The oldest breakup line in the book, and still the favorite way to get rid of a Temporary Love Interest. However, there's a key difference on television: sometimes, it's actually true!
Usually, when true, it's because the breaker-upper has a Big Secret. For example, in season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy breaks up with a guy because his craving for excitement/death wish would probably get him killed if he kept hanging around Buffy. Sometimes, "It's my enemies." Other times it's the Last Het Romance for a newly-out-of-the-closet character.
- One Piece:
- Joked with in Chapter 489/Episode 381.
- An implied non-romantic example is the situation between the world's most wanted criminal, Monkey D. Dragon and his own family. It's implied that he's extremely homesick.
- Mixed with Sins of Our Fathers in Penguindrum, when Shouma cuts off contact with his friend/love interest Ringo, as his family has connections with the incident in which her older sister Momoka died. Subverted later: after a certain incident in an onsen with Ringo and Yuri, the contact is re-taken.
- In Candy Candy, Terry leaves the Boarding School half to rebel against his neglectful father, half to stop causing troubles to Candy.
- Lucy in Elfen Lied loves Kouta, but feels she can't be with him because she killed his family in front of him, and because as the Diclonius Queen, she is meant to wage war on humans for the sake of her species.
- In Servant × Service, this is the reason why Lucy rejected Yutaka's offer to start dating. Initially, Yutaka was oblivious to it, and upon discovering it, he was quite happy; it means there's still a chance he can change her mind.
- You're Under Arrest! plays this straight in episode 33, when Kachou finally reveals why he doesn't reciprocate Natsumi's feelings for him:
Kachou: (aloud, to himself) You're a good girl, Tsujimoto. If only I were 20 years younger...
- This was Satsu's reason for leaving Buffy before their relationship could really start. Buffy was unsure of her feelings about Satsu, but Satsu was definitely in love with Buffy - so much that Satsu didn't trust her own judgement around Buffy. She solved the problem by getting transferred to Tokyo.
- In the Swedish comic Rocky, the titular character's girlfriend tells him that there are a couple thing she needs to talk with him about. Rocky predicts that the breakup clichés are going to pile up, and correctly enough, his girlfriend proceeds to tell him that "I don't know what I feel anymore" and "I need to be alone for a while", after this she, with tears in her eyes, asks him to say something, and he simply and bitterly answers "You forgot 'It's not you. It's me'!"
- In the Pre-Crisis universe, Superman had several personal reasons to resist a romance, and they vary depending on the story and era. In Krypton No More, he considers himself an outsider. In What Ever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow, he cannot choose between Lois Lane and Lana Lang because his choice would hurt Lana, and he would never want to hurt her.
- Robin: When Tim breaks off his relationship with Zoanne he puts all the blame on himself. Their relationship was already failing due to him standing her up when they were supposed to go on dates and the fact that they were both still trying to figure out if they liked each other romantically when Stephanie came back into Tim's life and he realized he still loved her.
- In Becoming the Mask, after Claire kisses him on the cheek twice, Jim decides to let her down easy and tell her that he is not into her.
- The Child of Love: After losing badly against an Angel, Shinji gets depressed because he thinks he is unable to protect Asuka and their child, ergo, he is unfit to be her boyfriend and Teri's father, so he breaks up, thinking she will find someone better and stronger. Asuka reacts as calmly as you would expect, and Misato and she spend an entire month trying to reason with him until Asuka had a long talk with him and they reconciled.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: After unintentionally beating a fellow pilot up, Asuka tries to push Shinji away and force him to break up with her because she's afraid of hurting him. It doesn't work.
Asuka: Please, leave. Just leave. I don't want to hurt you anymore.
Shinji: I'm... not going to leave.
Asuka: Then I'm just going to keep kicking you.
Shinji: I am not going to leave! I don't care how much you hurt me. Break every bone in my body if it makes you happy, but I am not going to leave you!
Shinji: Why can't you understand? I want to be there when you need me!
Asuka: I don't need you! I don't want to need you!
Shinji: But I need you! And I want to be with you forever!
Asuka: You... what? Why?
Shinji: You told me that if I couldn't live for myself, then... I should live for those around me. I... I can't live for myself, Asuka. So I'll live for someone else instead. I'll live for you."
- This is Harriett's reaction in The Rigel Black Chronicles to finding out that Draco Malfoy is interested in her. She really can't afford to date anyone in her cover identity as Rigel Black, or she'll be found out and face a life sentence in Azkaban — but also, because she's hiding so much, she's not sure that anyone who falls for Rigel really knows her.
- Scar Tissue: Deconstructed. After a botched synch test with Unit 02 Asuka starts to avoid Shinji because she fears that she will hurt him during her nightmares or Unit 02 will try to kill him. When Shinji finally confronts her about her behaviour and gets the truth out of her -that she is pushing him away to protect him- he tells that is the most stupid thing he has heard:
Shinji:"So you do care about me, huh?"
Asuka:"Yeah, [...] That's why I was pushing you away, so I wouldn't hurt you anymore, so you could be happy again."
