Breaking An Engagement: A Conscious Perspective
I’d like to share a very happy, although certainly unconventional, wedding story. You see, I broke my engagement, so the ending to my story isn’t a wedding. Rather, it’s a self-awareness that will contribute to a happy and fulfilled life . . . with or without a wedding.
I had been dating a wonderful man on-and-off for over eight years. We had had our ups and downs, broken up, dated other people, got back together, decided we were better as friends than as a couple, and even went through a period of losing touch for no other reason than we didn’t make an effort to stay in touch.
A little over three years ago, we started dating again and were much more aware of ourselves as individuals and as a couple this time around. In fact, on our second or third date, he asked me if I thought we were meant to be together. I replied in all honesty that I’ve never believed I was meant to be with any one particular person, meaning that I didn’t believe that somehow my life would be less meaningful if I didn’t end up with that person. I had a very fulfilling and enriching single life and viewed being part of a couple simply as an enhancement to that life. And I still believe that today.
He seemed satisfied with my answer, and we continued dating. Three years later, he proposed. It was right after Thanksgiving, so we got to enjoy the holidays as an engaged couple. My fiance had seen Sheryl Paul and “The Conscious Bride” on Oprah (a guy who watches Oprah! What’s not to love!) and gave me the book for Christmas. His timing was perfect because as the giddiness of being engaged started to wear off, the reality that I would have to give up my single life started to set in, and I was feeling very unsettled and not at all excited about getting married. I scanned just the first few pages of the book and saw every emotion I had been experiencing over the past few weeks. I was very grateful that he had the insight to realize what I may be going through.
I began reading the book. I felt as if I had had many counseling sessions with Sheryl, and she had simply documented my case for the book. It was so comforting to have my “negative” feelings of unease, fear, and loss validated as not only normal but also necessary for such a huge life transition. Once I knew I was free to experience these emotions, I began to enjoy my engagement so much more.
I was also better able to discuss my feelings with my fiance. Before I started reading the book, I broke down at dinner one evening, and when my fiance asked what was wrong, all I could describe was a big black jumble whirling around inside me. After reading the book, however, I had words to describe that big black jumble and was able to reassure him that no matter how much I might wig out, I was not doubting my love for him. In fact, once I had the words to describe it, the big black jumble didn’t seem so big and black–and scary–anymore. I felt much more at ease because I had a better perspective on my emotions.
Armed with this new perspective, I took my focus off what I would be giving up and placed it on what I would be gaining. I also began thinking more actively about wedding plans. My fiance and I had briefly discussed plans shortly after our engagement and concluded that neither of us wanted a big wedding at all. In fact, we were tentatively planning an extremely small ceremony with just family and very close friends present. We each had our own houses, and we decided I would sell mine and move into his. I had planned to put my house on the market in the spring, so I began to prepare for that task.
Just a few months after the holidays, though, he confessed to me that he was feeling uneasy about getting married. We talked about what he was experiencing, and I even asked him if it would make him feel better if I gave him back his ring–if we temporarily called off our engagement. At that point, he didn’t want to do anything so drastic, but I could tell he was very uncomfortable with the whole idea of “’til death do us part.”
That discussion, however, held me back and kept me from finalizing anything regarding a wedding or merging households. In fact, I put everything on hold. I didn’t look at wedding dresses. I didn’t talk to any ministers. I didn’t call my realtor. I figured that if he was experiencing the same things I had gone through (and was still going through–I just knew they were normal feelings now), we could pick up whenever he was ready. But in the back of my mind, I also knew that if he were experiencing more than just the normal feelings of loss, I would still need a place to live!
Finally, after a number of months’ struggles, tears, and even arguments, we both realized that his feelings of unease were far beyond what Sheryl describes in “The Conscious Bride.” Sheryl has done a great service to anyone making the transition from the single life to marriage by daring to reveal the “unthinkable” and expose marriage as the necessarily challenging and sometimes painful right of passage it is. Her book helped give us both the perspective not only of what was normal but also of what was not normal, of what was far more than “cold feet.” He admitted that he just was not ready to be married. I asked him if that meant he wasn’t ready now but would be at some point or if he thought he would probably never be ready for marriage . . . at least to me. He could tell me only that he knew he wasn’t ready for marriage right now. He couldn’t offer me any reassurance that he would ever really want to spend the rest of his life with me.
At that, and also considering our long history, it seemed absolutely silly to me to be engaged to be married to someone who didn’t want to get married. I really didn’t see any other option but to break our engagement. (I even asked him to give me other options, but he couldn’t, simply because there just weren’t any.) I realize that “silly” seems like a frivolous word to use for such a serious subject, but that’s really how I felt. The whole situation was just plain silly. And the solution was so simple, albeit incredibly painful. In the long run, however, it seemed to me that we both would feel a whole lot better if we just took away the prospect of marriage.
I returned his ring, and we talked for many hours that evening. It was as amicable a break-up as such a difficult thing can be and, while I was the one who broke the engagement, we mutually agreed that it was the best thing for us–as a couple and as individuals. We are no longer a couple, but there is no animosity or bitterness between us. In fact, we still stay in touch and exchange e-mails occasionally. Most importantly, though, we wish each other nothing but happiness. And we admire each other for having the courage to end our engagement before it led to something we would both regret.
While the outcome from this experience wasn’t a wedding and marriage, it was still a very positive one. I have learned much about myself through this experience that I can take with me for the rest of my life. And, perhaps even more importantly, I have learned that there is absolutely no shame in breaking an engagement. It does not mean I/we made a mistake; it simply means I/we avoided a mistake. Anyone who has taken such a huge step should feel proud to have had the courage and insight to make such a difficult decision.
While breaking my engagement is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, and I hope I never have to do anything so difficult again, I would much rather have a broken engagement than a broken marriage. I can assure you the peace of mind you will feel after the hurt subsides is well worth it! And believe me, the hurt does subside. And you will have peace.
I encourage anyone who is engaged or about to become engaged to read “The Conscious Bride.” It really can help you acknowledge your feelings, gain perspective, and prioritize your to-do list so that the wedding plans don’t take precedence over your life plans.