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"Dear John" Letter

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I left a note in the hallway
By the time you read it I'll be far away

Dear John,

I find it hard to write this letter, but I have to tell you the truth.

We never would have expected this day to come. Ever since we were separated from each other, our letters were the only way we could stay in touch. We promised one another that no matter what, despite our Feuding Families, despite you being called to the front, we will one day be together, either Happily Married or Together in Death.

I write to tell you that everything that was between us is over. We're finished.

I cannot stand life in separation anymore. I simply can't love you anymore, and I have found someone else. Enclosed you will find the ring you gave me.

Don't grieve — you are neither the first nor the last to get such a letter. Traditions of sending soldiers such letters date back to World War II or even World War I, which would make it Older Than Television.

Good bye, my former love. You will never see me again.

P.S.: See also Wikipedia, they have an article linked here.

P.S.S: Do also compare this to Dumped via Text Message, which is a far less formal breakup method.


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  • This classic 1980s New Zealand ad for BASF cassette tapes features a soldier receiving a version of the country song "Dear John" sung by his fiancée on a BASF tape with some new lyrics turning it into a straight example, leading to the tagline:
    ''BASF: Even the bad times sound good"

    Anime & Manga 
  • A Town Where You Live Yuzuki writes one to Haruto and puts it in a present she gave him, however it was several months (and several attempts to stay with her regardless) later that he actually found and read the letter.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: Jilk, one of the five capture targets of the Otome Game, ended his relationship with his former fiancée, Clarice, this way. She's devastated by this and suffers a mental breakdown, even trying to get revenge until Leon intervenes and forces Jilk to apologize to her face to face.
  • Variable Geo: Played with in the opening scene of episode 2 when Yuka visits Satomi's home and finds it empty, minus a farewell letter written in blood. Yuka reacts as if she's just found out she's been "dumped" by her best friend, prompting Jun to ask if they've "broken up". To which Yuka dejectedly replies, "Yes".

    Comic Books 
  • MAD magazine had a section where you could create your own "Dear John" letter in a Mad Libs sort of way with lists of various phrases you could use to fill in the blanks, to make the letter sound as ridiculous as you desire.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Pink ends with a flash-forward to Kimberly writing the infamous letter during Zeo. It's all but stated that there isn't a new guy, but she thinks it's kinder than the truth: that she's ready to move on from being a Ranger, and knows that Tommy isn't.
  • Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim writes one to Gideon, her most recent ex-lover. She never sends it, and it is later found unopened when she disappears at the end of volume 5, leaving the titular hero to ponder what it means.
  • Sensation Comics: One of Dr. Pat's schoolmates received a letter from his fiancée informing him that she couldn't wait for him to be out of med school and their relationship was over. She eventually changed her mind, but the experience left him permanently bitter and mistrustful.
  • Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra: Elektra leaves her dorm, ready to kill Trey. She takes all her belongings, leaving only a goodbye note for Phoebe and Melissa.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side featured a cartoon of two male deer in a forest, one holding a letter: "My God! She left me a John Deer letter!"

    Fan Works 
  • In The Apprentice, the Student, and the Charlatan, Clover writes one to Nova as a final goodbye.
  • In Bart the General, "Omarn" gets one from Marge.
    ''Dear Homer, you have a cold dick. I remember the last time I touched it.
  • An inversion appears in Beyond Heroes: Of Sunshine and Red Lyrium, after the jaunt to the Arbor Wilds. Bianca sends one to Varric - not because she's found someone else (she's been married for years), but because she's pretty sure he has. Hilariously, the implication goes completely over the recipient's head.

