You and your sweetie just don't seem to connect as much, or as often as you used to. You fight more (or bicker about insignificant topics,) you find yourself spending more time by yourself. How do you know if it is just a bad patch or if the relationship is over?
As someone who is always waiting for the proverbial break-up truck to run me over, I can say with absolute certainty that the only way you know that a relationship is over is when you feel it. You are depressed more than you are happy. You find yourself longing for good times. You try to bring back that magic spark but you just end up in a spat. You feel incomplete and it is only made worse when they are near. You feel that hope is gone - that the potential of the relationship has been used up, like a single-serving bag of chips. It was good, but it wasn't enough and all that is left is empty.
So what do you do? Do you continue to pick at the crumbs of your relationship? Do you live in denial that things will return to their full glory? Do you wait for the death rattle that signifies that it is truly over?
I suppose there is always a time in a relationship where you have enough foresight to recognize that the end is near. You could even ask yourself if you would rather hurt now or hurt later. You could end it and move forward without the inevitable blame and shame game.
But what if you can't get over the fact that the relationship had the potential to go the distance if only you were willing to not progress? If you didn't want to build a life with that person, or get married or have children - if you were willing to give those things up, you could be happy in your relationship, right? You may say these things, but you know you wouldn't be happy with half a relationship or with an empty bag of chips.