Getting Engaged At 19

We had planned a pink and brown wedding. We certainly planned a lot of things, and I swear that I never just blindingly nodded my head to her dreams. They were my dreams too. I can safely say that the hardest thing I’ve ever done was break up with her. Insert joke about it being better to have “loved and lost”; insert heartfelt, nauseatingly optimistic assertion that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Now cross them out and try looking your mistakes in the face. Embrace them, thank them, and love them in the way you never loved your ex-girlfriend. While you still have that love inside you it’s obvious that no one has received it.

Where we started was fantastically familiar territory for me. The weeks after our first kiss were a barren tundra of unrequited love, begging me with empty promises of satisfaction from strife-ridden devotion. But alas! She was not so scared of my total abandonment of reason. She too believed in song lyrics and Christmas decorations. She believed my blind optimism that yes, indeed, love could conquer all. Love could even conquer my own doubts. And let me tell you, dear reader: it can.

From there we spent several blissful years attached to each other’s hip. Together we learned a great deal about growing up. Renting an apartment, buying groceries, playing bills, abandoning our friends; sacrificing so many things that we wanted in favor of what the other wanted. We breathed in compromise, unaware of an alternative. Hand in hand we stepped ourselves into the recently discovered shoes of adulthood. We lived together, in so many senses of the word that I felt more at peace when I was with her than when I was alone. We practically became halves of one whole, scarcely able to function independently.

And then we found them: the careers we’d been searching for. So much of our time that was once occupied by whatever jobs we could find in order to make the month’s rent was now occupied by the opportunity of a promising future. Career paths. Attractive coworkers. That strange look on someone’s face when you mentioned your fiancée and the naggingly suspicious tone when they asked, “how old are you again?”

While the “straw” of a crush which broke the camel’s back was exactly the one which I pursued not days after our tear-streaked, tumultuous break-up, there was more to my change of feelings than a pretty face. For the first time since before we’d met, I realized the potential to shape my own future; free from anyone’s controlling hand. I started to see just how big the world was. An inkling of life’s possibilities was inside me and I could only stare our commitment in the eyes for so long until turning away.

And so I turned. In an admission of failure rife with any underlying embracement of finding inner peace, I emerged from the cocoon of our engagement as a fully formed individual. I didn’t need ‘us’ anymore. Finding love from then on would never be about finding a ‘half’ to pair perfectly with my own. The concept of yin and yang does not involve two complementary fractions. The happiness of love has nothing to do with submission, complication or pride. You’ll know it when you find it but you’ll know it even more when you give it. TC mark

image – Jeff Belmonte

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  • http://twitter.com/simbelsim simbel

    Thank you.
    As a person recently emerged from a premature engagement (although circumstances vary) I thank you from all my heart for this piece of writing.

    • http://twitter.com/raystraight Ray Straight

      You’re welcome.

  • http://twitter.com/cjhallman Carly J Hallman

    Beautiful!

  • kaylee

    i like this

  • guest

    mumbo jumbo. life happens, sure; people change. don’t try to make more of it than it was. you dumped your girlfriend because your attraction to someone else was stronger than your feelings for her. a few days after your break-up? i mean really..

    • http://twitter.com/raystraight Ray Straight

      No, I dumped my fiancée.

  • Allison

    Not saying that this is a one-size-fits-all situation, but I think you made a very mature choice. My boyfriend’s brother got married at 19 and now, at 20, he is divorced.

  • meg

    wow, i wasn’t exactly engaged but i think this applies to any young, relatively serious relationship. that 180 degree turn between the relationship being life’s most liberating aspect and evolving into the most chaining part is hard to stomach. but once you’re healed, everything is so much better.

  • Guest

    i feel like this would have been better if someone other than you wrote it

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    I have a friend who got married at 19… She’s currently divorced at 21 and a trainwreck. I’m so scared

  • Anon24

    I don’t want your self-therapeutic writing. You still want her. ADMIT IT. 

  • Guest

    I honestly dont understand all of the negative comments but this is a great article.

