Whether you’re the rejector or the rejectee, breaking up is never fun. And since we’re good people, we attempt to soften the blow, often with one cliché phrase: “I’m just not in the right place to date right now.” This string of words has become so common that it almost feels like the updated “it’s not you, it’s me.” 

One might assume that being in the right place to date would be a precursor to getting onto a dating app. But with how much the line is thrown around, that just doesn’t seem to be the case.

Miryam, a 24-year-old woman in Brooklyn, New York recently used that line to end a few flings that she wasn’t quite ready to take to the next level. She had been casually dating to get her mind off of the recent end of a serious relationship, only to realize she had more personal work to do before entering another

“It’s very possible for someone to come to the realization that they’re not ready to date through the process of dating.”

“To be in the ‘right place’ to date, you have to tie up your loose ends. I know a bunch of people jump from one relationship to the other, but I think you need time between relationships to re-evaluate your wants, needs, and passions,” Miryam says about what it means to be in the right place to date someone new. 

Still, it’s easy to get pissed off when someone tells you they aren’t in the right place to be dating after, well, going on dates with you. But dating is a really personal journey that, sometimes unfortunately, involves other people. That means a person might make a self-discovery that ends up hurting your feelings along the way. 

“It’s very possible for someone to come to the realization that they’re not ready to date through the process of dating,” says Elena Touroni, Psy.D., co-founder of the Chelsea Psychology Clinic. “There may, for instance, be a part of you that’s interested in exploring the possibility of dating but after dating for a while, you realize you’re still not over your ex or that you want to be focusing on your career at this moment in time.”

Touroni encourages anyone who receives the dreaded “not in the right place to date right now” rejection to take it for what it is and not to pry for further explanation. 

Whether that person didn’t think you were the right fit or they simply didn’t feel ready [for something serious], it has a lot more to do with them and their struggles,” Touroni says.

But rejection almost always feels personal, and on some level, it is — you are the person it’s directed at. Even those who have told others they aren’t in the right place to date — and meant it — admit it’s made them feel bad when the roles are reversed.

[Hearing that line] made me really self-conscious and just [feel] like I’m not the person that people move their shit aside to make a situation work with,” Charia, 24, from Los Angeles, says.

Elijah, 26, who lives in Chicago, particularly struggles when the line feels dishonest — like a cop-out. More than once, he’s heard it immediately after revealing to his dates that he identifies as asexual. “It definitely can be an honest statement, but I feel like it’s used dishonestly pretty frequently,” he says.

Among everyone we spoke to for this story though, one thing remained consistent regardless of gender expression, sexuality, age, and location. Saying something, like literally anything, is better than ghosting

“While it’s not the best breakup line in the world, hearing any sort of excuse beats being ghosted, which I feel is our generation’s most frequently used breakup line — if you can call it that,” Elijah says.

Really though, it’s best to avoid ghosting and bullshit — or at least vague — excuses when letting someone down. 

“Leaving someone guessing can be a lot more tormenting in the long run,” Touroni says. “By being upfront about what wasn’t working, you might end up [providing] really helpful feedback to the other person — as long as it’s delivered in a kind way, of course.”