9 Things I Learned When My Engagement Crashed And Burned

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woman rejecting man's advances

Over 10 years ago, I was knee deep in planning my wedding that was scheduled for the coming June. It was to a man who I knew well and considered to be my best friend. We had dated for three years and it seemed like the next logical step was to get hitched.

This didn’t keep the whole thing from crashing down around my ankles, right during the week of Valentine’s Day (I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere).

We kicked off that week by having some rip-roaring blow-out fights that centered around… I’m not sure what. What I do remember is that when it all blew up for good in a mutual fashion, I was devastated. Like, sobbing and sliding down the shower wall, night after night for months (I won’t admit to years, but… maybe years), devastated. We tried to get back together more times than I can count but the attempts always ended in tears for one or both of us.

For years afterward, I felt like damaged goods. I thought that I had screwed up my one chance at true love with someone who I missed like crazy. Luckily I was wrong and learned a ton that I want to share with you today.

1. Trying to work through problems is good, but trying to work through incompatibility is not.

This was not one of those failed relationship nightmare scenarios where I look back and think, “what the heck did I see in him” (there are a ton of those to come, just not this time).

The truth is that my ex fiancee was/is a kind, intelligent guy, just not for me. And I knew it, but I think we both strived to make it work in spite of the fact that we wanted completely different things. He deeply wanted to settle down while I hoped to travel the world. When I told him that it would be 5-7 years minimum before I was ready for children, he became sad and withdrawn. You get the idea, there were major differences.

Persistence and compromise can be great, but only when you’re fighting for a relationship that is right for you. Before you commit to someone, make sure that you agree on the big things like how you want your life to look. Compromise on the small things but not the big ones.

2. The make-up, break-up cycle is brutal.

After the initial break in our relationship, we tried to get back together and repair things more times than I can count, for about three years afterward.

Moving on was like a dog whistle to the other person. One of us would sense that the other person was ALMOST ready to move on, call and then try desperately to get the other person back. This went on with gusto until he got another woman pregnant and we both FINALLY stopped the vicious circle we had found ourselves in.

To this day I shudder at the sheer amount of time we both wasted trying to patch up a relationship that just wasn’t meant to be.

3. Honor your gut feelings.

On paper a relationship might look and feel great, but if you feel like it’s wrong, it’s wrong. I shudder to think at how I let the hope that it was right (or that it would magically transform) overshadow the fact that I knew deep down that getting married was a mistake. I wasn’t ready and I was scared to lose him. I wasn’t sure what my life would look like without him and I didn’t want to admit that I had failed or face being single.

Needless to say, now I’m a big fan of following my gut feelings the first time.

4. Examine your excuses.

For two years before he proposed, I kept telling him (and myself) that I wasn’t ready for a commitment until I finished more school. I went so far as to sign up for a specialized trade school after finishing undergrad to avoid getting engaged. At the time, I thought I was getting more educated, but now I see it for what it was; elaborate stalling.

If you find yourself making excuses for why you can’t take a relationship further, hold those up to the light of day and examine the real reasons behind them.

5. Don’t get caught up in society’s white picket fence unless that’s what you want.

I naively thought that getting married and settling down was just what people did after graduating college. I wasn’t ready, but I truly felt like “this is what people do” as I watched my friends all get married and start having babies (at the ripe old age of 23) one by one. Since I was in love, I never questioned the monkey-see, monkey-do idea that I would get married too.

6. The temporary hurt you cause by leaving someone wrong for you doesn’t hold a candle to the hurt you’ll cause if you stay.

I knew the relationship wasn’t the right one for me, but I stayed on for way longer than I should because I knew that ending it would cause a great deal of pain for both of us. I bought into my own b.s. idea that I wouldn’t find a better fit. I egotistically fantasized that he would be crushed and I would be the cause of that pain.

The truth is that I wasn’t doing either of us any favors. We were both adults and the adult thing to do is to call time when you realize it isn’t going to work out.

7. Comfortable doesn’t mean right.

One main reason why I kept circling around to revisit that relationship was that it felt safe and comfortable. I hadn’t ever felt that way with anyone else and it was almost like a drug. Since I hadn’t gotten over him OR stopped fantasizing about it somehow working out between us, the comfort of being around him overrode my desire to detach look for the right person. It was a bird in the hand situation that neither one of us deserved, but were temporarily ready to settle for.

8. Make sure the sex rocks your socks off.

If you’re going to marry someone, you’d better make sure that you both have incredible chemistry in the bedroom. Sure, bedroom problems can be worked through, but if you’re both healthy and feel like you’d rather read the dictionary than get busy, the relationship might be wrong for you.

9. Unless you’re dead, your chance to find love is not over.

All of this drama taught me that I had some silly, melodramatic ideas about how love and relationships worked. I think back to my heartbroken, shower—floor-crying self and wish I could tell her that it would all work out for the best in the long run.

I didn’t have enough faith in love or myself to realize that what I really needed to do was get up, move on and try again, tear-stained, but wiser.

Have you ever stayed with someone wrong for you because it felt safe? Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.

MORE: Dear Bride-To-Be: You Can Call Off The Wedding Right Now

About Elizabeth Stone

Elizabeth Stone is the founder of Attract The One.

Her popular program Ex Attraction Formula, has helped hundreds of women reunite with their men. She is thrilled to have helped so many people reignite the spark in their relationships.

Tirelessly focused on helping people improve their love lives, her work has been featured on EHarmony Blog, YourTango, Thought Catalog, Mogul, Fox News Magazine, Ravishly, Femalista, Popsugar, Read Unwritten, Medium and many more.

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