An engagement is a traditional ceremony meant to be the transitional bridge between a romance becoming socially accepted and ratified before getting permanently indexed as a marriage. Before getting hitched, if you find yourself in an emotional ditch that can threaten both the integrity and stability of a relationship, then you may be left wondering how to call off an engagement. Certainly, calling off an engagement is not an easy decision.
It won’t be a stretch to say that the conflicting emotions you may experience when standing at the cusp of this very difficult step can give wedding jitters and cold feet a run for their money. Even though it may seem like a doomsday scenario when you’re in the thick of it, calling off an engagement is a wiser decision than getting married for the wrong reasons.
At the same time, it is imperative to be sure that you’re calling off your engagement for the right reasons – after all, you don’t want to end up in the ‘broke off my engagement and regret it’ headspace later; it ain’t pretty – and not stomping all over your fiance’s heart in the process.
In this article, psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle (Ph.D., PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, writes about some valid reasons for calling off an engagement and the way to go about it. If you feel that you’re not ready for marriage or that your partner isn’t the one, pay heed.
5 Reasons For Breaking An Engagement
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Someone came to me asking for help on calling off an engagement. He realized that his fiancée did not have a mind of her own and was constantly guided by her interfering family. She never bothered about his wishes and desires and was only doing what her family was telling her to do. Thinking of a future with a person like this and a family that would be constantly muddling up his affairs, he felt it was better to end the engagement than go through this all his life.
While marriages are treated as the ultimate culmination between partners, your partner doesn’t enter and exit your life alone. Every person comes with his/her people. If you realize that the family you’re adopting and adapting to, has the potential to toss you more than just a curveball, you are well within your rights to re-evaluate what exit strategy you’d like to call upon at such a time.
The expression ‘not the one’ in the context of a marriage getting called off can, thus become a cue for personal and group panic since a highly awkward emotional and social unshackling process may need to be initiated to address ‘wrong fit’ concerns. This is undoubtedly among the justified reasons for breaking an engagement. Here are 5 others:
Related Reading: 10 Signs You Need To Break Off Your Engagement
1. You don’t communicate well as a couple
Communication problems in relationships can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks threatening a couple’s prospects of a long-term partnership. If you feel that you cannot voice your most intimate thoughts to your fiance or be vulnerable in front of them, treat it as a red flag that communication barriers are going to threaten your marital bond sooner or later. The inability to communicate effectively can leave you thinking about calling off an engagement, and with good reason too.
Ask yourself: can you both resolve your differences through mature and healthy discussions? Do you respect each other’s feelings? Do you communicate to share and listen or to score points over one another? If you’re wondering how to know when to call off an engagement, the answers to these questions will give you clarity.
2. When should I call off my engagement? If money is an issue
Money and marriage can be a tricky issue for many couples, especially those who can’t see eye-to-eye on matters of financial planning as a couple. If there is constant bickering and arguing over spending and saving, and if your financial goals and visions don’t align, you can count it among the legitimate reasons for calling off an engagement.
It is quite possible that these differences become more pronounced and noticeable as you and your partner plunge into wedding planning, given that these ceremonies cost quite a pretty penny. If you’re realizing that money is becoming a sticky issue between you two, don’t brush it off as pre-wedding stress.
Have an honest conversation with your life-partner-to-be. If you still feel that you won’t be able to find a middle ground on monetary matters in the future, don’t hesitate to pull the plug. Financial conflict is a legitimate reason for calling off an engagement.
3. Your life goals don’t align
You want to be childfree but your partner wants a big family. Your partner wants to climb up the corporate ladder and you want to make a living out of traveling the world. You want an early retirement to pursue the things you love, they’re too workaholic to even consider that possibility.
Are you wondering, “When should I call off my engagement?” Well, if you spot such divergent views on some fundamental goals, then it’s a valid reason for calling off an engagement. Even if it seems like you will be able to align your life goals down the line or learn to respect each other’s different outlooks, such differences inevitably snowball into irreconcilable differences.
4. One of you is still hung up on the past
In a perfect world, two people would get into a relationship and decide to spend their life together only and only out of love. But it is not a perfect world, and people get into relationships and marriages just as often to run away from someone. If it’s a rebound relationship heading toward marriage, you really need to pause and reflect on whether the rebounding partner is truly over their past.
If you or your fiancé have unresolved feelings toward a former partner, it’s best to not walk down the aisle together just yet. Of course, in such a situation, you can consider calling off an engagement but staying together. Dating after calling off an engagement can be tricky territory, as the unfulfilled promise of saying ‘I do’ looms large on your relationship; however, with the right understanding and compatibility, you can find a way to make it work.
