You’ve called off the wedding. The tears shed could fill a swimming pool and then some. The engagement ring has been returned, guests have been informed and wedding vendors have been called off. The unraveling of what was supposed to be the happiest day of your life has become a complicated affair of epic proportions. That was the easy part.
What hasn’t been resolved is the future of your relationship and the mixed feelings that can’t simply be returned to Bloomingdales. Perhaps you still live with your ex-fiancé. Or you’ve decided to end the engagement for now, but have hopes of resolving some issues before setting a wedding date. You loved this person. They were your future, your best friend, your hope for a bright future filled with adorable children and Martha Stewart collection picture frames from your registry. Perhaps they’re not entirely ready to say goodbye to you either. So you carry on, seeing each other to “figure things out” even though your stomach is in knots at any given moment since the decision to end the engagement.
The gray area in between calling off a wedding and completely breaking up with a significant other is otherwise known as “hell.” It may seem easier and more realistic than completely severing ties, but it’s pure torture. Here’s why:
1. Dating someone you were engaged to will lead nowhere.
You’ve already learned enough about each other to make the decision to spend your lives together. What will going back to dating do in terms of shedding additional light on the person that was supposed to love you forever in the first place? Assuming you’ve been living together or spending every night together, will you now live apart? Will you have to schedule dinner dates to see each other and be forced to nervously wait to see if they’ll follow up with plans like you did when you first started dating? If they choose to go out with friends instead of spending time with you, will you wonder if they’ll call when they get home? Will you be okay doing separate things like other daters do or will you just be wondering when they’ll actually be ready to marry you?
2. Excuses are forever.
For some reason one or both of you (usually it’s just one of you) has decided that he or she does not want to marry you any more. They may say they still love you, of course, and that more time is all that’s needed. It’s the timing. Or they’re confused. They don’t know what they want to do with their life and more time will help them make a decision. If he or she is confused now, what additional information can give this person clarity? Will you ever feel confident that this person’s promise to love you forever is permanent? What’s to prevent him or her from having doubts after you’re married or have a couple of kids?
3. Nobody will want to be around you.
It’s hard enough just maintaining a normal conversation that doesn’t revolve around getting your ex-fiancé to explain what on earth they’re thinking in wanting to end the engagement. Talk about awkward. If this person has broken your heart, nobody who loves or cares about you will want anything to do with your ex nor will they want to spend time nurturing your relationship with them.
4. You’re no longer moving forward.
While your friends around you may be dating, shacking up with their significant others, getting engaged or planning weddings, you are in no-man’s land. Your relationship has effectively gone backwards and if you’re not the one that called off the engagement, the ability to move it forward resides in a confused person’s hands. You’re far worse off than being single as at least if you were solo, you’d have a chance of meeting someone who wants to take things forward by getting to know you instead of already knowing everything about you and wanting to revert to dating.
5. All talks lead to one.
You may try to be flirtatious, charming, and sweet. You may find yourself dressing better. Hitting the gym. Trying to cook their favorite meals and make your home smell like chocolate chip cookies at all times. Because who wouldn’t want to marry the kinder, trimmer, more stylish and amazing cook version of yourself? But carrying on this charade during your post-engagement time together will only fester the underlying insecurities that come with a broken heart. During these dark days, it will be impossible to have a conversation that doesn’t lead to a discussion of what they’re thinking, what changed and why they don’t feel the same way they did when they (or you) proposed. There’s nothing attractive about begging someone to love you because if you really thought about it rationally this is not really something that a discussion could provide clarity on.
6. It’s not supposed to be this difficult.
Loving someone enough to marry them should not be filled with so much doubt. Marriage is complicated on its own, it should at least start with an overwhelming sense that the person you enter into it with is the absolutely right and best choice. Going back to the dating phase is really second guessing whether this person is actually worthy of being committed to you for life. One person should not have the power to make this decision. It should be unbelievably clear to both of you that you can’t be without each other — forever.
7. Cold feet make a cold marriage.
It is natural to feel anxious about the responsibilities that come with marriage. It would be shortsighted not to consider all of the changes and commitments that come with it. But once these fears dominate and outweigh the underlying desire for companionship, friendship and all-consuming love for your significant other, it’s an uphill battle to forever. Your ex-fiancé may have promised you the world at one point and been the center of your universe. But if they’re not ready now when they’ve got minimal commitments and demands, a late epiphany will be unlikely to strike.
8. The awesome person that you are.
Why should you put up with this nonsense? Where is the person that loved you and promised you the world? If they can’t see you as their spouse knowing everything it took to agree to such a commitment in the first place, there’s nothing that going out to some dinners, movies or having unattached physical encounters is going to bring more clarity on. Unless they’ve been in a serious accident that’s affected their ability to remember what an incredible catch you are, don’t let them think that you’re someone who waits for somebody else to decide if you’re marriage material.
9. This is going nowhere fast.
Dating is for two people to try each other on for size and decide if they should progress to being exclusive. It’s not a safety zone for delaying the decision to marry someone. In the ex-fiancé universe, dating is the Bermuda triangle. You somehow got there and you’re never getting out alive as a couple. Poking out your eyes will be more enjoyable than trying to resolve why the person who was supposed to love you forever could not even love you until your wedding day.
10. You’re better than that.
Your heart is taking a bruising and you think you’ll never meet anyone else again that could make you feel so loved. Who could you possibly have inside jokes with? Who will give you that “over the moon” feeling of joy if not this person? What can make you more vulnerable than the person who knew you better than anyone having doubts about whether they can be with you forever? If you could look at the situation objectively, you’d already feel that the best days of this relationship are behind you. That there’s no getting to a place, through dating, that can resolve the big sinkhole that calling off an engagement brings to a relationship. Instead of clinging to the memories, the better gamble is to get to a place where new ones can be made. You’re much too awesome, smart and civilized to sit around waiting for someone to suddenly realize that their current ex-fiancé is really their best future spouse. That’s just nonsense.