    Films — Animated 
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: Andrea Beaumont suddenly disappears on Bruce, leaving only a note saying she's too young to marry and "needs more time", leaving Bruce heartbroken, but allowing him to become Batman fully. It's actually a cover for the fact she and her father went on the run from mob hitmen.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mina sends one of these to Drac when she decides to stay faithful to Johnathan and go see him in Budapest. The news is so devastating to Dracula that he undergoes Glamor Failure while weeping before deciding to take his rage out on Lucy and finish feeding on her.
  • In Casablanca, Rick and his lover, Ilsa, were supposed to meet at the train station to get out of Paris before the Nazis arrived; instead, she sent a letter explaining that she couldn't be with him, for unexplained reasons. Years later, they meet in Casablanca, and she explains that she had returned to her husband, Victor, whom she had believed dead before getting together with Rick.
  • The Circle: Honestly, pinning your Dear John letter to the pajamas of your toddler child is a poor choice.
  • A Curious Conjunction of Coincidences: Erich’s rough day starts with him receiving one of these from his fiancée. Apparently, she met a stronger, smarter, and funnier man.
  • Daredevil (2003). Matt Murdock is shown listening to a verbal version left on his answering machine, the sender pointing out that it's not as if he's left her any other option. She doesn't sound angry with Matt but does call him out for never staying the night or even inviting him to his apartment—which is actually his secret lair for his nighttime vigilante activities.
  • In The Dark Knight, Rachel Dawes writes Bruce Wayne a letter about how she intends to marry Harvey Dent and that she'll always be with him as a friend. However, after her death, Alfred burns it before Bruce can read it. It's a relatively minor but still tragic instance of Poor Communication Kills: Bruce assumes she was going to leave Harvey for him. In The Dark Knight Rises, Alfred confessed to Bruce about the letter, which didn't make Bruce feel any better.
  • Dear John: The Trope Namer. Bonus points for the recipient's name actually being John. He ends up burning the letter and all the previous ones he received from his now ex-girlfriend.
  • In Doctor at Sea, Jenkins thinks he has received one from his wife:
    Jenkins: "Dear Vic, just to tell you... I'm in trouble because of my lover. Rosie".
    Dr. Sparrow: Can I have a look? (Beat) Jenkins, can't you read? She says, "I'm in trouble because of my liver".
  • Humorously referenced in Dr. Strangelove, where one of the nukes about to be dropped on the Soviet Union has "Dear John" written on the front.
  • In Dumb and Dumber, Harry got one of these from Fraida Felcher, mistakenly referring to it as a "John Deere" letter. It's obvious to everyone (even Harry himself) that she was cheating on him with Lloyd, though he feigned ignorance until the end of the movie.
  • The Goodbye Girl opens with Paula coming home to the apartment she shares with Tony and finding out that, instead of them moving together to California as they'd planned, he is breaking up with her and has left to Europe to film a Bernardo Bertolucci movie. What he fails to mention is that he's sublet their apartment to a man she doesn't know, fellow actor Elliot, which kicks off the plot as Paula and Elliot wind up rooming together.
  • John in Goodbye Pork Pie finds one from Sue in his typewriter, which simply reads "Dear John".
  • In Kill List, Gal says that he woke up to find a "Dear John taped to me cock".
  • Kon-Tiki: Thor Heyerdahl's arrival in Polynesia in triumph is accompanied by a Dear John letter from his wife, who says she's leaving because he is Married to the Job.
  • Legends of the Fall: "Susanna, all we had is dead. As I am dead. Marry another."
  • The Odd Angry Shot: While in Vietnam, Bill receives a thinly-disguised break-up letter from his girlfriend back home.
  • Micheal in Siege of the Dead gets one of these just before the start of the movie and is hoping to patch things up. Things don't turn out quite as planned.
  • In Spy Game, a forged one was left by John Miur for his protegé Tom Bishop so that the latter could focus on their mission in Beirut rather than get distracted by Elizabeth Hadley - Muir in fact tipped off Chinese agents to Hadley's location (in exchange for the release of a US diplomat) so that they could kidnap her, as she was involved in the bombing of their embassy in Britain. Bishop saw through it and went after her, resulting in his own capture.
  • Starship Troopers. While in MI boot camp, Johnny Rico gets a literal Dear John video from his girlfriend Carmen Ibanez, who's in training to join the Fleet (space navy), which of course he is watching on a big-screen TV in the barracks with his entire squad watching and making commentary... Until they realize what the message is about and make themselves scarce.
    Ace: Funny how they always wanna be friends after they rip your guts out.
  • Submarine: Jordana formally breaks up with Oliver via a letter informing him that she's seeing someone else, and that she's upset with him for not accompanying him to the hospital.
  • In The Thin Red Line (1998), one of the protagonists (Private Bell) tells anyone around him how he really loves his wife (and so won't cheat on her with the local Ladies of Negotiable Virtue). In a (possibly unintentional) hilarious moment, about halfway through the film, he then receives a Dear John letter from his wife about how she's found a new love.
  • Thor: Love and Thunder: The Offscreen Breakup of Thor and Jane came after a long period of the two growing distant from one another. Jane wrote Thor a letter which he took as an end to the relationship, though Jane implies she feels he could have fought to keep things going.

