“It’s not you, it’s me.” “I need some space.” “It’s a crazy time at work…” Ever wondered what men are really thinking when they toss out one of those hackneyed breakup lines? To find out, we asked both experts and regular guys to give it to us straight. Here’s what they told us...
What he says: “It’s not you, it’s me.” What he really means: “This means: It is you,” says Scott Haltzman, M.D., Medical Director of NRI Community Services in Woonsocket, RI and coauthor of The Secrets of Happily Married Men and The Secrets of Happily Married Women. “You’re not to his taste, and you might as well move on.” By dusting off this classic excuse, he’s trying to soften the blow (as if an amazing woman like you needs to be babied like that!). But before you get too annoyed, consider this his attempt to shoulder the blame — which he wouldn’t do unless he really respects you, says Rick Blaiser, 31, a writer in New York. “We save this line for women that we consider to be cool, and maybe even want to stay friends with,” explains Blaiser.
What he says: “I need my space.” What he really means: You’re, um, kind of driving him nuts. Yes, your man feels smothered, but the good news is that it may have absolutely nothing to do with you. “Many men have a fierce independent streak, and when they start to feel that they’re losing their autonomy, they do what any caged animal naturally seeks to do — escape!” says Haltzman. The relationship could be moving too fast emotionally or physically for his taste, or perhaps you’re seeing each other too often, suggests L. Joan Allen, relationship coach and author of Celebrating Single and Getting Love Right: From Stalemate to Soulmate. (In some cases, backpedaling and giving him some space may, in fact, help ease his relationship claustrophobia.)
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Sometimes, however, a man feels suffocated even when you’re not coming on too strong. “Being in love is a form of losing control,” explains Haltzman. “If your guy’s not used to it, there’s a good chance that as he starts to get too close, he may feel an instinct to pull away from you.” (So that explains those guys who call you three times a day, drop by every night — then tell you that you’re crowding them!) But this breed of breakup doesn’t always stick, notes Haltzman: “If he’s balking at making a deeper emotional connection, sometimes, a little space will help change his mind.” So if you’re hoping for a reconciliation, your best bet is to simply get on with your life — and let him figure out for himself how lonely his life is going to be without you.
What he says: “Work is crazy — I don’t have time for a relationship right now.” What he really means: Sorry, but he’s just not that into you. Work may be busy, sure, but “if you’re important enough to him, he’ll find a way to fit you into his schedule,” asserts Haltzman. Lots of important men manage to juggle their careers and a relationship; just look at Donald and Melania Trump, Michelle and Barack Obama, and countless others who’ve managed to do so under the media’s microscope. Ask yourself this: “If Halle Berry or Charlize Theron came to your guy’s door in the middle of his ‘crazy work schedule,’ would he send her packing?” asks Haltzman. “If the answer is ‘no,’ then you’ve got to wonder why he could find time for one of them and not you.” You also have beauty, brains, and talent — the only thing these actresses have on you are a few stinking statues. If he can’t see your worth, he’s not worthy of your time and attention. Next!
What he says: “I think we should see other people.” What he really means: He loves messing around with you, but he would like to do that with other women, too. Take it from John Brown, 36, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, who admits to having a “friend” who has pulled this stunt. “When a guy says he thinks you should see other people, he wants to ‘see’ if you’d be willing to let him sleep with other women, guilt-free,” Brown explains. “He still thinks you’re hot — if he didn’t, he’d completely end things — but he doesn’t want all of the obligations that come along with being your boyfriend.” (Remember, John Brown’s just the messenger, people… but he has a point.)
What he says: “You’re too good for me.” What he really means: He’s not good boyfriend material — and he knows it. When a man says that you deserve a better guy than himself, run — yes, run — the other way. “Most people overestimate their value,” notes Haltzman. “They think they deserve that raise or to be chosen as the winner on American Idol. So if a man tells you that he’s not worthwhile, he’s probably right.” This bad-news dude is flat-out telling you that he doesn’t put much stock in what it takes to make a relationship work, like honesty, trust, or fidelity, says Haltzman. Bottom line: “Believe him and thank him for saving you from a lifetime of misery,” says Allen.
Lisa Lombardi is a New York-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Redbook, Child, Marie Claire, and Cosmopolitan.