By Chris Seiter

Published on May 31st, 2023

I’d like to have an honest discussion about the true meaning of having an ex say, “It’s not you, It’s me” to you.

You know, the truth is that the meaning of the phrase depends on the tone, context, and the relationship between the people involved.

However, for the purposes of this discussion we are going to look at it from a relationships context right as the person ended the relationship.

Here are some of the thing’s I’ll be discussing.

  • How exes will disguise saying “it’s not you, it’s me.”
  • The three different meanings of “it’s not you, it’s me.”
  • How to handle an ex saying it to you.

Okie doke! Let’s get started.

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Most Of The Time “It’s Not You, It’s Me” Isn’t Explicitly Stated Anymore

Before I delve into the actual meanings, I’ve identified three, it’s important to note that the phrase ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ isn’t often explicitly stated anymore. It’s frequently masked by a variety of different phrases, all of which share a common theme, altruism.

For instance, let’s say your ex is in the process of breaking up with you and they say, “I need some time to focus on myself right now.”

That’s essentially a variant of ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’

Here’s a quick list of the many different “variations” I’ve noticed over the years,

  • ‘I’m going through a lot right now and I don’t want to drag you into it,’
  • ‘I’m not ready for a serious relationship,’
  • ‘I need to figure out my own life before I can be part of someone else’s.’
  • ‘I don’t think I can give you what you need or deserve.’
  • ‘I need to work on myself before I can be a good partner to anyone’
  • ‘I’m not in a place where I can be the person you need me to be.’

There’s a hint of altruism subtly woven into each of these phrases which leads us pretty seamlessly to the first major meaning I’d like to explore.

Meaning #1: The Fake Altruism “It’s Not You, It’s Me.”

To unpack this, we must consider the longstanding philosophical debate between altruism and egoism.

Altruism essentially refers to selfless concern for the well-being of others. An altruistic individual makes decisions based on what’s best for others, often requiring personal sacrifices. Advocates of altruism argue that we have a moral obligation to assist others, leading to a more harmonious society.

Sounds ideal, right?

Well, there’s a contrasting group, the egoists, who staunchly oppose this concept.

Egoism is the theory that one’s self is the motivation and goal of all actions, grounded in self-interest. Egoists argue that individuals should act in their own self-interest, asserting that this is the moral approach to life. They believe that everyone acting in their own best interest ultimately benefits society as a whole.

The crux of the debate revolves around what motivates human behavior and what should guide our moral and ethical decisions.

I contend that most of us, at our core, are egoists, particularly in relationships, where we tend to seek the best deal for ourselves.

That’s not to discredit altruism entirely; it undoubtedly exists, exemplified when a mother risks her life to save her child.

However, when an ex says ‘I’m not ready for a serious relationship,’ or ‘I need to figure out my own life before I can be part of someone else’s,’ I don’t interpret these as altruistic statements.

More often than not, they’re offering a palatable excuse, one that paints them as altruistic decision-makers acting in your best interest.

The true test lies in their subsequent actions. Let’s say an ex breaks up with you using the ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ line or some other variant, claiming they’re not ready for a serious relationship.

If they then immediately jump into another relationship, their actions contradict their words, suggesting they were not as altruistic as they appeared.

Yes, it all comes down to my handy dandy words vs actions theory.

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Meaning #2: The Actual Altruistic “It’s Not You, It’s Me.”

The second interpretation of the ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ phrase we’re discussing is what I term the ‘genuine altruistic’ version.

This perspective flips the coin from the first interpretation where the phrase is a self-serving assertion in disguise.

There are, indeed, scenarios where someone may be truly altruistic.

For instance, they might be wrestling with significant personal issues like mental health struggles or substance abuse, and these challenges may hinder their ability to maintain or contribute positively to your relationship. In such cases, they might express their concerns genuinely, considering your well-being.

Though this scenario exists, I’ll venture to say it’s probably not the most common one.

While I don’t have statistical evidence to back this claim, it opens up a complex philosophical debate.

