Letters from Japan: ‘When to end a relationship?’


Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Send it to

Hi Hilary,

I don’t know where to begin. My Japanese boyfriend and I have been together for six years. We mostly speak Japanese together (I have N1) but he’s also almost a native English speaker. We’ve talked about marriage and kids and where to live, our parents getting older, all that stuff. We came to some compromises and we understand one another in either language. I mean it when I say we communicate well.

However, he’s never tried to propose and when I mention it he changes the subject so I stopped bringing it up. What really got to me is that in early April we walked by a jewelry store in a shopping center and a necklace caught my eye so I stopped. He seemed irritated and kept walking. I was left standing there awkwardly talking to the staff who came out. He’s never done that before.

From then on he’s been less affectionate towards me. He has his own apartment but he used to spend more time at my place. Now he’s there instead because he’s tired and when he does stay there, I hate saying this but I feel happier. At this point, my relationship is the only part of my life that’s unsatisfying. I used to see a future for us but not so much anymore. I guess my question is basically when to end this relationship? 

-Tired of Trying

Dear Tired of Trying,

I think you know the answer to your question already, but I can also understand wanting to talk about it with a neutral party. Ultimately, what makes you happy is the way you need to go with this. That being said, it could be a kindness to him to tell him why this is happening before or as you go.

You’ve been together for six years so you’ve known one another pre-pandemic, have ostensibly gone through the new relationship honeymoon period, and, as you said, have talked about all the major things that should be discussed pre-marriage. You and your boyfriend have done the work that many skip in the lead-up to marriage, which you should be proud of.

It’s understandable then that you would be upset by him cutting off any discussions of engagement or apparently actively showing irritation at the thought of you looking at jewelry. He must have assumed you were looking at engagement rings, if it were that type of jewelry store you stopped outside. If it were just some casual accessories shop you stopped at, I would seriously wonder about his reaction.

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Was the relationship loveless,if so nothing to write

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Six years and he kept his own apartment until now??? Avoids the topic of marriage??? Less affectionate??? There are so many red flags. Stop wasting your time and move on! As someone mentioned above it takes 1-2 years ( at least to make plans for engagement if not marriage ) if he really wanted to marry you!

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Yikes! That’s over half a decade invested with no clear view of a future together. I suggest you sit him down and have a make or break conversation about what you two intend to do with your lives. There may be other worries/issues he has about the relationship that have not been raised before. It’s time they be acknowledged and addressed. Of course one question I would have is how is your sex life and has it experienced a noticeable decline along with the drop in affection. Serious problems in relationships typically first manifest in sexual expression, since it is the most intimate and intense form of communication. When there are lingering problems, sex along with affection drops off immediately.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Move on...Not worth your time and energy. If a man can not get excited to see you excited about something you like on any topic. Jewelry, music, art, future plans and what you want to do with your life.

Sayonara and find someone who is not going to challenge your beliefs and walk away from you leaving you standing there alone. Hope you find someone who can fulfill your wants and needs.

The sooner the better and take some time out for yourself as well.

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Lots of gaijin do not realize that Japanese women have a different concept of love, different from a relationship with a western woman,that why lots of them find themselves heartbroken

1 ( +1 / -0 )

From what I learnt from Male Friends who Married Japanese Women, is that there's a change afterwards - like completely opposite to what they were beforehand -

Japanese, unlike westerners, treat marriage with weight, not something you can just divorce and end with ease. Not changing after marriage is a sure way to make sure the marriage doesn't work. Men who marry Japanese women and don't change after marriage, then complain that their wives have changed, didn't do enough research ahead of time, and aren't putting in their side of the marriage.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Don't believe these articles. A man may be questioning whether you give him attention. Nothing in this article shows that the woman is giving him any attention. He could be distracted or lost his job.

It could take 10 years fpr a marriage proposal Every man is different. The people here encouraging you to break up are betas trying to free up another woman for them and undermine the man. This happens all the time witb betas and cliques.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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