  • http://twitter.com/StFleury melissa st. fleur

    Totally glad you figured this out now. It still happens to people in their mid to late twenties. Lots of my friends went IN blindsided by the partner in crime aspect (I think) and then reality set in … 

  • Sophia Wyatt

    i don’t really get this article. this is what i understand from it; basically, you fell in love with this girl, you fell too far in love, blinding yourself to reality, when reality broke in, you woke up to it. right? how soon were you honest with her? i feel a little sad that all this happened too young for you, although it will happen again.

    also, can someone explain why a couple can’t be two halves of a whole? do you give too much of yourself away if that happens?

  • http://twitter.com/aaliznat Tanzila Anis

    i could’ve written this. just a different age and a different mind space, but yeah. i could. but you did. thanks for telling me i am not alone in this zoo.

  • meredith

    How did you manage to break up with someone who obviously was still deeply in love with you? I’m nineteen and I’m in the exact same situation as you were, but I can’t bring  myself to break off the relationship because I know he’ll be deeply hurt by it. I’ve only been with him for a year and a half but I’ve already missed out on countless opportunities because of him and I’m tired of passing them up because of some naive boy.

    • http://twitter.com/raystraight Ray Straight

      Try doing what you actually want to do.

    • Anon24

      Talk to the person about what you want. If your lover truly cares for you, he will let his need for you succumb to what you truly desire. He may protest at first, but attempt to empathize with that. Give him time, and if he doesn’t move your way, move on yourself. Love should be grounded on love rather than need of the other person. 

  • Pfft

    you seem unattractive.

  • Kennedy Alban

  • Frida

    It’s best to stop things than to keep a false illusion going.

    • Anon24

      What are you even saying? How was his relationship an illusion? You could say exactly the same thing about almost any position a person has in life, depending upon what you value. If you think what this guy had was an illusion, then by all means wallow in whatever illusion you choose to call “real” in your own life. 

      • Frida

        Sure.

  • leslienico

    This was stunningly beautiful. Thank you. Please continue to write.

    • http://twitter.com/raystraight Ray Straight

      You’re welcome.

  • guest

    My friend who got married at 19 is mid-breakdown right now.  

  • Anne

    I somehow believe it’s fate for me to stumble upon this article, especially because this was the first article I read on my first visit to this website.
    “For the first time since before we’d met, I realized the potential to
    shape my own future; free from anyone’s controlling hand. I started to
    see just how big the world was. An inkling of life’s possibilities was
    inside me and I could only stare our commitment in the eyes for so long
    until turning away.”
    That quotation has put into words my exact feelings for the past couple months in my three and a half year relationship that started my freshman year of college. By being so involved with each other during such a personality-shaping, growing-into-adults stage in our lives, I truly think we both lost a part of ourselves, the things that made us unique, and instead became the two halves of a whole. Not only that, but the resentment over lost opportunities and sacrifices built up. Knowing this, I’m having a hard time letting go of someone that I basically feel like I’ve grown up with, someone that is a part of me. How did you deal with this?

    • http://twitter.com/raystraight Ray Straight

      Everything is a learning experience, especially making mistakes. I try and welcome every opportunity to find out more about myself. You know when something does and doesn’t feel right – no one else can tell you. Sacrificing your own happiness for someone else’s is a lose-lose situation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tarynn.law Tarynn Law

    This is an amazing article. I’m dealing with something similar so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on the subject and this makes me feel a whole hell of a lot better. Thanks so much for this.

    • http://twitter.com/raystraight Ray Straight

      You’re welcome.

  • Guest-o

    this article had a strong start and then the follow through was like falling off a cliff, and not in a good way. it just made me angry to read it – i had high hopes for this piece. you could’ve gone in a completely different direction but all you ended up doing was making the giddy-ness of finding a career and “world of opportunities” an excuse for dumping somone you claimed to have “loved” so deeply. no one is naive enough to think that that at 19, you’ve seen everything. idiot.

    • http://twitter.com/raystraight Ray Straight

      I just went in the direction of what actually happened…

  • Acwood91

    Everyone’s situation is different of course but coming from a 3 and a half year on and off long distance sometimes and sometimes not relationship at the age of just 20 I’ve learned there is a strong difference between sacrifice and compromise. If you cannot compromise you should not be in a relationship – however you should never have to sacrifice anything. I didn’t sacrifice my education by not going to a school in a different city I went because it made me happy – however now I’ve compromised by commuting rather than doing a long distance relationship.

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