Are you or your partner getting cold feet when it comes to the wedding? You may not feel ready to get engaged, or have life circumstances interfere with your plans. You may have a change of heart about how you define your relationship.
Clear and empathetic communication with your partner is difficult but necessary when an engagement ends, because no matter what has happened, you’ve cared about this person and this affects multiple areas of your life. Whether you’ve decided to break off the engagement or not, there are important questions to consider before you do:
- What Happens When You Break It Off but Stay Together?
Sometimes, the timing isn’t right after all, and that’s okay. Take your unique set of circumstances into consideration, and ask yourself serious questions:
- Is there an established pattern of postponement? Can you get passed it, or are you ready to move on?
- Due to health concerns or career options, do you need to put it on hold? Are you willing to be supportive of each other, no matter how long this takes?
- Are you moving out or moving in together?
These are a few examples of serious questions you will need to ask yourself and your partner. Give yourself time, and then come at these considerations with an objective point of view. Prioritize your needs.
There are many reasons why an engagement isn’t working out right now, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get hitched eventually. Plan to revisit talk of making concrete plans in three months, or whatever time table is best. Perhaps you both need time apart or a new definition of your relationship, as some couples feel comfortable with or need a piece of paper to show their commitment to each other.
- When it’s Over, Should You Stay Friends?
You’re not obligated to remain friends after any break-up, and after an engagement ends, you’ll need time to yourself to work through the aftermath.
Is the hurt too deep? Have they done something you can’t come back from, even in friendship? If the foundation of your trust has been thoroughly shattered, it’s okay to completely cut the relationship off.
If you want to explore the possibility of a friendship in the future, be clear and say that you’re taking time. It’s okay to send a brief email or phone call with your intentions.
Consider whether or not you want to unfollow or block them on social media accounts, or your post break-up social media cleanse may involve deactivating accounts. Emotions and thoughts will be heavy and nuanced at this time.
Consider the aspects of your relationship that makes this person a good friend. Keep these facts close to you, and know that time does heal wounds.
Sometimes, you will experience a relatively clean break with little to no hard feelings. If this is case, still take a few weeks to yourself to work through your thoughts and emotions.
- How Do You Break the News to Family and Friends?
Ending an engagement is difficult in and of itself, but when this person has become involved in the lives of your family and friends, a new layer of complication is added. Your family and friends have developed their own relationship with them, and may or may not agree with the break up.
Start by breaking the news to one of your closest friends who will actively listen without offering unnecessary advice or judgment. Troubleshoot how to break the news to others with this friend. Some people make a brief announcement on social media accounts, while others prefer in person conversations. Sometimes, it’s easier to talk on the phone.
Remember, you are not obligated to divulge any information or answer any questions you feel uncomfortable about. Mutual friends should not choose sides, but they might. Your true friends will be supportive of you, and your family should respect your needs, for closeness or distance. Be clear about your boundaries and needs.
- What Happens to the Ring?
The ring signifies a conditional agreement between two parties who promise to wed and spend their lives together. While seen as a gift by some, money was invested in the purchase of the ring, and when the agreement is broken, many believe it’s customary to return the ring or its monetary value. The laws vary per state, as the ring signifies a contract between the couple.
If the engagement ended on bad terms, you may be tempted to pawn or sell the ring. This is understandable, but you should check out the local law first to be on the safe side.
Is the ring a family heirloom? For sentimental reasons, it’s best to return it to the line of succession, since a parent or grandparent may still be emotionally attached to the ring.
- How Do You Keep Communication Civil?
You can’t control how your partner, family or friends will react to the break up. Keep communication civil by establishing boundaries, stating them and sticking to them. Be self-aware and advocate for your needs.
If there’s yelling, walk away or end the conversation. Focus on mutual goals. Focus on what needs to be done. Offer empathy, but avoid emotional spirals and cycles of blame.
Breaking off an engagement is a difficult decision that affects you in profound ways, affecting multiple areas of your life. Remember to seek out support systems that will actively listen to you and to deeply consider and act on your needs.