  • This trope appeared in a story written by the Polish writer Jarosław Grzędowicz, where a Pole who went work to England was completely devastated when his girlfriend sent him such a letter. A few years later, it appeared in a novel written by his wife, Maja Kossakowska, but American marine in the book has found it quite amusing. Having to endure weeks of torture, having his legs broken, and getting a bullet in the lungs could have something to do with it.
  • The Cat Who... Series: In book #29 (The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers), a few weeks into Polly's visit to Paris, she sends one to Qwill, announcing that she's taken a three-year contract working for a local bookstore, and is having all her belongings sold to benefit the church while her cats are given up for adoption. Qwill himself recognizes it for what it is, and is most dismayed, but accepts it.
  • In Poul Anderson's "The Corkscrew Of Space", Magarac had gotten one and no longer awaited a letter from his girl.
  • In Greg Costikyan's First Contract, the protagonist's business collapses when peaceful contact with aliens crashes Earth's economy. He comes home to find a "Dear John" DVD from his Trophy Wife, informing him that since he's lost his money, he's lost her too.
  • The Han Solo Trilogy:
    • Han gets one from Bria late in the first book, freeing him to go to the Imperial Academy, and he ends up carrying it with him as a keepsake until late in book 3, when her actions anger him so badly that he tears it to pieces in front of her.
    • In book 2, Han gets another one, this time from Xaverri after they've reached the end of their tour around the galaxy. He's not as badly affected by it though.
    • In book 3, Han writes one to Salla Zend, who's become rather insistent on marrying him after the loss of her ship. Han, however, isn't ready for marriage, and lights out for the Corporate Sector after leaving her a letter explaining this.
  • In one short story in the Honor Harrington universe Commissar Yuri Radamacher comments that he spends more time helping heartbroken naval personnel deal with "Dear John" or "Dear Jane" letters than he does actively trying to seek out disloyalty.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's If This Goes On—, John Lyle gets a literal Dear John letter. It's briefly depressing before he realizes that he can't remember her that well anyway.
  • Marianne gets one from Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility the day after they run into each other at a ball in London, after he's made assiduous efforts to avoid her in town. He tries to play it off that the feelings were all on Marianne's end and he was very sorry but he'd long been in love with Miss Grey (a very wealthy heiress). Nobody buys it.
  • Vivienne's first boyfriend in The Spy Who Loved Me broke up with her with a letter that revealed that he was "semi-engaged" to someone else, essentially telling her that she was just a summer fling.
  • Played with in the novel Starship Troopers. When at OCS, Johnny claims he and Carmen were dating, but she sent him a "Dear John". This is technically true, since he and Carmen went on a few dates, nothing serious, and she always begins her (occasional) letters with "Dear John". Essentially, Johnny is playing up the trope to gain some street cred.
  • Vatta's War: After being forced to leave the Slotter Key Military Academy in disgrace due to events beyond her control, Kylara's classmate and boyfriend sends her an extremely harsh one, essentially telling her that she is only one step up from a traitor and unfit to be romantically involved with a loyal officer like him. As a rotten cherry on top, he encloses her class ring, which she gave him, but with the academy insignia defaced.
  • A double-subversion in The Winds of War. Rhoda writes this to Victor but after hearing of Pearl Harbor writes a second letter asking him to forget it. However, she later goes through with it, leaving Victor feeling free to remarry a woman he had developed feelings for but had just barely forced himself to turn down.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow: Depending on how it you look at it, Laurel and Oliver's relationship in Season 1 ended either at the very end of that season, or the beginning of the next. Regardless, it was a mutual decision made due to the traumatic events of the Season 1 Finale. This was Retconned in Season 4, the episode after Laurel's death no less, which instead changed it to her wanting to continue their relationship, only for him to pull this on her and then run back to Lian Yu for several months, in a rather large Kick the Dog move. This went...poorly with the fandom.
  • Being essentially a 10+ hour war film about a unit of World War Two soldiers, this naturally crops up a couple of times in Band of Brothers. There's even a bit of a spectrum of responses:
    • PFC. "Babe" Heffron appears to have received one between episodes three and four, but doesn't seem particularly cut-up about it.
    • Lt. Buck Compton gets one in "The Breaking Point". It hits him hard, though this is at least partly because his mental state is already deteriorating due to pre-existing traumas after being seriously injured and the general strains and hardships of the Battle of the Bulge, and being dumped by letter just hasn't helped.
    • Captain Lewis Nixon falls somewhere in-between. He's not overly thrilled by his wife writing to let him know she's divorcing him, but he appears resigned to the end of the marriage itself, and his biggest gripe appears to be that she's also taking his dog with her.
  • Cheers:
    • Suffering a case of cold feet, and thinking about starting something with Rebecca, Frasier writes one of these to Lilith, only to realize Rebecca's apparent flirting was Norm and Cliff messing with him, making him rush back to his house, where Lilith apparently hasn't seen it. That is, until she tosses her drink in his face.
      Frasier: So... you've read the letter?
      Lilith: Of course I read the letter, you licentious QUACK! And what facile tripe it is! "I need freedom". I'll give you freedom, alright! Freedom from your teeth!
    • In season 11, Frasier himself is on the receiving end when he and Lilith are going through a trial separation. When Lilith suddenly reappears, she mentions she hadn't written any such letter. Turns out her new romantic partner is a major Yandere and wrote it himself.
  • Peyton does this to Mac on CSI: NY. She didn't think they could work out the distance issues since he was working in New York but her home was in London, and likely figured Mac was still mourning his late wife. She did return for one episode later on and apologized, saying he deserved better than a note, but 3 YEARS later...AND she had sent the note to the Crime Lab instead of his home address, so it's no wonder he rebuffed her obvious hint that she wanted to kiss and make up.
  • Dead Man's Gun: Robert Cosgrove receives one at the end of "The Highwayman", and learns that all of the acts he has been performing that he thought were drawing his wife closer to him (and the crimes he committed to be able to afford them) have actually driven her away, to the point where she leaves him.