5. Your partner is manipulative
Do you feel that you’re being manipulated in the relationship? Perhaps, your partner gaslights you often, leaving you to doubt your own thoughts and convictions. Maybe they constantly make you feel unseen and unheard in the relationship. Or resort to tricks like stonewalling and silent treatment to get you to toe the line they desire.
All of these manipulative techniques are subtle forms of emotional abuse, and inevitably get augmented with time. So, call off an engagement now to avoid being trapped in a toxic marriage later. In such a situation, don’t let thoughts like ‘is breaking an engagement a sin’ cloud your judgment. Calling off an engagement to protect yourself from toxicity is an act of self-preservation.
Related Reading: He Was A Perfect Arranged Match Till I Tried To Kiss Him
10 Strategies To Call Off An Engagement
Calling off an engagement when you feel something doesn’t quite fit is always a wiser choice than grappling with an unhappy marriage or dealing with a grueling divorce. For one, there are no legal implications of breaking off an engagement. Besides, your lives are not so deeply intertwined yet that pulling them apart will inevitably take a portion of you along.
It is perhaps for these reasons that calling off engagements is becoming more and more common. So, what percentage of engagements are called off? According to The Wedding Report, 13% of all engagements – amounting to a quarter of a million – are called off.
If you’re secretly thinking about how to call off an engagement, know that you’re not alone. Life after a broken engagement will most definitely be better than one in a bad marriage. You can save yourself the horror – earlier rather than later – by simply using these 10 strategies to exit the family you’re engaged into. These are guidelines and while all personal criteria are subjective, treat these 10 tips as a ready reckoner to prevent your relationship from having to drag its heels any further and cope with calling off a wedding:
1. Bring in a third party
Bring in a third-party mediator who doesn’t have any link to either family. A neutral person operates as a consultant and due to the safe emotional distance they maintain, they are in a far superior position to communicate information straightforwardly without any accompanying melodrama.
If you can’t figure out how to call off an engagement or tell your fiancé that you’ve made up your mind to not marry them, get a trusted friend, mutual connection or a professional like a counselor involved. This will equip you better to put your point across without trampling all over your partner’s heart.
In case, yours is a unique situation where you’re contemplating calling off the engagement but staying together, then it becomes even more imperative to seek help, preferably from a couple’s counselor, to make sure that the baggage of this decision doesn’t overshadow your connection.
2. Jot down what you feel
How to call off an engagement? Make two columns and jot down what you are getting (in the first column) and what you aren’t getting from your partner (in the second column). Compare both lists and see which one is longer. The longer list must win. Clarity will prevail if you find out sooner than later whether you’re setting yourself up for happiness or stress. If it’s the latter, you’d know what you need to do.
Josh, a 34-year-old pâtissier, says that’s how he zeroed in on the reason for calling off an engagement. “I’m a stickler for being organized, both in my head and in life. I love lists. Whenever I’m in a dilemma, there’s nothing better than a pros and cons list to help me gain clarity. Dilemma was exactly what I was feeling with respect to my engagement with Patty.
“With just three months to go for the wedding, I felt I couldn’t put off a decision any longer. One night, I decided to make a list of what works in our relationship and what doesn’t. That made me see that we were very different people, and for the better part, this relationship was being driven by her needs, wants and desires. Once I had that clarity, calling off an engagement became much easier. I knew I was doing right by both of us,” he says.
3. Don’t post about your engagement on social media
Never be in a hurry to post about your relationship on social media. People like a juicy story and voyeurism is the cheapest form of entertainment. Embarrassment and the mixed feelings that follow can be contained and addressed in your personal life doesn’t become fodder for gossip online.
Have a conversation with your partner, confide in your closest circle of family and friends, take some time to process the ramifications of your decisions, and prepare for life after a broken engagement. Using social media as a tool to lash out at your partner and air your dirty laundry in public can make it harder to cope with calling off a wedding.
4. Listen only to yourself
Listen to yourself and only to yourself. You are charged with protecting your peace of mind, and thus it is your SOLE responsibility to first accept your feelings without having to apologize for having an unpopular opinion or a preference that doesn’t line up with what others want for you. It is your life to live so treat it like the most precious project it is.
Even if your family or people closest to you don’t immediately put themselves behind your decision, don’t waiver. At the same time, don’t let your partner convince you into rethinking your decision and getting into a marriage you don’t feel confident about.
