Calling Off Your Wedding & Staying Together

Since Sara first bravely brought up the subject of calling off her wedding on APW more than a year ago, we’ve talked a lot about what calling off your wedding might look like and when you might need to make this decision. We’ve also, thanks to Sara, talked about how making the right decision for you can allow great joy to grow out of pain. So today I’m beyond honored to share a post from a couple, Tyler and Kathryn, about jointly calling off their wedding, but not choosing to end their relationship. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what a marriage, or a relationship, looks like when navigating the truly hard stuff. I’ve been thinking about how we grow and fight and change, often together, often in really unexpected ways. Today Tyler and Kathryn walk us through how that worked for them and how they’re still navigating, bravely.

Called Off Their Wedding

Calling off a wedding can often mean the bitter end of an entire relationship. At least, that’s how we’ve always seen it played out with others. Because if you don’t have things figured out by that point, then you probably don’t need to get married anyway, right?

…and then there’s us.

We are Tyler and Kathryn. And we called off our wedding.

But maybe we should back up just a little. We met in college and went from friends to best friends to two people falling head over heels for each other. After graduation we both applied to grad schools all over the country. We knew we would rather be together, but seeing each other achieve dreams and goals was important. So we cast our fates to the wind (or, rather, selection committees) and were accepted by great grad programs. Four hours apart. We were just so darn happy to be attending grad schools in the same state that we took it!

{Tyler} When thinking about proposing to Kathryn in August 2009, I was terrified, only because I’m a major planner, and I don’t like taking risks. But as I researched rings and started to make plans I became more and more confident in my decision to marry her. But our relationship was under strain because of distance, and Kathryn’s health began to decline.

Called Off Their Wedding

But again, we went for it. We got engaged the day after Christmas in beautiful downtown Pittsburgh! We celebrated and made plans and looked forward to the life we would share together.  As far as our wedding went, we planned something small on the deck of a favorite restaurant. Over the span of a year-long engagement we had some incredible times. But we also had fights about guest lists and who would pay for which invitations for what reception and how we would even work out the postage. Maybe you have had those kinds of conversations, too?

But the conversations we weren’t having were far more important.

Kathryn’s depression was getting worse and worse, and she wasn’t seeking help. At this time I was balancing wedding planning, keeping a depressed girl as stable as humanly possible, my job, grad school, job searching, traveling, and family issues. It all felt like too much.

{Kathryn} On my end I knew there were serious issues concerning my health that I wasn’t addressing. And if I couldn’t even address my own issues, how could I even begin to work on the ones concerning us both? It seemed like my engagement (and our friendship) was crumbling. I felt like everything was falling apart and that if we kept going like this straight through the wedding, our marriage would eventually fall apart, too.

These were the things we weren’t talking about. Yet we argued over whether “cake-smashing-in-the-face” was appropriate. Avoiding our major issues caused them to get bigger and uglier. We were months away from our wedding and our relationship had never been worse. We had always been best friends and now we didn’t even like each other. There didn’t seem to be a way out of this pit.

Called Off Their Wedding

One night over the phone (yes, over the phone because distance sucks), we had a terrible, difficult conversation. He told me about all of his fears and concerns and that it all felt like too much. I told him how horrible I felt about the state of our relationship and how scared I was for our marriage. There are a million what-ifs when it comes to marriage, and that’s okay. What is not okay is keeping those fears silenced, and that’s what we were doing. Ultimately, I told him we couldn’t get married. Not like this.

{Tyler} I agreed. And I was actually relieved once it was out there.

Admittedly, there was crying, and screaming, and terrible words our mothers told us not to say thrown around. We couldn’t believe that everything had come to this. We were both devastated. This decision felt so huge. So final. But here we were.

In the months that followed, we went from being engaged to unengaged to not even talking to talking only when necessary. We still loved each other but so many difficult-to-hear-but-completely-necessary things were said that it took some time for us to both process and heal a bit.

{Kathryn} I didn’t think it would be possible to go backwards, to call off a wedding and still be together or even have some semblance of a relationship. Calling off a wedding seemed like the absolute end. But remember that friendship thing that we had in the first place? When we forgot about all the crazy logistics of calling off a wedding (it blows), worked through how much the situation hurt (tough but good), and focused on being the kind of best friends that was the foundation of our relationship, the pressure I felt to have all the solutions and to have everything figured out just kind of… disappeared. I was able to work through some things both personally and in our relationship.

{Tyler} We now have the kind of friendship like we had in the beginning, way back in undergrad. We spend more time together and we actually enjoy it. We are able to talk through all the important stuff now.

{Kathryn} I never would have thought that calling off a wedding could possibly have been a good thing for us, or for me. But making such a tough call forced us to figure out what was important and to focus on those things. It was also the swift kick in the pants I needed to start taking better care of myself. I’ve learned what I think is important: to value honesty, even when it hurts; to fiercely protect friendship, even when it is hard to do; and to be patient with our relationship and myself.

Called Off Their Wedding

{Tyler} I’ve learned that if you are going through difficult engagement situations you have to seriously consider the entirety of your specific relationship. Do not let the politics or process of wedding planning affect your decision, but rather the health of your relationship. Kathryn and I would have called the wedding off or fixed major issues much earlier if we had actually sat down and logically thought about the health of our relationship.

Our previously-set wedding day is coming up in a few days (editors note: the date is past now), but we won’t be getting married like we planned. Let’s not even sugarcoat it: calling off your wedding is hard. And it hurts. And the inevitable weird questions and awkward situations don’t help. But be proud of the decisions you made and for the courage you had to make it. For us, it turned out to be a positive and transformative experience. We still care about each other immensely. We just don’t need a marriage right now, and giving ourselves that time and space will make our future, whatever it holds (marriage or no marriage), a whole lot better.

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