  • English Dear John show and its Transatlantic Equivalent with the same name, starring Judd Hirsch in the late 80s. The Title Sequence had the main character coming home and discovering from a letter that his wife has left him. The Expository Theme Tune was sung from her point of view.
  • Abby got one from Carter on ER, after their relationship took a series of strange turns for the worse, climaxing in her bipolar brother falling into his grandmother's grave.
  • During the seventh season of Family Matters, Maxine receives a poorly-written and poorly-addressed "Dear John" letter from Waldo.
  • The Flash (2014):
    • In Season 3, Jesse and Wally become an item, although they end up in different worlds (literally), with Jesse first going to Earth-3 to protect that world's Central City in the absence of Jay Garrick and then returns to her native Earth-2, as that version of Central City is lacking a speedster champion. While being in separate universes would normally constitute a Long-Distance Relationship, being speedsters, they're able to pop back and forth between Earths at will. Then Harry arrives with a strange-looking device, which projects Jesse's holo-image and then sputters (crappy Atlantean plastic). Harry is forced to explain to Wally that the device is a "breakup cube", which is the Earth-2 version of this trope. The cube even dispenses tissues in the event of tears. Wally does end up going to Earth-2 to talk it out with Jesse. It's heavily implied that Wally becoming a speedster put a damper on their relationship, as Jesse was expecting him to move with her to Earth-2, but the Central City of Earth-1 needs a Flash, after Barry's disappearance.
    • After Barry fires and exiles his daughter Nora without even consulting Iris first, Iris starts to consider estranging herself from Barry, which would make things much worse than they already are. When she is intending to write the letter, Ralph and Cecille dissuade her from resuming it.
  • In Forever when Abigail leaves Henry in 1985, she writes him a letter stating she needs time to think and decide what to do. When months go by with no word, Henry tries to report her as missing, but the cops he talks to read the letter and decide it's one of these, and Henry's wife probably doesn't want to be found.
  • The Golden Girls: In the episode "Love Me Tender", Dorothy's boyfriend of the week says that his wife broke up with him this way after more than thirty years of marriage. Rose thinks it's terrible that they were married for so long and she didn't know his name is actually Eddie.
  • Happens a bunch of times on M*A*S*H.
    • Radar's sweetheart dumps him (the message comes in the form of a 45 RPM record), so his friends try to set him up with someone else to help him get over it.
    • Later, there's one from Frank's wife announcing she plans to divorce him (she'd heard about his affair with Margaret). Frank is able to talk her out of it with a phonecall by convincing her that the Margaret Houlihan she'd heard about is actually an "old warhorse" and an "army mule" of a head nurse, saving his marriage while (briefly) putting him on the outs with Margaret.
    • When Klinger got one from his wife, it was the one time he tried to get hardship leave when he wasn't scamming.
    • At least a few times a season, a GI of the week got a Dear John letter. An Italian is distraught upon receiving a "Dear Giovanni" letter.
      • And once it was subverted: a blinded GI in post-op asked Father Mulcahy to read his mail to him and the first one, from his girlfriend, started "Dear John..." That was his name.
      • Subverted again when a pilot only known as Cowboy abducts Colonel Blake to extort a discharge to see his wife, whom he believes is unfaithful. Cowboy clears up the first two warning flags (the Reno return address and the literal "Dear John" first line) by saying that's where he lives and his real name, respectively. They go on, revealing that, although she admits that she was "tested and tempted" during their absence, the letter is an affirmation of her love for him. Cowboy lands and everything is sorted out.
      • One of the instances in the series has a soldier patient getting a Dear John letter written in a callous tone with a demand for her old photo back, because she's dumped him to marry a rich guy and doesn't want such high-class people to know about her relationship with him. The staff decide to help the soldier by packaging various photos of women gathered from around the camp along with an insulting letter telling her he's forgotten what she even looks like and to pick out which one is hers. The soldier caps it off by suggesting they send the whole parcel "postage due".
  • Gibbs from NCIS, when asked if he's ever gotten a love letter in Season Two, asks if a "Dear John" counts.
  • Joel from Northern Exposure gets one of these from his fiancee in the season 2 premiere.
  • The storyline in the Porridge episode "Heartbreak Hotel" is Godber getting a letter from his girlfriend Denise.
    Fletcher: A "Dear John" letter?
    Godber: No, a "Dear Lenny" letter.
  • In Power Rangers Zeo, Tommy got such a letter from Kimberly, which successfully sunk their canon couple status to allow writers pair him with Katherine. The amount of fanfics this spawned qualifies it for PR's most infamous Fandom-Specific Plot. Again the 2010s comic (see the Comic Books folder above) explain this wasn't entirely the truth.
  • On a Saved by the Bell: The New Class episode, Screech receives one of these. The kids set him up with another girl to help get him over it.
  • In Smallville, Whitney gets a video Dear John letter from Lana so that she can pursue Clark.note  Ironically, Lana later pulls a repeat performance of this on Clark at the end of Season 7. This time it's not to pursue another person, she just believes that their relationship is holding him back from his true potential to be a hero. Except not. She was forced the make the video at gunpoint, and actually wanted to continue the relationship.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Hunters," Janeway gets one from her (former) fiancée, telling her that he got married. Justified, though, as she and her crew had been declared dead after disappearing from the Alpha Quadrant and had only recently reestablished contact with Earth after four years.
    • In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Silent Enemy," Trip gets one from his girlfriend Natalie, allowing him to lampshade the difficulties of a Long-Distance Relationship. 100 light-years is as long-distance as it gets in that era.
  • Titus: It initially seems as if Dave is going to kill himself after finding a Dear John letter from his girlfriend, Nancy. Titus shows up to stop him, only to discover he has instead joined the army. Nancy arrives to clarify that the letter wasn't to him but to her ex named John.
  • Tour of Duty. Averted when the wife concerned flies over to Vietnam to break up with him, saying that he deserves something better than just a Dear John letter.

