The Top 5 Breakup Cliches

its_not_you_its_meT-shirt from Rumplo

While every breakup is a cliché to some extent (did you really think you were the first person in the history of relationships to be dumped for a RealDoll?), there are certain phrases a dumper can use that have been uttered so many times in so many breakups that they now convey about as much emotion as noting, “Terrible weather we’re having for this time of year, eh?” The following top five clichéd dumping lines are typically preceded by the all-time cliché “We need to talk”:

  1. “I love you but I’m not in love with you.” Literal translation: I no longer find you attractive—if I ever did—and the thought of sleeping with you now repulses me. Please don’t cry.
  2. “It’s not you, it’s me.” Literal translation: You want to be in this relationship and I don’t.
  3. “I’m not ready for a relationship right now.” Literal translation: I’m not ready for a relationship with YOU. This is known as the fortune cookie rule.) You know how you’re always supposed to add “… in bed” onto the end of the fortune that came in the cookie with your lo mein? Well, with breakup excuses, try adding “… with you” to see if the dumper’s excuse/explanation makes more sense. For example, “It’s not you, it’s me … with you.” “I’m too depressed… with you.” If that just gives you the blues instead of giving you clarity, you could always try adding on “… in bed” instead, just to make yourself feel better. “It’s just not working for me … in bed.” “You’re great, I’m an idiot … in bed.” “I think we should just be friends … in bed”
  4. “You want more than I’m prepared to give.” Literal translation: You want more than I’m prepared to give to YOU. (Ditto on the Fortune Cookie Test.)
  5. “I think we’re just meant to be great friends.” Literal translation: I’d like to keep sleeping with you if that’s okay with you.

While no one ever wants to be handed one of these clichés word-for-word (it’s like being dumped by a Hallmark card), the basic concept—to avoid hurtful specifics and maybe even make the dumpee feel good about themselves—is benevolent. So if you’re about to dump someone for one of the above five reasons, do them a favor and put the phrase in your own words—it’ll make them feel like you stewed over this decision for more than five minutes. Sure, they’ll probably beg you for specifics, but don’t give in! In the long-run, this breakup will be a whole lot smoother if you can stick to the script. A particularly astute dumpee may ask, somewhat sarcastically, “So basically what you’re saying is, it’s not me, it’s you?” Or worse, “So basically, what you’re saying is, the thought of sleeping with me now repulses you?” Be warned: They’re just trying to trap you into giving up more details. Don’t do it! Because while your ex will whine for a few days to their friends about how “lame” it was to be dumped with a top-five cliché, it’s nothing compared to how one tiny, specific, ugly detail will rattle around in their head for the next decade.

Tune in tomorrow for our Top 5 Breakup Lies. For more on breakups, please see our guide to dumping and being dumped, “Buh Bye.”


  1. i could have used the decoder a few years ago. would have saved me the trouble trying to decode it. But its so true.

  2. My favorite ever, courtesy of Samantha Jones:

    “I love you, but I love me more.”

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