His Breakup Excuses—Decoded

Ever wondered what guys are really thinking when they toss out one of those hackneyed breakup lines? To find out, we asked experts and real guys to give it to us straight.

By Lisa Lombardi

“It's not you, it's me.” “I need some space.” “It’s a crazy time at work…” Ever wondered what guys are really thinking when they toss out one of those hackneyed breakup lines? To find out, we asked experts and real guys to give it to us straight.

He says: “It’s not you, it’s me.”
Translation: “This means: It is you,” says Scott Haltzman, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown University. “You’re not to his taste, and you might as well move on.” By dusting off this George Costanza classic, he’s
“I need my space” means that he feels smothered, but it may have nothing to do with you.
trying to soften the blow (as if an amazing woman like you needs the blow softened!). But before you get too steamed, 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 girls we consider cool and maybe even want to stay friends with.”

He says: “I need my space.”
Translation: You’re, um, kind of driving him nuts. Yep, he feels smothered, but the good news is 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. It could be that the relationship is moving too fast emotionally or sexually, or you're seeing each other too often, adds L. Joan Allen, author of Celebrating Single and Getting Love Right. (In some cases, backpedaling and giving him space may ease his relationship claustrophobia.)

Sometimes, however, a guy feels suffocated when you’re not even 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 as he starts to get too close he may feel an instinct to pull away.” (So that explains those dudes who call you three times a day, drop by every night—then tell you you’re crowding them!) This breed of breakup sometimes doesn’t stick, notes Haltzman: “If he’s balking at making a deeper emotional connection, sometimes a little space will change his mind.” So if you’re hoping for a reconciliation, your best bet is to get on with your life—and let him figure out for himself how lonely his life is without you.

He says: “Work is crazy—I don't have time for a relationship right now.”
Translation: 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,” says Haltzman. Lots of important men manage to juggle a job and a relationship: Look at Donald and Melania! Ah-naald and Maria! “Ask yourself this: If Halle Berry came to your guy’s door in the middle of his ‘crazy work schedule,’ would he send her packing?” says Haltzman. “If the answer is ‘no’ then you’ve got to wonder why he could find time for Halle and not you.” You also have beauty, brains, talent—the only thing she has on you are a few stinking statues. If he can’t see your worth, he’s not worthy of you. Next!

He says: “I think we should see other people.”
Translation: He loves sex with you, but he would like it 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 girls, guilt-free," he explains. “He thinks you’re hot—if he didn’t, he’d completely end things—but he doesn’t want all the obligations that come with being your boyfriend.” Ouch! (Remember: John Brown’s just the messenger, people…)

He says: “You're too good for me.”
Translation: He’s a dog—and he knows it. When a guy says you deserve a better boyfriend, run—yes, run—the other way. “Most people overestimate their value,” notes Haltzman. “They think they deserve the raise or to be chosen as the next American Idol. So if a man tells you 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: honesty, trust, little things like fidelity, says Haltzman. Bottom line: “Believe him and thank him for saving you from a lifetime of misery," says Allen.

Lisa Lombardi is a writer and editor in New York.
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