  • The Taylor Swift song "Dear John" is a subversion of this trope. Even though the narrator is ending the relationship, the song reveals that she was involved in an unhealthy relationship with an older man, who it's implied took advantage of her and broke her heart. Thus the song is a six-minute-long "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Christian musician Keith Green had a slightly tongue-in-cheek song called "Dear John Letter (To the Devil)".
  • A sarcastic reading of a Dear John letter by its recipient comprises the entire lyrics of "Your Woman" by White Town, a UK #1 single in 1997.
  • Toby Keith's "Big Blue Note" is about the singer getting a Dear John on blue notepaper. After sitting up with it, showing it to his friends and even talking about it with his therapist, he finally goes to a cliff with his new blue notepaper airplane and tosses it off the edge.
  • The front cover of the final Led Zeppelin album, In Through the Out Door, portrays several different perspectives of the same scene at a bar of a man burning a "Dear John" letter in an ashtray. The last song on that album, "I'm Gonna Crawl", would seem to be written from this perspective.
  • Probably the original "Dear John" song: "A Dear John Letter", first recorded in the 1950s by Ferlin Husky and Jean Shepard and later covered by Pat Boone, in which a soldier (apparently actually named John) stationed overseas gets a letter from his girlfriend announcing that she couldn't wait any longer and decided to marry his brother. Stan Freberg parodied it as "A Dear John and Marsha Letter" (where she marries John's father and finishes the letter "That's all for now. Love, Mother").
  • Larry Finnegan's 1962 hit "Dear One" centers around one of these.
  • "Good" by Better Than Ezra is about the singer finding one. We only hear one line from it: "It was good living with you."
  • Doctor Steel sent one to one of the heads of his fan club, the Army of Toy Soldiers, upon his reluctant retirement.
  • "Postcard from Pasadena" by Gord Bamford. His girlfriend runs off with a tall dark stranger and breaks the news to him by sending a postcard that says, "Don't call, I'll call you."
  • The narrator of Collin Raye's "Little Red Rodeo" discovers a Dear John letter written by his girlfriend, who is leaving because he can't commit. This prompts a Race for Your Love, in which he goes to track her down, showing her photograph and asking people if they've seen his love with "Texas plates, candy apple red Rodeo."
  • Glen Campbell's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" is told from the point of view of a man who leaves a Dear John Letter for his lover and leaves her before she awakes, and while on the road imagines the things his lover will probably be doing by the time he reaches certain points on his route.
  • B.J. Thomas's "Billy and Sue" (1966) ends with Billy getting one of these from Sue while fighting in a war and deliberately letting himself get shot and killed in response.
  • "Letterbomb" by Green Day, within the context of their album American Idiot.
    "Nobody likes you
    Everyone left you
    They're all out without you
    Having fun"
  • Referenced in "That Ain't No Way to Go" by Brooks & Dunn:
    Lipstick letters across the mirror this morning
    Said, "goodbye, baby." You left with no warning...
  • The lyrics of Olivia Newton-John's "Please Mister Please" (1975) imply the narrator received one of these from her ex-boyfriend:
    But I guess I'd better get myself together
    'Cause when you left you didn't leave too much behind
    Just a note that said, "I'm sorry," by your picture
    And a song that's weighing heavy on my mind
  • "Home and broken-hearted" by Cold Chisel is all about the narrator coming home to find a very curt one of these from his wife propped up against the dressing table mirror. He doesn't take it well (and notes that her leaving on the week before Christmas is especially mean).
  • B.B. King: "I've Got a Mind to Give Up Living" features the singer's ex leaving a breakup letter in her spot in bed.
  • Tim McGraw's "When She Wakes Up (And Finds Me Gone)" has a Rare Male Example. Here it's portrayed as a cowardly choice, because he's writing it to avoid seeing her heartbroken reaction when she realizes he's left her.

