12 phrases men use in a relationship when they think they can do better, according to psychology

When men want out of a relationship they don’t always have the courage to break up. 

But they still think they can do better. 

They think the relationship isn’t a fit:

So they start using phrases which are aimed at distancing themselves from their partner and starting a slow-motion break up. 

According to psychology, men often express the following sentiments when they feel they’re in a relationship that’s below them or wasting their time and potential. 

Let’s take a look. 

1) “I need some space.”

This is the classic phrase of a guy who wants to create distance.

He wants both emotional and physical distance. 

This can be true even if he’s not certain how he feels. He wants the space to decide if he’s really in or not. 

“They’re not discontented with their current relationship, but they still find themselves wondering if they should keep looking for a better one,” explains psychologist Randi Gunther, PhD.

This can be especially common if the relationship is getting serious and the man is starting to wonder if there’s somebody better out there for him. 

2) “You deserve someone better.”

This is reverse psychology at its finest. 

He really means that he wants somebody he considers better. But he flips it around and says that it’s his partner who can do better. 

This phrase usually suggests either

  • Self-pity tendencies and fishing for sympathy and affection or;
  • A lack of commitment and an indirect way of trying to shuck off his partner so he can move on to someone else.

3) “I’m not sure about our future.”

Nobody’s sure about the future. It’s unknown. 

But when a man says this he means he’s not sure about his future with his partner, specifically. 

“As a man who was stuck sitting on the fence and questioning in most of my relationships, I wish I had the guts to do my part sooner,” opens up therapist and self-development writer David Jurasek.

“To have either faced my own shit and committed fully to loving my partner or to have stepped back with honesty, love and respect.”

The phrase above expresses doubt about the long-term future of the relationship but is basically an indirect way to say it. 

4) “I feel like I’m missing out on something.”

Whichever issues he may or may not be having, this is not the phrase of a man who’s sure of how he feels and his commitment level. 

In many cases, he feels he can do better. 

This could be for a number of reasons, including that he feels like his partner needs him too much. 

As mental health and self-development writer Rinatta Pares puts it:

“Men want a woman to choose them from a place of ‘want’ rather than from a place of desperation — either materially or emotionally. Men need to be wanted and needed by their partners, but they want their partners to have a separate identity.”

This is a solid point by Pares and points out the difficulty of sustaining a relationship without a lot of self-love and self-esteem. 

Whatever he feels he’s missing out on, it’s an unwinnable argument to try to convince him he’s not. 

5) “We’ve been arguing a lot lately.”

This is his way of acknowledging a lot more conflict that’s been happening lately. 

It provides a stronger justification for parting ways and it also points to his belief that the relationship may not be a fit and he can do better. 

“Shame and guilt tend to keep men stuck and or reactive by making really bad decisions, which neither of you want,” observes Jurasek.

This tends to go in a toxic cycle, unfortunately. 

Indeed, one of the most ironic tragedies of many broken relationships is that half the arguments end up being about why the couple is arguing or searching for reasons to argue because one or both of those involved are already quite unhappy.

6) “I need to focus on myself right now.” 

This suggests he wants to prioritize his own development and growth right now, rather than the relationship. 

It’s a signal that he’s disengaging and believes he can do better. 

This attempt to do better may be mainly by focusing on himself at this point, as well as the idea that if he can be more true to who he is and what he wants he will meet what he considers to be a more well-suited partner. 

As Gunther notes, “the search for the right long-term partner can feel like traveling through an archipelago of islands, sampling the attractions and limitations of each. There is always the wonder of new experiences, the exploration of all that is offered, and the decision to nest there or to continue searching.”

7) “I’m not ready for something serious.”

On the surface this just means a guy isn’t ready for something serious. That may well be the case. 

But to translate it quite bluntly? Most of the time it means he thinks he can do better. 

This is especially true if he feels he’s being manipulated or pressured to get more serious than he wants to right now. 

“Men want no manipulation of any kind,” notes Pares. 

“They do not want to have to read their partner’s mind or try to interpret signals. They do not want to be forced to move faster in a relationship than they are ready.”

If he starts to feel like he’s being backed into a corner romantically he may well start balking about not wanting something serious. 

This leads to the next phrase: 

8) “We should take a break.”

When a relationship is going the way a man hopes and he’s committed fully, this just isn’t something he says.

It’s what he says when he thinks he can do better or when he’s feeling uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the relationship (or both). 

He wants a break because he just can’t deal with the way things are going right now, even if they’re only bad on his side. 

In one way or another he wants other options, even if that option is to be alone for a while. 

9) “This relationship isn’t turning out well for me.”

This is his way of signaling his own emotional disengagement. 

He feels that his relationship is going down a disappointing path that he’s already been down.

“It is a sad but true fact that many people pick the same kinds of partners and repeat the same mistakes in every relationship,” Gunther explains.

It’s an indirect way of expressing doubt about the relationship’s viability and hinting at a potential exit.

He’s seeing warning signs that make him want to jump ship. 

He believes he can sail to calmer waters elsewhere.

10) “I’m really busy with work/school/life right now.”

We all get very busy sometimes. 

But being busy can also be a very convenient and cheap excuse. 

For many men these excuses are simply the stand-in for when they worry they’ve made the wrong choice or could do better. 

Men have “gained the freedom to endlessly explore new possibilities, but are often overwhelmed with fears of making the wrong long-term relationship choice,” points out Gunther.

She’s absolutely right. 

No matter how busy a man is, he will make time to be and stay with a woman he loves. 

11) “I need to figure out what I want.”

This may well be true. 

But if he’s not yet sure that he wants to be with his partner it’s usually because he believes he can do better or because he doesn’t have strong enough feelings for her. 

It’s key to realize this has nothing to do with the woman’s value, nor does it speak to her being unattractive in any way.

“It’s taken me a second to accept that how I’m perceived by a man, doesn’t have anything to do with who I actually am,” notes Alvarez.

By contrast, this is about the man and indicates his uncertainty about his desires and the kind of person he’s attracted to and wants to be with. 

12) “We want different things.”

This may be true. 

When a man says this it points to fundamental differences in goals or values.

They believe the relationship may not be a very good fit. 

Their partner may truly disagree or feel the relationship is actually a very good fit, but unfortunately it takes two to tango. 

If a man says this he’s already heading for other partners he’d consider more on his wavelength and life path. 

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If a man uses these 7 phrases regularly, he isn’t ready for a serious relationship