Shinji:"That has to be the stupidest thing I ever heard"
- In the Katawa Shoujo fanfic Sisterhood, Hanako says basically this when (attempting to) breaking up with Hisao. The reason she feels that way is when Hisao had a heart attack in front of her, she suffered a panic attack and froze up, resulting in a passing stranger having to call the ambulance for the both of them. Hisao rejects this reasoning and manages to convince her that it's okay that she has issues too: they can work through it.
- In Minions, after jailing the Minions, Scarlet starts to tell them "It's not you..." then changes her mind. "No wait, it is you."
- Played for laughs in Strange Magic when Princess Dawn says this verbatim to the Bog King. She had only been in love with him because of an accidental hit with a love potion and had been very annoying and clingy during that time. Needless to say, he is very relieved. He's also in love with her sister anyways.
- Subverted and inverted in Euro Trip.
Fiona: Scotty, it's not you, it's me. (Beat) There I go, lying again. No, it was you.
- Jacob does this in the film version of New Moon when he tries to distance himself from Bella after discovering he's a werewolf.
- Uhura gave Spock the "It's not you, it's me" speech when they broke up at the beginning of Star Trek Beyond: McCoy's take on the situation? "When an Earth woman says 'It's not you, it's me', it's definitely you."
- A non-romantic example comes up in What About Bob?. The title character suffers from pantophobia (fear of everything). While sanitizing a payphone, he says this trope word for word to the woman who has just finished using it.
- In Pact, Blake Thorburn turns down an offer from his friend Alexis to be Friends with Benefits, telling her that it's due to his issues with intimacy and assuring her that if it weren't for that, he would go for it.
- In the twelfth Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note novel The Valentine Knows, Sunahara used that twice in an attempt to distance from Aya, animated as episodes 14 and 15. Neither of them works, as Aya's having a crush on him and was overly troubled by his apparent association with Japanese Delinquents.
- Warrior Cats: Dovewing dishes this out on Bumblestripe in Bramblestar's Storm. She broke up with him because she still loved her last mate, Tigerheart, and legitimately felt bad for stringing him along for so long.
- Farscape plays it straight, sort of:
Aeryn: (after an unsuccessful pickup attempt by another character) Now, don't feel bad. It's not you, it's me. I don't like you.
- Used repeatedly on Sex and the City, in both of the ways described above. One scene showed the same bland guy being dumped by a series of women using the exact same lines.
- Prue in Charmed uses this line repeatedly when her boyfriend Andy gets upset that she's keeping secrets from him and missing dates, and also when she eventually breaks up with him.
- Ellen of Slings & Arrows gives this line to her much younger boyfriend Sloan shortly after he asks her to marry him, saying that he deserves better than a middle-aged woman caught up in a drama-filled world (the theatre) that she can't let him into.
- The IT Crowd plays with this when Douglas discovers that his Temporary Love Interest is Transgender:
Douglas: It's not you, it's me. No, actually it's not me, it is you.
- Subverted in Coupling when Patrick tries to break up through her answerphone with one of his numerous conquests :
Um, I want to put this as gently as possible: I've been thinking a lot about the future, and you're not in it. So, sorry, it's not me, it's you...No, hang on, it's the other way around, isn't it?
- Steve does it in the first episode to Jane, who of course asks him why she's getting dumped instead of her dumping him. Steve runs with this, telling her to dump him, to which she replies "Noooooo! We can work on your problems!'
- Dawson's Creek: Played honestly at the end of season 4 when Pacey and Joey break up because he believes she can do better and he's holding her back from her future after graduation.
- In the Friends episode "The One with the Thumb", the characters discuss "dating language":
Joey: Y'know, like 'It's not you' means 'It is you'.
- Lampshaded in Flashpoint when Spike breaks up with Natalie.
Natalie: Please don't say, "It's not you, it's me."
Natalie: Okay. (Beat) But...it's not me, right?
Spike: It's not you.
- Later in the same episode, Spike gets a call from Natalie. He answers with, "Hey. It still isn't you."
- Caroline in The Vampire Diaries manipulates her boyfriend Matt into breaking up with her since, as a young vampire, she lacks the self-control to not rip his throat out in an intimate moment.
- Simone of Dårfinkar & dönickar, masquerading as a boy, uses this line on a girl who's interested in her. The truth is, of course, that the attractive boy Simon is really a she.
- In That '70s Show, Nina breaks up with Fez using this line. When she wants to get back together later in the episode, he blows her off with a mocking "It's not me, it's you".
- On Boy Meets World Shawn says this to Cory when they "break up" their friendship in the episode appropriately titled "It's Not You, It's Me".
- George from Seinfeld claims to have invented this trope (see the quote).
- When Robin on How I Met Your Mother once broke up with a boyfriend, she also "broke up" with his 10-year-old son. On realizing that nobody had broken up with him before, she was relieved that she could throw every cliched breakup line at him and he would believe her. "It's not you, it's me." "I'm going through a lot of stuff right now." "I just want to focus on my career." etc. etc.