  • Don't Drink the Water: After developing cold feet Susan calls off her engagement to Donald via letter. Justified in that she's trapped in a hostile country and cannot leave the US Embassy.
  • On the Town: Ivy leaves Gabey a letter at a nightclub, claiming she has to attend a "high society affair". In reality, she took a job as a hooch dancer on Coney Island to pay for her dance lessons, and her teacher threatened to write to her folks about what she's been doing if she didn't make her 11:30 shift.

    Video Games 
  • Call of Duty:
  • Dragon Age: Origins: The mission 'Correspondence Interruptus' features you finding various love letters. One of which is these, addressed to an actual Ser Jon no less. It features all the usual things: It's Not You, It's Me, I need to find myself, and Let's Just Be Friends.
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, the Inquisitor can receive one of these from a dying soldier, who asks that it be left in the hollow tree where her sweetheart looks for her letters; instead of telling him she's dying, she makes it sound like she's breaking up with him, so he can move on faster. Meanwhile, in Skyhold, the Inquisitor can find one which was apparently sent to an Inquisition soldier, telling him that his girlfriend is dumping him for another woman (because she won't go off to war).
  • Flight of the Amazon Queen has the girlfriend break up with John, because she found a doctor.
  • At the end of StarCraft: Brood War, and Kerrigan's ascension, Admiral Gerard DuGalle sends a letter to his wife in Earth about everything which happened in the game. The cutscene ends with a Gory Discretion Shot. Gerard has committed suicide.
    "Dearest Helena, By now the news of our defeat has reached the Earth. The creatures we were sent here to tame are un-tamable, and the colonies we were sent to reclaim have proven to be stronger than we anticipated. Whatever you may hear about what has happened out here, know this; Alexei did not die gloriously in battle. I killed him. My pride killed him. And now my pride has consumed me as well. You will never see me again, Helena. Tell our children that I love them and that their father died in defense of their future. Au revoir."
  • In The Last of Us, players can find a letter from Frank to his partner, Bill, next to his body, Frank having hung himself after being infected. Unlike most Dear John letters, Frank's letter to Bill is incredibly bitter and hateful.
  • In Mass Effect 3 a human woman ponders to do this to her serving husband, leaving him for her Asari mistress. And then begins to get second thoughts when the Asari starts backpedaling at the thought of them being in a serious long-term relationship.note 
  • Wolfenstein: The Old Blood has an example, but rather than being given to an Allied soldier, it's given to a German soldier.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Katawa Shoujo, main character Hisao receives one from his old sort-of girlfriend Iwanako part way through the story. The way he reacts to it is different in each route depending on how he's changed through his current relationship, though in all of them it causes a barrel full of mixed feelings and introspection on his part.

