image Debunking the Break Up Line, “It’s not You, it’s Me.”

Alex Bellink

Breaking up with someone truly is an art form. Some people have it mastered so well that they can break off a relationship with such ease and then there are those on the other side that have felt the sting so much they begin to see through all of bullshit associated with breaking up. 

The reality is always someone, or in some cases, both people want out, but one of us has to initiate it. It’s never easy for both people. It’s something that when the time comes, it must be done. How it is done though can leave us scratching our heads.

Unfortunately in my experience through dating, I’ve have gone through a plethora of different types of break ups. They are never easy, even if it is a short relationship. 

I’ve heard and been a party to it all. So much so that I see it as an art form. It contains an artistic quality because normally they are never the same, and there are typically different reasons each time that a relationship I have been in has ended.

Just as art can evoke emotions, so does a break up. Most will evoke the emotion of sadness. Some will make us feel relieved and at peace. However some break ups are comical and evoke laughter. 

While I certainly have ended things and had things ended with me in different ways, one of the most common phrases I have heard is the line, “It’s not you, it’s me,” line. 

Let us take a closer look at that and head back to reality. 

In a relationship, there will always be ups and downs. There will be defining moments both good and bad. However if we truly love someone we do not wish to leave them or push them away, especially if they are willing to accept our imperfections. Yet the line keeps coming. So there must be a deeper meaning behind it.

If we have heard that line or used it on someone else, the truth is that we or they wanted out regardless. It is actually the one break up line that can’t be denied or reversed. Once the words have been uttered, there is no quip pro quo that can re establish the relationship. It is finality at its most extreme.

It’s throwing in the towel by trying to make the other person not feel bad. On the surface, yes, it does sound selfless and polite to an extent, as the person using the line is doing so in hopes the other will not feel the harsh crash back down to earth.

Yet I would argue that the line is actually the biggest insult we can use or hear. 

What we really should be saying, or what we should interpret when we hear this line is “It’s not you, it’s not me, it’s actually you with me that doesn’t work.” 

Let those words sink in.

When I love someone or even care deeply for someone, I do so fully, imperfections and all. I accept my partner for all her beauty and all her faults. Sometimes, it’s even her faults I find the most beauty in. Yet when we use or hear those words we immediately go on the offense.

We begin to think of ways to fix the other person. Or if we have used the line, we know why we are parting, and we do not wish them to fix us. We may feel the need to be fixed, and we may even search for it immediately after which adds even more insult to the one left behind. If we truly cared about them or loved them, we would want them by our side or we would want them to be by our side while we get “fixed.”

We rationalize it to ourselves by thinking that at least we tried not to hurt them badly. If we hear the lines we might think that we are totally fine, but the truth is we are not.

Something didn’t click. Somewhere along the way one of us decided we are being held back from what we truly wish to do. The person might be a great person, yet we seek something different. So as a parting gift to the one left behind we wish them to be well and to have a good life…just not with them in it. 

Any time I have had this line spoken to me my initial reaction has always been “What can I do to help you? How can I still be a part of your life in some way and not totally lose you?” However the reality is that this type of break up is subtly asking for more space and distance than any other kind of break up.

It is the ultimate break up. The one that means our relationship can never get back to what it once was. 

Tell me I am a terrible person, or that I lack affection, or that I struggle with communication, or that I place too much emphasis on my work and not enough attention on you. Tell me something real.

I would rather hear a harsh truth than a false reality. At least I can learn something and improve for my next relationship with a harsh truth. My feelings are going to be hurt either way, so at least let me learn something from it so I can be better for the next person who comes in my life.

If it really is you and not me then you would at the very least leave a window cracked open for me to possibly return someday. Yet that has never been the case. It has never been the case if I’ve said it in the past or if someone has once said it to me.

Perhaps the most egregious part of being on the listening side of these words is that the one who leaves us will be in a new relationship well before we get in to a new one. Yet we were great right? We were not the problem.

It’s funny how it seems to work out that way. That is where I begin to laugh now because I have seen the reality. My eyes have seen the truth and the truth is that it is all one big lie.

Now I will not go as far as to be so cynical to say that in some extreme cases a person does have problems and they do need to completely disassociate themselves with everything in their surroundings to purse a dream or take care of a problem. However I still must add that if we really did have authentic and deep feelings for the other person, we would at the very least leave a trail of bread crumbs for them to follow should they decide to wait it out.

It is never healthy to wait for someone and we should never put our lives on hold for another that is distancing themselves from us. I am merely suggesting to not shut the door, lock it and walk away without ever looking back.

In that comes the harsh truth. If it’s not you, but them, you will soon find them smiling with a new partner by their side. One that made them happy in a way we could not. 

They got their cake and ate it too, while we stand idly by waiting and hoping for a new love interest to cross our path.

We were not directly offered the life lesson to learn. The best we can do is understand the true meaning behind the “It’s not you, it’s me,” line and try to figure out on our own what it was and how to be a better partner and make a stronger connection next time.

So while we may hear, “It’s not you, it’s me,” don’t be surprised if within a week or maybe a month at most they are wrapped around the arms of another. 

During this time we are still in shock wondering what went wrong. We were told it wasn’t “us,” yet we are now alone while the one who left us miraculously recovered and moved on.

Finally I would argue that this type of break up takes the longest to heal from. It’s within the search of why that we lose ourselves. Our instincts kick in and we know it truly isn’t just the other person, so we examine ourselves. Chances are the person who initiated this type of break up had been bracing for it for a little while and had already started to recover. They got a head start on us. So we get left in the dust.

Throughout it all, the best cure is to let it go. Do not chase after this type of person or wait around. This type of person did not give us the respect of being honest and up front about what truly wanted them to move on. We must distance ourselves and begin to heal on our own and not look back to this type of person. 

Other break ups offer something to be learned. This heinous line leaves us with nothing gained and nothing learned. All that is left is the sour taste in our mouth that we were not even afforded the decency of a direct and straight forward approach. 

Move on like the wind. Do not take it personal even though the true subtle message is personal. Keep hope for real love alive and never let this type of break up keep us down for too long. Be the better person and understand that the person who felt the need to resort to this line was never good enough for us anyways. A decent person would at least offer us truth and reality. 

Truth and reality is out there. It may be frustrating to find, but with a little patience, timing and luck, someone will cross our path again that is decent enough to treat us like a human being and be real with us.

Author: Adam Wilkinson

Adam Wilkinson, high school Social Studies teacher by day, freelance writer and free spirit by night. Firm believer in fate and that all things happen for a reason. Worshiper of the sun, ocean and the stars. Lover of tattoos, deep intellectual conversations and meaningful connections with like minded people. A jack-of-all-trades, so to speak. Someone once said of me, “You’re a lot of things, but one thing you never are is boring!” Words spoken from someone whom I’ve had a close bond with most of my life and words that I have always tried to uphold. “Vive intenso!”


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