Something’s missing in our relationship

Hi Meredith,
I've been in a serious relationship with "Rob" for just over a year and a half. He's a GREAT guy -- funny, attractive, gets along with my friends, cooks dinner, holds the door -- all the makings of a great boyfriend. Most of the time I feel great with him, but I often feel that there is something missing. I can't pinpoint exactly what it is, but something just feels off. When I'm out with friends, I only rarely feel that proud "that's my boyfriend!" feeling. When I hear romantic songs about that spark you feel with one person, I don't always feel that Rob and I have that feeling. Some factors that I think might contribute to the problem:

1) Rob and I started out long distance, got serious VERY quickly, and did so after both of us had gotten out of pretty bad relationships. We were long distance for about five months before Rob moved to Boston. I don't feel we ever really got a chance to "date" and enjoy the fun part of the beginning of a relationship.
2) Rob slept with someone else right before the move. He called me, confessed, and did EVERYTHING right to make us work, and I've forgiven him. The reason I think this factors in is that it deeply affected the beginning of our relationship. Rob devoted all of his time and energy to making our relationship work and sorta pushed his sense of self aside.
3) His parents came to visit over the summer and it went HORRIBLY. They have polar opposite views to mine and his father is actively mean. I didn't have the most stable childhood so having a close-knit family in my future has always been really important to me, so it's been a struggle to wait and see if this is a "deal-breaker" for me.

Rob and I have discussed this -- that maybe it's not working out -- but we keep having good weeks and bad weeks. Sometimes I think we just need to change some behaviors and try new things, and other times I think "it’s just not right." What kills me is that he is such a wonderful person and a great boyfriend. I don't want to be the idiot who gave up the great guy because some X factor wasn't there -- but I also don't want to commit to something at 24 if I feel something is missing.

Some friends have said that I will know when it's over -- that until I'm sure, I should give it more time. It's been about 3 weeks since our first conversation about "something being missing" and we've continued to have really up and down times. We've talked several more times, but the conversation always ends with us not being ready to end it yet. Is it weird that we keep talking about it? Is this a sign it’s not working, or is it just good communication?

– Something's Missing (Maybe), Cambridge

I told yesterday's letter writer that people should ride out relationships until they're almost 100 percent sure that they're ready to walk away. I also said that there are exceptions to that rule. You're one of them, SMM. Your relationship with Rob has involved groveling, uncomfortable moves, awful family outings, and plaguing doubts. Yes, Rob is a good boyfriend and there have been good weeks to balance the bad ones, but there's more to partnership than being nice and holding doors.

You have to ask yourself the following questions: Does the idea of Rob dating someone else bother you? If you knew there were other guys out there for you, would you feel better about breaking it off with Rob? Why did you get so serious with Rob in the beginning? Was it really just about your ex?

You told us that you don't want to give up on a nice boyfriend, but you're doing way too much work to keep this together. I understand what your friends are saying, but if they read this letter they'd probably agree that it's time for a change. At the very least, they'd probably want you to experience life without Rob to see how it feels. They'd agree that at the moment, you have no perspective.

Readers? Is she the exception or the rule? Should she feel more jazzed about this relationship than she does? Was it doomed from the start? What about the good weeks? Help.

– Meredith