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‘Avoid the trite excuses’: 3 phrases you should never use during a breakup

In Business
June 09, 2024

It’s challenging to strike the right tone when breaking up with a romantic partner. You want to be firm but empathetic, straightforward but not cruel.

This can be particularly hard for people who are conflict avoidant, says Lisa Marie Bobby, a psychologist and founder of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching. Instead of being honest about why they want to end the relationship, they give whatever they believe will be the least upsetting reason.

Though it may be done from a place of care, this strategy can be both frustrating and insulting to your partner.

“An expression of true love and caring is to have an authentic conversation about what is going on inside of you that has led you to come to this conclusion,” Bobby says.

Here are three phrases you should avoid when cutting ties with a romantic partner.

1. ‘I’m not in a place to be in a relationship right now.’

“Avoid engaging in excuses that obscure the truth,” Bobby says.

This includes phrases like “I’m not in a place in my life where I can be in a relationship” or “I don’t have the bandwidth to be in a relationship.”

“It’s all bulls—,” Bobby says. “These reasons don’t make any sense and the person on the other side will be asking lots of questions.”

Avoid engaging in excuses that obscure the truth.

Lisa Marie Bobby

Psychologist

Excuses like this might also leave the other person with false hope that you’ll want to be with them in the future.

“It leaves this door of possibility open in the mind of the other person because the meta message is ‘If and when my circumstances change then this relationship could have an opportunity,’ which it doesn’t,” Bobby says.

2. ‘I hope we can still be friends.’

Part of breaking up is re-drawing boundaries, says Rachel DeAlto, the relationships and communication expert at Tinder parent company Match Group.

Promising or even just suggesting friendship can often make it hard to do that. 

“Attempting to transition directly into a friendship can be unrealistic and potentially harmful,” DeAlto says. “Especially for those with hopes of reconciliation.”

3. ‘You deserve better.’ 

During a breakup you should try to provide information that will help the other person understand your thinking. Telling them they deserve better doesn’t reveal anything about your thought process.

“This can come across as insincere, patronizing and a way to shift responsibility for the breakup,” DeAlto says. “It also provides no clear, honest reason for ending the relationship.” 

Excuses like this also rob someone of the chance to learn something about themselves, Bobby says.

“In these conversations the other person may have the opportunity to absorb some feedback or insights about themselves that will help them grow and develop,” she says.

Breakup conversations are bound to be uncomfortable, but they don’t have to be misleading.

“Authenticity and transparency are very important,” Bobby says. “Avoid the trite excuses.”

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