“It’s not you, it’s me” is the classic breakup line people use when they are bored of their relationship and want to date someone else. They were once in love with you but they don’t feel the same way now so they use this tactic called pseudo-compassion wherein a statement looks very compassionate but in reality, it’s not. For example, “You deserve better” often translates to “I have fallen out of love with you/I definitely deserve better” or “God, I wish the timing was right” translates as “Long-distance is such a pain/I just want to explore drugs and casual sex, in peace.”
So, what does it mean when people say “it’s not you, it’s me” when nothing went wrong and the two of you were as happy as can be? Let’s find out with the help of counseling psychologist Kranti Momin (Masters in Psychology), who is an experienced CBT practitioner and specializes in various domains of relationship counseling.
It’s Not You, It’s Me: What It Really Means
Author Caroline Hanson has rightly stated, “I know when someone tells you they are doing ‘what’s best for you,’ you’re screwed. Those are not words you want to hear. It’s right up there with ‘it’s not you, it’s me’.” There, she said it. But then, why would someone opt for such a cliché, vague, mysterious and confusing way to end a relationship? “It’s me, not you” – let’s find out what these words really mean:
1. It’s not you, it’s me = I don’t have the courage to be honest
“Sorry, it’s not you, it’s me” is a defense mechanism where a person tries to rationalize the thought of a breakup, according to Kranti Momin. She says, “Since people feel bad about hurting their partners, they find ways to make themselves feel better about it. They project.” You might have lost interest in them or maybe you’re comfortable in the relationship but not in love anymore.
Thing is, you do still feel affectionate toward your partner and you don’t want to hurt them by being honest. You don’t want to be a heart-breaker. So what do you do when they text you: “Is everything alright with us, babe?” How do you respond to a text you don’t want to answer? You fake niceties and take all the blame so that you feel less guilty about dumping your partner.
You might think you’re using the “it’s me, it’s not you” reason because you want to cause less pain to your loved one but the truth is that you are doing it for your peace of mind – so that you feel less of a sinner and so that you can sleep better at night. So, when a girl says “it’s not you, it’s me,” it looks like it comes from a place of selflessness but it might be just plain selfish.
2. It is you, after all
Kranti points out, “When he says it’s not you, it’s me, it is definitely him. During counseling sessions, I’ve seen people come up with poor excuses for breakups. That’s the sad truth.
“For example, not liking the body type of a person (even when the person has all the other qualities like being super caring and loving). People feel ashamed of telling the truth in such cases as their conscience doesn’t allow them.” So, to not sound rude, they choose to say “It’s not you, it’s me.”
Related Reading: 20 Free Examples Of Breakup Letters And Tips
3. It’s not you, it’s me meaning: I have found someone else
On the question of why a man says “it’s not you, it’s me,” Kranti Momin responds, “He might be cheating on you. It could be one of the cheating guilt signs you need to watch out for. In such a case, you are not going to get the real reasons for the breakup, no matter how much you try. Obviously, they won’t tell you that there is someone new. They will just conveniently say: it’s not you, it’s me.”
How is it possible that they were head over heels in love with you a few days back and now they are acting as if they don’t deserve you? They are making it look like they aren’t worthy of your love. These are clear indications that they are either thinking about cheating on you or they must have already done the deed and are trying to hide their guilt by showing their pseudo-compassion.
4. I am going through something major
Sometimes “it’s not you, it’s me” means exactly how it sounds. What if they are going through depression? Or just lost a parent. Or quit their job to start something from scratch. Maybe they are going through a midlife crisis or some personal issues like depression, work rejection, or a major financial crisis they don’t want to share with you.
Such a major change may be making them push you away. Perhaps, they need some alone time to figure it all out. But whatever the issue is, it needs to be communicated to you effectively. Just saying “it’s not you, it’s me” doesn’t suffice. Ending a relationship on good terms can actually save a lot of post-breakup damage.