For example, this guy spent an entire video arguing that humans are entirely selfish and that’s ok,

And ya, I tend to agree.

He makes my case for me which is,

He makes my case for me which is, we are selfish but we are selfish in pursuit of what WE consider to be a greater good for us. Relationships, in that regard, are transactional. We give something over but we are also expecting to get something in return.

Thus, in my opinion, because of their highly transactional nature (with a few notable exceptions), it’s unlikely that altruism is going to shine through during a breakup.

Instead, what we often see is an individual making a decision that serves their best interests, even if it’s cloaked in the language of concern for the other person.

They might say it’s about not hurting you, but more often than not, it’s about them seeking a situation that feels better, more fulfilling, or less challenging for them. Ultimately, it’s an act of self-preservation or self-improvement, not selflessness.

Therefore, when someone says ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ it’s likely a manifestation of this inherent selfishness, regardless of how altruistically it may be presented.

This leads us neatly into the third interpretation of the phrase ‘It’s not you, it’s me.

Meaning #3: The I Still Want To Be A Hero In Your Eyes “It’s Not You, It’s Me”

This ties back to the first meaning we discussed, touching on egoism, but it’s somewhat more deceptive.

I view this as your ex-partner ending the relationship and providing a fabricated reason, knowing that the real one might hurt your feelings.

The nuance is that they still desire to maintain the image of a ‘hero’. After all, nobody likes being viewed negatively, especially by someone they care about.

While their feelings might not be as intense as they were at the start of the relationship, your opinion still matters to them on some level.

Consequently, they resort to the ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ explanation.

By doing so, they claim to be altruistic, framing themselves as the one who ended the relationship for your sake.

They want to be seen as the ‘hero’ and expect credit for this decision.

I’m not really sure there’s much more for me to dive in on this one.

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What Do You Do If Your Ex Says This To You?

I’ve wrestled quite a bit with what advice to offer in this section. Sure, I could suggest a witty comeback or a reverse psychology strategy, but when you peel back the layers, it all boils down to the basics:

  1. Implement the ‘No Contact’ rule
  2. Focus on outgrowing them.

Why the ‘No Contact’ rule?

Let me explain.

We’ve had clients who’ve been through breakups, didn’t manage to reconcile with their exes, but moved on to new relationships, only to face another breakup.

Yet, because they’d already been through our program and understood our strong emphasis on the ‘No Contact’ rule and the concept of outgrowing their ex, their response was different during the actual breakup.

Instead of tears, begging, or attempts to convince their ex they’d made a mistake, they calmly initiated the ‘No Contact’ rule.

So calmly, in fact, that it left their ex wondering if they’d ever really loved them at all.

This changes the dynamics, because it challenges the ex’s assumptions.

If your ex says, ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ as strange as it may sound, they hold the belief that they’re somehow superior.

I actually talk about that in this video (with my pedestal effect,)

They don’t think they’re necessarily smarter or more attractive, but rather, they believe they could win you back anytime they wanted.

By responding in a way that essentially says, ‘Alright, your loss,’ you disrupt their expectations and shift the balance.

But the crucial point here is that it all boils down to outgrowing your ex.

Outgrowing An Ex

This is a concept that many in our community fail to grasp. I’ll be on a live stream, stressing the importance of outgrowing an ex, citing success stories where this strategy has worked, and I’ll see people nodding.

Yet, I know for some, the message doesn’t truly resonate.

They get the concept of outgrowing an ex, but understanding it and actually doing it are two different things.

  • Outgrowing your ex is about finding something that you care about more than them.
  • It’s about dethroning them from the pedestal in your mind.
  • It’s about reaching a level of emotional maturity where you’re so secure in yourself and your capabilities that you know you won’t be alone forever.
  • You understand you don’t need your ex. You’re confident that you can move on and lead a fulfilling life without them.

This, my friends, is the right way to respond when an ex says, ‘It’s not you, it’s me.

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