For Incoming MBAs, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Every year around this time, young professionals are leaving their jobs, packing their bags, and heading off for that first year of the MBA experience. And every year, they are also leaving behind important relationships with others.

It is an often painful reality for many. Writes one brokenhearted MBA-bound professional who is starting his program this month: “My partner and I decided to go our separate ways before school starts even though we love each other,” he wrote on Reddit today. “I am struggling with accepting this. The reason we are going our separate ways is I will be focused on school and (will be) so busy I will not be able to give them the love they deserve. If it’s meant to be, we will consider getting back together post-program.”

He goes on to explain that he has been together with his partner for three years, having lived together for two. But he is attending a business school that is across the country “Since I’m the one going to school I made the decision, but we talked about it in depth together and both decided it was best to go our separate ways…We considered staying together, but I knew that would just hurt us both and would have probably ended with the famous MBA Turkey Drop.”


Ah yes, the “Turkey Drop.” The MBA candidate is referring to an all-too-often scenario where couples try to maintain their relationships as one goes off to an MBA program but by the Thanksgiving Day holiday in November, it all comes to a crashing end. A reporter writing on this phenomenon once noted: “If you weren’t single when you arrived, odds are you will be by Thanksgiving.”

In fact, a few years ago, a survey of Wharton MBAs lent considerable credibility to the theory. In the survey open to Wharton’s 1,600 MBA candidates, 59% said they were in a relationship when they arrived on campus. Roughly one in four of those students, however, were no longer in that relationship when surveyed. The largest number of breakups occurred just before or just after Thanksgiving. In fact, 49% of the breakups occurred just before or after the November holiday. If the relationship lasted the first year core, chances are it would hold. Only 6% of the responding students said they broke off their pre-MBA relationship during the second year of business school. In other words, the first-year MBA experience claimed some 94% of the relationships went bad. Some 8% of the responding Wharton students admit to having cheated on their loved ones while at school. Another 10% said they would like to hook up with a member of their learning team.

The Reddit post fueled a lively discussion from many other incoming MBA students who found themselves in a similar situation. One commenter confirmed that he had split up with his girlfriend a month ago. “I miss her like crazy but realize it’s best for everyone, even though it sucks in the short term,” he wrote. “The mindset is short-term loss, long-term gain. However, we ended amicably and are still in touch here and there. Hell, we have even given each other dating tips. I’m a firm believer that exes can still be a part of your life going forward as the relationship changes and morphs into a new chapter.”


That may just be an optimistic view of things, especially from someone who actually broke up the relationship. As a female commenter put it: “Wow. I just realized that what happened to me has a name! My ex started his MBA last year, and he dumped me around Thanksgiving. I’m now about to start my MBA, going through the hustle of moving to a different country and understanding how difficult it really is to start a new life makes me more forgiving of what he did, I just wish he’d communicated how he felt back then but oh well.”

Another MBA graduate who went through a breakup in the middle of his first-year studies reflected back on his relationship experience. “For the first half of the year,” he revealed, “my grades slipped dramatically because I was trying to juggle the program and appease her request for more time together. Ultimately, she ended things as I wasn’t able to give her the time she wanted. Was super difficult but definitely allowed me to focus on the task at hand of finishing my first year strong.

“Consider yourself lucky,” he told the original poster. “You have the opportunity to focus strictly on yourself from the jump. You are going to meet a ton of cool and accomplished individuals that will help get your mind off things also. Sorry to hear you are going through this but focus on what you can control yourself and your actions and maybe look into therapy.”


Perhaps the oddest story of all to emerge from the back-and-forth of the discussion was this one. “I knew an SO (significant other) who got Turkey-dropped and hustled and applied to the same school as the dude just to piss him off and ended up going there. Super weird, expensive, and not that effective…..but it is humorous. Sorry, know that has nothing to do with your situation but I have to blurt this into the universe every six months, or else I’ll explode.”

Another MBA reflected on his breakup in a positive light. “Breaking up pre-MBA was the best thing to ever happen to me,” he wrote. “The MBA is the perfect opportunity to self-reflect and to figure out who you want to be, where you want to live, and what you’re passionate about. You’re in the awkward hard weeks before starting but once things get going, you’re in for a hell of an experience. Fast forward five years post my MBA: I have a new career, I’ve lived in 4 different countries. I’m married, with two kids.”

The MBA student who kicked off the virtual conversation would later concede that other factors were in play that led to his decision to break it off. “Mainly,” he admitted, “I was not ready to commit to marriage (and) being with one person for the rest of my life just yet. Our view was that if we stay together through B-school, we will probably stay together through life, aka get married a year or two after school. I wasn’t ready to make that commitment as I am unsure if they are ‘the one’ even though we very much love each other.”

One reader was simply flabbergasted by the entire topic. “Everyone here is absolutely nuts,” the person concluded. “If you were going to marry her, you shouldn’t break up because of an MBA. If you weren’t that serious, then you never wanted to marry her in the first place. Three years of dating and no ring makes this fact obvious. You made the right choice, breaking up instead of staying in a doomed relationship is a great idea. This has nothing to do with the MBA as it’s just being used as an excuse to break up.”






Anyone else in this boat? If so, why and how are you coping? Or Are you giving your relationship a shot? Would love to hear.

as evidenced by a revelatory post on Reddit’s

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