    Web Animation 
  • Etra-chan saw it!: After a year of work and neglect, Tsutsuji leaves behind a letter for Akamatsu to find, which said that she is leaving him. However, she doesn't divorce him because Akamatsu gave her a letter earlier before she left about how much she meant to him and the two talk to each other about their issues.
  • In the Strong Bad Email "2 years", Strong Bad predicts that the stop sign will break up with the cinder block it sits on. Cue the most generic breakup letter ever written.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Nightmare Time
    • In the episode "Time Bastard," Jenny was in love with her best friend Ted, but was convinced he only viewed her platonically, so she only got up the courage to confess when she was leaving town to be with another man. She sent him a letter, explaining that she had always loved him and wished him nothing but happiness, but it was simply too painful for her to be around him every day knowing her feelings would always be unrequited, so this would have to be goodbye. Except Ted did love her back, and losing Jenny in this way was the first in a series of Disaster Dominoes that leads to a major Trauma Conga Line for Ted, Jenny, and the man she planned to leave town with. Had she simply had the spine to at least say goodbye to his face, none of it ever would've happened. She wasn't trying to be cruel, but she irreparably hurt several innocent parties, herself included.
    • In the episode "Yellow Jacket," Lex leaves one of these to her boyfriend Ethan. She and her sister are on the run from scientists who want to experiment with their powers, so she breaks up with him to keep him safe.
  • Not Always Romantic has two stories (so far) about "Potong Jalan" — the Singlish (Singaporean-English) version of this trope.
  • Referenced in The Onion: U.S. Quietly Slips Out Of Afghanistan In Dead Of Night
  • Spoofed with the TFWiki's page for Rescue Force 2's (yes, that's his actual canonical name) Molecule Breaking-Up Weapon.
    Dear Decepticon,
    I know that we are enemies, but I have to put my job first, before any interpersonal relationships. When I saw you trapped under that pile of rocks, I knew in my heart that I had to let you go free, no matter what it might mean for you and me in the future.
    To that end, I used my molecule breaking-up weapons to destroy the bonds holding those rocks together, allowing you to escape. I want you to know that I would have done the same thing if I had seen you trapped by fire. It would have been a simple thing to convert into my armored water cannon mode and direct high-pressure jets through those same weapons, extinguishing the spark that once burned brightly.
    But you must understand that this is a task I cannot carry out for only one individual. I know that being crushed by tons of debris hurt you very deeply, and I only hope in time the pain will fade.
    - Rescue Force 2

