Q: Last night my boyfriend gave me the “It’s not you, it’s me” speech. It took me by surprise because we have been living together for six months and looking to buy a house together. My friends have told me that we are rushing things and he doesn’t appear to really want to buy a house, but he was the one who suggested it, so I really didn’t question that was what he wanted. He said he doesn’t want to break up, he just needs space. Both lines are such clichés I’m at a loss at what he really means. What’s good ex-etiquette?

 

A: The lines are clichés because they are true, and often used for different reasons. Sometimes people don’t really want to break up, they just need some breathing room — or there are those times they really do want to move on, and they are trying to let you down easy. I think you’re asking, which one do we have here?

Since I have not been privy to how your relationship unfolded, I really don’t know your boyfriend’s feelings, but I can point out a few things that will lead you to figure it out for yourself. This is a good time to get clear about what you really want.

First, if he’s sending mixed messages it often means he doesn’t know what he wants and he’s just cruising through life until he trips on something that gets his attention. It could also be a signal that he is rethinking the commitment. Or, he’s just playing. None of these is a good sign. If you are more goal-oriented, he may not be your match.

Next, actions speak louder than words. Although he may be the kind of guy who just likes some alone time, and truthfully, that’s healthy, particularly if he knows himself and is making his boundaries clear, but while he’s getting that alone time it feels like an excuse to get away from you, that’s a red flag. Men who want you around make it very clear. You know the saying, “He’s just not that into you?” If that’s the way it feels, it’s time to ask, “Why am I here?”

So, what’s good ex-etiquette? Simply, good behavior in past, present or future relationships. Sounds like it’s time for a frank conversation. Good ex-etiquette rule No. 8 is, “Be honest and straightforward.” That means be honest with him and yourself.

It sounds like your relationship is at a crossroads and the groundwork for change has been laid. If you want to stay, make it clear what YOU want. If buying a house together is a prerequisite and he’s backing off, there’s your sign. Or, you can gracefully bow out by telling him that you need a clearer direction for the relationship. Basically, that’s “It’s not me, it’s you.” That’s good ex-etiquette.

Jann Blackstone is the founder ofbonusfamilies.com.