyed the show by myself. It was good. Alex Cameron! That guy is great!”

Denver International Airport

“We were dating long-distance and had planned a weekend getaway in Denver. As the trip came closer, I realized that I needed to break up with him. I wanted to do it in person and had to figure out the right time to do it, considering we were stuck together the whole weekend, so I waited until he dropped me off at the airport on Sunday morning. I started the conversation in the car and it continued as he walked me to the check-in area. People around definitely noticed he was upset, BUT I think it helped to have people around to keep the conversation tame.”


"Turns out, it was a 12-page (single-spaced, double-sided) breakup letter that he expected me to read in front of him."

A table at the Coffee Deli in Savannah, Georgia

“Our relationship had sort of fizzled out, and we were busy with college finals. We hadn’t talked in about a week and he invited me to meet him at this coffee shop walking distance from his place. When I got there, he was sitting at a table and had a stack of papers in front of him. Turns out, it was a 12-page (single-spaced, double-sided) breakup letter that he expected me to read in front of him, so he could see my reaction. It included, around page seven, a breakdown of every penny he had ever spent on anything related to us. I said I wouldn’t read the whole thing there because it felt really manipulative, got up, and left.”

At the corner of 6th and Red River in Austin, Texas

“We were in college and had traveled to SXSW with a group of friends. I was talking to his friend (who I'd just met), and discovered that she thought that he was dating an entirely different person…WHO HAD ALSO COME ON THIS TRIP. I confronted him about it at an outdoor party on Red River Street, and learned that he'd been maintaining a second, secret relationship with someone else for our whole two-year relationship. And then had been stupid enough to try to merge the friend groups of his two girlfriends on this vacation. I continued drinking (free drinks!), shouting at him, and crying furiously, until a woman working at that particular SXSW event came over and kindly asked us to leave.”


"Maybe being in an Applebee's was the annoying trigger that made me blurt out the end of our relationship."

At a booth in the back of Applebee’s in Kalamazoo, Michigan

"I picked her up from a friend's house, and right off the bat, some stupid argument came up. It devolved into a laundry list of what flaws we saw in each other. We had plans to eat out somewhere, and I wasn't going to be the one to cave and call if off, so we pulled into Applebee's.

We asked for a booth and were immediately seated. I asked the waitress for a tall Bud Light (they deliver them in big mugs called a ‘Brewtus’). I was drawing lines in the condensation on the outside of my iced mug, waiting for my chicken tenders to arrive, when I interrupted her and said, ‘We shouldn't do this anymore.’ She softly cried without making any noise, but still pretty noticeable judging by the server approaching the table and doing a 180. The strangest part was immediately shifting into the logistics of a breakup: When to pick things up from each other's apartments, what to do about the XBox that we purchased together, things like that, as we picked at our food.

Maybe being in an Applebee's was the annoying trigger that made me blurt out the end of our relationship, but it would have happened that day, regardless.”

Les Sablons French Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts

“We had been dating for about seven months, and made a reservation at a nice French restaurant for Valentine’s Day. After we ordered dessert, I excused myself and went to the bathroom to see why my phone had been buzzing all night—turns out my friend found out he had been cheating on me and was trying to tell me. I went back to the table, finished dessert, let him pay, and then when we walked outside, I asked him how long he had been cheating on me. He denied it, I told him to fuck off, and I cried the whole Uber ride home while he pretended not to notice. I hooked up with his best friend a week later.”


An orchestra practice room at Sparta High School in Sparta, New Jersey

“He was my first serious high school boyfriend. Even though we had only dated about eight months, I thought he was The One (despite his deeply conservative, evangelical background, which was the exact opposite of my liberal leaning, Catholic Democrat™ upbringing). He went on some sort of bible school retreat one weekend in April, and on Monday morning, came back acting weird. He took me into an unused practice room in our orchestra room to tell me that God came to him and told him he had to dump me, because I was not a true believer. The worst part was that there was a huge window in this practice room that left us totally visible to 20–30 orchestra students. I was overwhelmed with embarrassment, and ran out of the room crying, slamming the door, and causing everyone who wasn't already staring to whip their head around and gawk. It was my first real heartbreak, and one of the most painful things to have happened to me at the time. It being so public just added insult to injury. It’s definitely the most dramatic breakup I've ever had.”