Being in tune with your emotions and what you really want is important to make sure you’re making the right decision. It will help ensure that you’re not left lamenting, “I broke off my engagement and regret it.”
5. Ensure there is a witness
Thinking about calling off an engagement and acting on that thought are two very different things. When you share your decision to not go ahead with marrying the person you’re betrothed to, it can bring out some very strong reactions and emotions. Whenever you are breaking the news of calling off marriage to a parent or a partner, make sure you have a witness in the same room so that things do not get mercurial or volatile.
Your physical and emotional safety is important since there are a limited number of ‘good ways’ to break so-called ‘bad news’. This is especially crucial for part of how to call off an engagement, as it helps you to protect yourself physically and emotionally.
6. Build a case for yourself
When should I call off my engagement? This question can be perplexing. To find the right answer, try to approach the question in reverse. Build a case (in writing) as an outsider, on paper, for why you are absolutely justified to be marrying into a certain family.
While building the case, observe the emotions you’re experiencing. How hard or easy is it for you to build a case? It is hard for people to write with conviction about situations they don’t believe or invest in. Jot down the emotions you are experiencing (while writing this case) and then see if the case you’ve built feels more like an intellectual exercise or a sincere message to yourself about feeling confident about your decision. Self-doubt is natural but self-deception is an issue.
Related Reading: Dating For Marriage? 15 Important Things You Should Be Prepared For
7. Take a solo trip
Take a solo trip to a destination of your choice. Sounds clichéd? Spending time alone is the best way to get in touch with your inner truth about the kind of life you’d like to lead. If you don’t enjoy your own company, that makes you vulnerable. Meet and talk to people from different cultures.
Perspective is a valuable ally. Also, it’ll give you the opportunity to see how your desire for individuality is being respected by your future spouse. It will give an opportunity to do some introspection and thinking about calling off an engagement, and the what, why and how of it. Once you’re clear about what you want, sharing it with other people becomes easier.
8. Are you being scrutinized?
If you feel like you’re constantly under scrutiny for your looks, lifestyle choices, social circle, and in some cases even sexual behavior with the partner you’re engaged to, you must verbally put it on record that you are well within your rights to have a personal life without having to constantly explain yourself (as an adult) to others.
This is called ‘tone-setting’ and is one of the ways to guard your terms in a relationship so you don’t feel overlooked. Assess your partner’s reaction to you standing up for yourself. If it’s far from what you’d expect from a life partner, you have every right to let them know that getting married would be a bad idea. Your individuality not being respected is a strong reason for calling off an engagement, and you must hold your own in such a situation.
9. Write a daily journal after the engagement
Write a daily journal about how you feel about your relationship post the engagement. Do it for 2 weeks. Archiving our thoughts is as important as having them. Once you’re done with the writing, meet a qualified relationship counselor and ask them specifically to analyze the writing to dissect a theme from it.
Emotions have themes too and themes build narratives. Pleasing the family, wanting to alleviate one’s loneliness, access to sex, wanting children before turning a certain age, wanting to ‘show one’s friends’ that one is normal or wanting to hit a personal financial and social benchmark. These are some of the themes that could accompany the decision to marry.
If these are your reasons to get married, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons and would be better off calling off the engagement. In case you discover that while you want your partner in your life, it’s the idea of marriage that you’re not comfortable with, you could even consider calling off the engagement but staying together.
Related Reading: I Fell in Love With Someone After My Engagement
10. Talk to the one you are engaged to
Talk to your partner to build trust and respect. A marriage takes place first between two people and then between two families. Never underestimate the value of catching someone in the right mood and at the right time. This can help a negotiation proceed sensitively and sensibly until a solution is reached.
So how should you ‘get out of it’ earlier rather than later? Don’t obsess over timelines but also don’t put off decision making – if you’d like to save the families their emotional and financial investment in the relationship.
Experience and speak your whole truth. This is your responsibility. Even top industry experts have afterthoughts after they may have committed a budget to something. It’s called being human. Only you get to decide how you live and what you need to do to preserve both your peace and your self-respect.
Deciding to go back on the commitment to marry someone can turn out to be one of the hardest things you ever do. Don’t let thoughts like “Is breaking an engagement a sin?” or “Am I a horrible person for breaking someone’s heart?” take a toll on your mind. Not losing sight of the reasons behind your decision – which also means ensuring that you’re not doing it for frivolous reasons – can make it easier to cope with calling off a wedding and move on.