How can you tell when the relationship is over?

-- Question for John --

I have a traveling bug is splitting me and my boyfriend apart. I do not want to finish with him because I love him, but we have had many problems, i.e. sex has gone off, I feel annoyed about living where I do, I feel like I don’t know what I want anymore, about my feelings of attraction to my boyfriend. How do you know when it has come to the end?

I am 27 years old and he is 29. We have been together for 3 and a half years. In the past, I have suffered from depression and feel like I am not coping well with the rat race, therefore my enthusiasm for life in this country has become very low and all I think about is having an easy life for 1 year in Australia.

This is affecting my present relationship. A few friends are travelling Australia and the Far East, and I feel like I need to travel for myself and to improve my confidence. However, my boyfriend will not join me to travel as he is happy with his life, security and home comforts. He wants me to make a decision between him and travelling, because he thinks it is unfair to ask him to wait for me, just in case I don’t return. What should I do?

-- Answer from John --

I guess in your case you would know if it came to an end if you found yourself getting on the airplane and the last thing you heard from him is “It’s over!”

He sounds more definite about ending it than you do, if you were to go on that extended trip. He is coming from a place of being threatened by the prospect of losing you. So he is trying to be the one to threaten the end of things. Kind of ironic, but understandable.

Perhaps from your point of view, getting away for awhile might pick up your spirits and change your life — and that may well be more important to you right now than whether the relationship lasts — especially given the challenges you are facing in it. And you may even be thinking that a change in your spirits could make coming back to this relationship a possibility — once you feel better about yourself. And that could well be true. Somethings things like that really do work out.

Of course, there is his position on that, which seems pretty clear right now — but, in fact, who knows? Maybe he would still be available when you came back and maybe things could resume, if that were the case. That’s all pretty indefinite, and maybe it would not be the case.

To answer your final question, ultimately there are no outward signs — other than drastic things like physical abuse — that tell you that a relationship should come to an end. Check your astrology charts, ask a psychic, flip a coin. I would not recommend that you let this kind of decision get made for you by something or someone on the outside. You are the one in charge of your own destiny. Own it. Live it. Be the star in this movie called “Your Life.” You be the one who chooses what you want for you.

People’s sex lives do encounter challenges — in most relationships. There are phases in almost all relationships that include unhappy feelings, upset emotions, and challenges. Furthermore, the sexual and emotional worlds are linked for most people. An unsolvable sexual problem is probably an unfaced emotional challenge being acted out in the bedroom. Since sex is about feeling good, if you are not feeling good about yourself or your partner, sex is going to be blocked in some way. How could it be otherwise?

The thing is, most people don’t have many good ideas about how to deal with unhappy emotions, other than to run from them. So in our current times, most relationships will fail. Half of marriages end. And most relationships that start out great never even get close to marriage.

Today, most people are asking the question “how do I feel about this relationship?” That is the ruler by which we believe we should measure our love. And when we discover unhappy or stuck feelings inside of us, we conclude these feelings are about the relationship, rather than feelings we need to deal with inside of ourselves.

So most people, facing your choice, will look inside at their unhappy feelings, will look outside at the lack of great sex (or any sex at all) — and conclude that it’s time to take off and find a better prospect. My guess is that you will be on that airplane, and that he will disown you, and that you are right now looking for someone to tell you that this is the best choice to make.

My work with people is not about telling them what choice to make. So I’m not the one to ask. My work is around giving people tools and strategies to get through these kinds of stuck times and unhappy phases of a relationship — and move into the more rewarding intimacy they truly want with a partner who is like a soulmate to them. This move takes the willing participation of both parties. And it requires them to look inside and do some soul-searching. It is not about some easy answer to be found on the outside.