This post is the most difficult I’ve written. I’ve been hesitant to write because while I share my life with all of you, I don’t share other people’s. After many sleepless nights, I decided to tell my story because if I could have read something like this, I wouldn’t have felt so alone. My hope is that this post helps one of you learn to trust yourself.
It’s with love in our hearts and love for each other that Tracy and I decided not to get married on August 3rd.
Yesterday I moved out of our Santa Monica apartment into a family friend’s guest house. I’ve never cried so hard or so viscerally in my entire life.
I cried because I love T, I love our life, and I don’t want to lose it. I’m grieving my best friend, my person, my love, and the life we planned together. It feels like a death. It feels like one of my limbs is missing. Maybe all of them.
I moved because deep down inside, I had doubts about whether or not we were compatible for a lifetime. And marriage isn’t something either of us wanted to gamble on.
The doubts started small and I did everything I could to address them. I read books on bridal anxiety. I went to therapy. We went to couples therapy together. But instead of disappearing, those niggling doubts got bigger.
I spent a lot of time convincing myself that my doubts weren’t legitimate. I ignored the niggle and bottled my emotions inside. I suffered in silence because I thought something was wrong with me. I was ashamed, and the guilt… that was almost unbearable. It took a toll on me. In April, I didn’t sleep more than a couple hours a night and barely ate for three weeks. Finally, when I was merely a shell of myself, I realized my body was telling me something, and I needed to listen. I had a gut feeling, and I decided to trust myself.
The actual process of calling off a wedding isn’t something I would wish on anyone.
When you call off a wedding, you blow up your whole life. You break your person’s heart. You break friends’ and families’ hearts. You break your own heart. You break down your soul with the immense grief and guilt. You break promises. You break the bank. And not everyone understands it. I can’t tell you how many conversations I had along the lines of…
“Did he cheat on you?”
I wasn’t 100% sure.
“You know there’s no perfect person, right?”
“But don’t you love him? And he loves you?”
Yes. But love and compatibility aren’t always the same thing. The hardest lesson I learned this year is that sometimes love isn’t enough.
“But you two are so good together! Did you not think you’d be happy? Did you think you’d get a divorce?”
I think we’d have a good life. I don’t think we’d get divorced. But both of us deserve to be in the best possible partnership for our long-term happiness.
“Do you really want to start all over at your age?”
That’s not a reason to get married….
I hated feeling like I had to justify my decision. It’s the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but I’ve come to realize it’s not a decision that a lot of people make. Especially women.
I know a lot of people wouldn’t have made the same decision I did.
We’re the generation raised on Disney princess movies. As girls, we were taught to believe a prince would rescue us and sweep us off our feet. Throughout our lives, people ask us about our dream wedding and what our dress will look like. We read books like Why Men Love Bitches to try to “trick” a man into monogamy. And when we’re finally engaged, we’re supposed to bask in the glory while everyone oohs and ahhs at our ring and asks us “How’s the wedding planning going?” every 5 to 10 minutes. And don’t you DARE express any nerves or doubt, because people will lose their SHIT. You’re supposed to be the epitome of bridal bliss – just like the brides on Say Yes To the Dress.
Men, not so much. Boys are raised to think of marriage as “the ball and chain” – and something that should be avoided as long as possible. Once a guy pops the question, he’s expected to mourn his single life and get cold feet. No one bats an eye; they slap him on the butt and hand him a beer.
In the past few months, a number of women have opened up to me about their engagements and marriages. Turns out they too had cold feet or full-blown doubts, but didn’t feel they could be open about it during their engagement. But we NEED to be. If anything, engagement is THE TIME to raise questions, to raise doubts. Better now than after you’ve taken the plunge.
A UCLA study of 464 heterosexual newlyweds found that, indeed, men are more likely than women to have premarital doubts. But the study ALSO found that when the woman is the one with doubts, it’s a better predictor of divorce. Women who admitted to walking down the aisle with doubts were 2.5X more likely to get a divorce. We’re the intuitive ones, go figure.
Why do so many women ignore their doubts?
Could be a lot of things…
- Not trusting themselves
- Not wanting to disappoint/hurt/rock the boat
- Fear of being alone
- Biological clock
- Internal and external pressure
… I could go on.
Now, don’t get me wrong here, these are valid fears. Fears I’ve faced and still do face. But my BIGGEST fear was being in the wrong marriage with three kids, wishing I had listened to that niggling doubt I had before I got married. So I looked all my other fears in the face and called it off.
It’s never too late to change your mind
I want everyone reading this to know that it’s never too late to change your mind. You’re never in too deep. You can always make a change or do something different. I did it, even when I thought it was impossible. Even when I thought I’d never get through it. But I’m taking baby steps every day, and I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
This experience has taught me how strong I really am. And believe it or not, I have ZERO regrets. I don’t regret getting engaged. Yes, it caused T and I an immense amount of pain and heartbreak. But it also taught me about marriage, partnership, and what “forever” really means in ways I couldn’t have comprehended a year ago. I learned about myself, what I want, what I need. I’m more prepared than ever for marriage, and I’m immensely grateful for that.
I’m also grateful that I got to spend three life-changing years living with T. He made me a better human being, and I like to think I did the same for him. Not an ounce of me feels like I was with the “wrong person.” I was with the right person for this period of my life, and I’ll cherish that forever. As for the future, we’re both taking time to focus on ourselves and what will be best for our long-term happiness. We have nothing but love and respect for each other, and we want this to be the kindest and most loving break possible.
There’s no such thing as a hard decision, only a painful one.
I read once that “there’s no such thing as a hard decision, only a painful one.” Well, I’ve never been through anything more painful than this. You know that feeling of waking up and thinking you had a nightmare, only to realize it was actually real? I re-realize my new reality every day, multiple times a day, and it’s devastating. People ask me “When’s the wedding?” hourly, and no matter HOW MANY TIMES I UNSUBSCRIBE from Brides they won’t stop emailing me. I cry. A LOT. But, every once in a while, I stop and I think to myself,
“Damn, I’m really proud of myself. I can’t believe I had the ovaries to call off my fucking wedding.”
This took courage and self-awareness I never knew I had and I can feel it making me a stronger person as we speak. So no, I’m not ok. But I will be. We both will be.
When you get engaged, you expect it to be the most blissful time of your life. But if it turns out it’s not, what would you do? What would you do if you had doubts? If you didn’t feel 100% sure? Would you go forward and hope for the best? Or would you make a painful decision?
Update 7/25/18 on what it was like baring my soul to 1000s of strangers: read the latest here.
Update 8/15/18 on grief, loss, and making painful decisions: read the latest here.