"He took me into an unused practice room in our orchestra room to tell me that God came to him and told him he had to dump me."

The parking lot at the Black Sheep in Colorado Springs, Colorado

“We'd planned to go to a show that night, and I'd decided two or three days before to break up with him. At the show, I gave him the cold shoulder while all the bands played, and he got more desperate for my attention. I asked him to walk me out to my car, and I leaned against my car and told him I was ending things. Three years later, my current husband told me he was at that show, outside smoking, and saw some girl breaking up with her boyfriend in front of the venue.”


On Mulberry Street in Little Italy in New York City

“This was the end to a very drawn out breakup; one where we were both really sad to let the other go, and often thought we could hang out. Not the case. We walked around Little Italy and stopped to get a glass of wine. We just sat there with tears running down our faces, afraid to say anything and start to ugly cry. It wasn’t as much of a train wreck breakup as it was just really sad. We must’ve looked really cool. When I find myself on this block, I think about the feeling of wanting to say a million things to someone you’ve loved, and being unable to break the peace of one of the last moments we spent together.”

At the bar in Marlow’s Tavern in Duluth, Georgia

“I never really liked this asshole, but he was a reliable weekly dinner + fuck…until one night at a restaurant, he pointed at a group of women laughing loudly and said, "I know why THEY'RE single.” He became very uncomfortable later when, rather than fuck him, I got myself off next to him in bed. The next week, I met him at this dumb chain restaurant and told him I didn't think we should see each other any more. He got a little combative, and I had the pleasure of paying for my drink and leaving in the middle of his tantrum.”

"Now, coffee-flavored ice cream makes me feel like I've been broken up with."

A table outside of Rams Express Dining Hall in Fort Collins, Colorado

“We broke up pretty soon after spending a terrible Valentine's Day together—we went to the movie theater to watch Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (nothing says romance like a 9/11 movie), then I told him I loved him, like I'd been doing for the past two years, and he responded with, ‘OK.’ We both knew it was going to happen, so when he texted and said, ‘let's talk,’ I suggested we go to a dining hall. We broke up and then we each bought a Cappuccino-flavored milkshake. Now, coffee-flavored ice cream makes me feel like I've been broken up with.”


A now-defunct coffee shop called Ground for Coffee in Tacoma, Washington

“My first girlfriend broke up with me at a coffee shop near where I worked. Her plan was almost foiled because three mutual friends of ours from school also hanging out there, and naturally assumed we would join them. She awkwardly excused us so we could go to the other corner of the cafe, where she broke up with me. When it was done, I then had to walk past this same group to get to where I'd parked my car. Regrettably, I was too heartbroken to properly deliver the Simpsons reference I tossed off as I passed by: ‘Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: Me.’”

In the parking lot of the riverwalk in Bradenton, Florida

“The first guy I ever dated broke up with me in the parking lot of the city’s riverwalk. He invited me out under the pretense of hanging out, then informed me that he was joining the Coast Guard, would be shipping off to Guam, and we needed to be done. He 100 percent picked a neutral public place so I wouldn’t make a scene, but I was 16 and it was the end of summer, so of course I was bawling. He also capped off the conversation by saying, ‘Did you see Robin Williams died?’ Yes, a-hole, I did. Spoiler alert: The guy lied about joining the military.”

NEBO in Boston

“We had been dating for six months. The sex was great, we loved going out, getting drunk, and smashing until the sun came up. I knew his political views were not entirely in line with mine, but also knew I wasn't going to marry the guy, so might as well as have fun while it lasted. We were sitting at the bar at NEBO, and the bartender changed the channel to ESPN. Tiger Woods was playing his first tournament since his divorce. I said, "Fuck Tiger Woods," with a smile on my face, and without missing a beat, the guy turned to me to say, "His ex should be paying him alimony for all the shit SHE put HIM through." I lost it; in response, he calmly chimed, "He's a billionaire, billionaires can do whatever they want." That is when I was done. He was one of those men who think power and money gives you absolute impunity. All desire to ride that dick evaporated from my body.”

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