- Lily becomes really, really excited when she finds out that Robin and Barney kissed, but they tell her that it was just a one-time thing. Brokenhearted, Lily asks if it's something she did. "Oh God no. It's not you, Lily, it's us." (With "We'll totally still be friends" thrown in as a bonus). Her response is "As long as you're happy, I'm happy." Cut to her sobbing and eating a gallon of ice cream in bed.
- In the third season finale of The Mentalist, "Strawberries and Cream," FBI agent Craig O'Laughlin uses this line on his fiancee, CBI agent Grace Van Pelt, just before trying to kill her. She and Teresa Lisbon get the drop on him and kill him instead.
- In the TV adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Going Postal, guilt-ridden Moist von Lipwig says to his love interest, "But you really have to stay away from me. It's not you, it's me." She replies, "Oh! Cliches, as well, now I really am insulted." It takes Lipwig's written confession of his crimes to make her believe he did mean the last part.
- When Jeff and Britta's Secret Relationship is found out in Community they decide to break it off.
Jeff: It's not you, it's m—Britta: It's you.
- The Stone Poneys' "Different Drum":
"Now I ain't saying you ain't pretty
All I'm saying is I'm not ready
For any person place or thing
Trying to pull the reins in on me"
- In Lady in the Dark, Liza says this to Kendall Nesbitt.
- Inverted in the aptly named Its You A Breakup Story, where your goal is to either convey to Josh why you're breaking up (his disregard for your feelings) or to make peace with the fact that none of your excuses will be good enough for him and block his number in your phone.
- Kanon tries this in the second arc of Umineko: When They Cry. He does this to spare Jessica heartbreak from loving someone who can't love her back. After all, he is furniture. Considering how it's revealed later on that there's something very wrong with Kanon physically due to injuries from being thrown off a cliff, he's probably justified in doing this.
- Dragon Age:
- The Player Character can use this line to break up with Leliana in Dragon Age: Origins. She will call you out on doing so, however, and demand the real explanation.
- Fenris says this to a romanced Hawke in Dragon Age II after their night together—he's got good reason, though, and he calls it 'the hardest thing I've ever done' in party banter. Later on, if you pursue it, he decides it was a stupid idea after all.
- Anders gets in on the action as well if you choose to romance him. He constantly declares all the reasons why he and Hawke couldn't be together (including the fact that he is an apostate, could never give Hawke a normal life, and the fact he is possessed by Justice) but in the end, if Hawke continues to pursue him, he gives in anyways.
- The tradition continues with Blackwall and Solas in Dragon Age: Inquisition, who can both dump the female Player Character romancing them, though they make it clear it's not because of you or anything you said or did, but because of their own issues behind the scenes. Blackwall reveals that he's a former war criminal who's been living under a false identity for years, and Solas is really Fen'Harel, the ancient elvhen god of legend.
- In Ni no Kuni, a minor NPC husband in Ding Dong Dell states this as the reason why he can't be with his wife anymore; it turns out that he's brokenhearted (had a piece of his heart stolen by the dark wizard Shadar) and needs some Love.
- While the line isn't actually said, the sentiment is the same in Tomoyo's route in CLANNAD, where Tomoya (temporarily) breaks up with her after being convinced that she's too good for him and he's only holding her back (her being The Ace and Student Council President and him being a delinquent.)
- The Gods of Arr-Kelaan plays with the trope with a God dismissing his High Priest.
- The second strip of Least I Could Do combines this trope with Brutal Honesty and Jerkass.
- TheOdd1sOut: The guy breaking up with the girl says this in the comic "Breaking Up".
- Spoofed: "It's not you, it's me. I don't want to be involved with a pussy."
- Also referenced: here.
- The trope is used in Head Trip, without any romantic connotations — to a demon.
Demon: Thank God you're still a bitch. That's a good start.
- In a Speedbump cartoon (by Dave Coverly), he gives an example of the worst use of this line, in which an angel is talking to her devil boyfriend.
- The trope is inverted in Wapsi Square when the phrase is used to start a relationship. The inversion is then promptly lampshaded.
- In El Goonish Shive, Susan uses the line in an attempt to let Matt down easy after rejecting his advances. She goes on to justify it though, explaining why it is probably her and not him.
- In No Rest for the Wicked, November assures the Boy that though she's not fit to marry, it's not that she doesn't like him.
- Ménage à 3 hints at an unusual variant of the trope (involving therapeutic ethics), and then lampshades the hint, in this strip.
- Izzy tries to pull this on Tanya in Ennui GO! when the latter tries to pursue a relationship, rightfully pointing out that she's "awful, hedonistic, and rapidly losing her grip on reality". Tanya isn't deterred, and the two end up entering a polyamorous relationship alongside Izzy's ex-girlfriend Darcy, with the three ultimately getting married in the Volume 6 finale.
- This webcomic by dami_lee shows Mario breaking up with Princess Peach. He says, "It's not you...it's a-me!"