5. I constantly feel I will never be good enough for you
Sometimes, when someone says it’s not you, it’s me, it is more of a cry for help. Maybe they are genuinely going down the hole of self-hatred because they have put you on a pedestal and think that they don’t match up to you. If your partner is going through something like this, you need to ask yourself – Are you doing something to constantly trigger their inferiority complex? Do you consistently make them feel that they are unworthy and that you can do better?
Related Reading: How To Break Up With Someone Long Distance
It’s Not You, It’s Me — The Right Way To Break Up?
It’s very difficult to respond to the “it’s not you, it’s me” breakup conversation. You might want to ask them, “Why are you letting me go if there is nothing wrong with me?” Kranti says, “It all depends on how well you take it. Some see it coming because they can notice things going haywire in the relationship. Try to ask them the real reasons for the breakup.”
Since people are left confused when their partners break up with them without any reason, being honest is the ideal way to end a relationship. So, however tempting it seems, the “it’s not you, it’s me” tactic is not the right way to break up with someone as moving on without closure is very difficult.
Kranti says, “It doesn’t bring peace to your partner and they are kept hanging. Every person deserves closure, otherwise it scars them. If you don’t tell your partner the real reasons for ending the relationship, they may develop a fear of commitment and trust issues in the future.
“Don’t sound demeaning, rude, or hurtful, but please tell your partner the real reasons for the breakup. Don’t leave them guessing. If you have drifted apart, tell them you have. If you don’t want anything serious, tell them. Do communicate.” On the other hand, if you don’t like the way they look or speak or behave, don’t go into specifics. Just say something along the lines of “I am overanalyzing you and picking on every detail. It’s unfair to you and I need to figure out what I really want from a partner.”
Or if you have a ‘type’ in your mind and they are not able to tick the boxes of your expectations, say, “I am looking for too many things in one person. Maybe I will never find the ideal relationship I have in my mind. But I want to do justice to myself and give it a try.”
What to do when someone breaks up with you saying “It’s not you, it’s me”
A very famous saying goes, “The way they leave tells you everything.” If you are thinking about leaving someone by throwing around the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ line, it will only show them your weak character. But if someone has left you by using that heart wrenching statement, here are some things you can do:
- Respond to them without any resentment because they have shown their real nature. Be the bigger person and respond maturely by saying, “Yes. I know it’s you. Thanks for showing that I deserve better”
- Don’t badmouth them to others
- Try to move on without closure. If that seems impossible, talk to them and have a closure conversation
- Stay in touch with your friends and family, don’t isolate yourself
- Don’t force them to love you
- Practice self-care
- Believe that you will find love again
- “It’s not me, it’s you” is a famous excuse to break up with someone that people use when they are bored of the relationship or have fallen out of love
- Some other possible reasons that someone could use such a bad reason include infidelity or other major issues like depression or a family problem
- If someone doesn’t want to be with you, don’t lower your self-esteem by begging them to stay. Always leave the door open for those who want to exit your life
People often choose this line because it requires effort to tell someone why you fell out of love with them or what made them cheat. It’s an easy way out. Don’t let them believe they are the victim here. They are the ones who hurt you, so don’t let them guilt-trip you. Just hold your head high and move on.
This article was updated in April 2023.
Most of the time, no. It is just a coping mechanism to avoid sharing the real reasons for a breakup. Either the person who’s breaking up is too ashamed of those reasons or doesn’t want to be remembered as a villain. Either way, when things go bad in a relationship, it’s rarely a single person’s fault. Even if it’s true, you deserve more of an explanation as to why they are saying that.
It is a very vague statement and you might actually not know what to say to it. You can try asking them the real reasons for the breakup. And if they don’t give it, the last thing you want to do is beg them or plead them for closure. Close this chapter and start moving on.
She is not taking accountability at all. Blaming you for everything is unfair. She is just not brave enough to admit that she was at fault too. It takes two to tango… or to mess up a relationship. Admit what you did wrong. Don’t internalize the blame for anything that you didn’t do and move on.