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In "The Day of Black Sun, Part 1: The Invasion," Zuko writes a letter to Mai about leaving her and the Fire Nation, so that he can help Aang defeat his father and end the war. She is not amused of the letter.
    Mai: "All I get is a letter? You could have at least looked me in the eyes when you ripped out my heart."
  • Non-romantic version in Bojack Horseman. Near the end of the final season, Bojack has been trying to get in contact with his half-sister, Hollyhock, after it was revealed how he was involved in Sarah Lynn’s death. Eventually he finds out she changed the number on her phone and sent him a letter which he reads while at a frat party. We never find out what it said, but Bojack is devastated by the content; it's implied that she told him that she was cutting ties with him. Considering she was the only stable and living family member in his life, it's what really pushes him over the Despair Event Horizon.
  • In the Season 2 Donkey Kong Country Episode, "Hunka Hunka Burnin' Bluster", King K. Rool has a fake one written out to DK from Candy as an attempt to strip him of his motivation in protecting the Crystal Coconut. When received, Diddy even explains this trope to DK, who doesn't take it well, but Diddy manages to cheer him up almost instantly by proposing the idea of calling Candy out on it.
  • In The Flintstones movie "I Yabba-Dabba-Do!", Pebbles thought she was getting one of these from Bamm-Bamm after she had been listening to one of her more cynical friends about relationships, but it was really a love letter ending with him proposing.
  • On King of the Hill, Bill's wife Lenore left him without any notice, leading him to cling to the belief she would return for years. He eventually snaps in the episode "Pretty, Pretty Dresses" and (in his mind) tells Lenore off for abandoning him, saying that he was at least worth a Dear John letter.
  • On The Looney Tunes Show, Lola learns the concept of a Dear John letter from a movie. Later, Bugs leaves a note to a mechanic named John on his broken microwave, reading "Dear John: This isn't working." Lola sees the note, assumes it's addressed to her (never mind that it doesn't say "Dear Lola", but that's Lola for you) and leaves to a monastery to find inner peace. But before she leaves, she catches a cockroach trying to enter her apartment, so she leaves a note for all bugs to go away. Naturally, Bugs sees a note reading "Dear Bugs: I don't want to ever see you again" and assumes the worst.
  • Popeye:
    • In an Al Brodax cartoon, Popeye's trained fleas fly the coop on a passing dog. They leave him a Dear John letter which ends with "Help!".
    • The Fleischer shorts "I Never Changes My Altitude" and "Me Feelins is Hurt" have these too.
  • Rick from Rick and Morty gets this from Unity, a hive-minded entity that he had a thing with. In "Auto Erotic Assimilation", she realizes how much of a bad influence he is, she, along with the population she assimilated, left the planet empty and littered with breakup letters for Rick to read.
  • The Simpsons:
    • At a meeting of Caustic Critics, the Farm Supplies Critic mentions his favorite recent quip in a review of a tractor:
      "We see John Deere has a new line of roto-tillers. Surprise, surprise; they're green! I'd say it's about time someone sent John Deere a Dear John!"
    • Homer receives a videotaped Dear John from Marge in The Movie. For an extra punch to his (and the audience's) gut, she taped it over their wedding video, so immediately after she's done, it cuts to them dancing at their wedding. Ouch.
  • South Park: In "Skank Hunt," the girls at South Park Elementary protest the misogynistic trolling in the town by handing breakup letters to their boyfriends and walking off. The standout example, Wendy's breakup note to Stan, reads, "This is goodbye forever, Stan. I can't fix you. Wendy."
  • In the Tom and Jerry short "Tom and Chérie", the last letter Jerry receives from his girlfriend Lilli says "L'amour est fini."translation 


Video Example(s):


What's Your Problem?

"All I get is a letter? You could've at least looked me in my one eye when you ripped out my heart!"

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / DearJohnLetter

Media sources: