Rosenthal: Words used to break up and what they mean |

Rosenthal: Words used to break up and what they mean

Neil Rosenthal
Eagle County CO, Colorado

I was once in a brief relationship where I fell head over heels with a woman I fully intended to marry. When she abruptly ended our relationship, with almost no warning, the words she used were “I love you but I’m not in love with you.”

To admit that I was stunned by this rejection is an understatement. I was reeling.

A rejection is usually accompanied with words like: “The magic is gone.” “You’re too needy.” “You’re not the person I married.” “I can’t be who you want me to be,” just to name a few. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of such words from someone you love, they can be very confusing and disorienting. You love me but you’re not in love with me? What the hell does that mean, exactly?

If you’ve ever been confused by someone rejecting you ” or if you are now ” I have compiled a list of reasons people often give when breaking up, and I’ll try to help you understand what they mean and what, if anything, you can do about it.

What is said: “I’ve lost myself in this relationship.”

What it really means: It’s probably true.

What you can do: Ask “How have you lost you, and how can we help you find yourself so you don’t feel you have to give yourself up in order to be with me?”

What is said: “The magic is gone.”

What it really means: It’s probably true.

What you can do: Ask “What do you need, and what can I do, to help us restore that magic?”

What is said: “You’re too needy.”

What it means: You’re leaning on me too much. You’re too dependent on me, and perhaps insecure without my constant reassurance. You want too much of me, or too much from me.

What you can do: Explore how to create greater independence in the relationship, within certain agreed upon boundaries.

What is said: “Our religions (backgrounds, races, colors) are too different.”

What it really means: My family will never accept you ” or I won’t accept you long term ” or you (or your family) won’t ever accept me.

What you can do: Probably nothing. You’re being told this is a deal breaker.

What is said: “I’m not good at relationships.”

What it really means: I’m not good at communicating my feelings, desires, needs and irritations ” or being monogamous ” and I’m not skilled enough to work through differences with you.

What you can do: Explore whether there is any interest in your partner learning better relationship skills. If so, go to a marriage/relationship therapist.

What is said: “There is someone else.”

What it really means: One of two things. Either I am choosing someone else over you ” or I am telling you this as an excuse to get rid of you.

What you can do: Lick your wounds and then go out and find someone who wants you. There is nothing else you can do.

What is said: “I love you but I’m not in love with you.”

What it really means: “I don’t love you, although I do care about you.”

What you can do: Cry. You can’t make someone else love you no matter what you do.

I will continue exploring these reasons for breaking up in next week’s column.

Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver and Boulder, specializing in how people strengthen their intimate relationships. He can be reached at 303-758-8777, or e-mail him from his Web site,

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