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My Broken Engagement Saved Me

An attempt to explain what went wrong

woman sitting alone and holding cup of coffee

When there’s a beautiful sparkly rock on your finger and everyone is cooing over your new status as a fiancée, it’s very easy to stifle the small but insistent doubts that keep whispering in your ear. After all, you’ve been “chosen” by someone. You’re welcomed into this strange club where everyone smiles at you and thrills in the happiness they assume you’re feeling, and it can be easy to get swept up in that current.

When I became engaged, my brain kept assuring me this was what I wanted, but my body was crying out in a million ways that marrying myself to this man would be a mistake. For months, I was locked in a painful stalemate between my body, my mind, and my heart. The man I was engaged to was offering me a deep and special love. It came from an honest and vulnerable place in his heart. I have no doubt that our love for each other was real and good. Because of this, I brushed off reservations that pestered me.

I thought that if you love each other enough, you can make it work. To willingly walk away from love seemed utterly foolish. But for some reason, the alchemy of the two of us together did something strange to my being. My joy fizzled and hummed at a dangerously low vibration. Despite the affection between us, I felt small and sad and confused in our relationship.

I desperately tried to work through these feelings, to share them with him, to get support, to get answers. I read books and articles about how “doubt doesn’t always mean don’t” and how fears and worries and sadness during engagement are normal. Being engaged can cause a complex array of emotions to reveal themselves even when you are sure of the relationship. But as much as I tried to wrestle with these ideas and reconcile my fears, that small voice begging me to end it never went away. In secret, I read articles about ending engagements. I struggled with guilt and felt paralyzed by uncertainty.

Relationships take patience and communication and intention, but I was barely getting enough energy from the relationship to help me get through those times of trial. I felt minimized in ways that were hard to put into words. My hair was falling out, my skin was a wreck, and I was often plagued with stomachaches. It was easy to blame it on the stress of wedding planning, which certainly didn’t help, but it was so much more than that. I was losing myself in a terrifying way. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was emptying myself out, that I was dying inside, that I was withering away into a fraction of the person I knew I could be.

One day, for no particular reason, a few things happened that finally hit the tipping point. They weren’t profound moments, but my energy was so depleted at that point from the internal struggle that something broke in my body, and my head and my heart finally got the same message. The stalemate ended and every last bit of energy, strength, and courage in me rushed to do what needed to be done. I found the words to end it. I found the strength to pack up my things and leave. I found the bravery to break the heart of someone I dearly loved.

In the end, I came to the conclusion that we were deeply incompatible in a way that drained me dry. And it can be hard to give that as a reason to people when they ask why, because it doesn’t feel concrete enough. But that gut feeling is something I’m trying to listen to more.

I have cried a lot since my broken engagement. For the loss of love, yes, but also in mourning for the parts of myself that I stifled, silenced, and diminished along the way. There are tears of deep sadness, but also infinite grace and tremendous relief. For me, the right relationship will be expanding, life-giving, and energizing at its core (even on the days when it’s not these things). I may yet find someone with whom I can create this kind of relationship. Until then, I will be reclaiming the parts of myself that I lost, brushing them off, loving them, whispering kindness to them, and polishing them until they shine.

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