real life

All the things I learned when I called off my engagement.


That’s the sound of me getting unceremoniously chucked on the ‘ex’ pile. I thoroughly recommend trying it. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll have the time of your life. Oh yeah, you’ll learn a thing or two. That I can promise.

There were warning signs long before we called time. Let’s just say that if you have major doubts about being engaged, you probably shouldn’t be. I’m not talking about your standard nervousness, I mean debilitating, undermining doubt. My ideas about marriage made me beyond uncomfortable. I was outright scared. From the price-per-head to musing over what makes a ‘good wife’, I was afraid. Without ever planning to, I set about sabotaging the whole thing, the very thing I had wanted… and one day, didn’t want any more.

“I called off the engagement.”

I called off the engagement before the relationship ended. I took my fears to mean that it wasn’t the right time yet. He put on a brave face and said that was okay. But, dear reader, pro tip: if you end your engagement, you will hurt the other person. Even if you love them. Even if you still think you’ll marry them one day. While you’re saying ‘I’m not ready for this’, they may hear. ‘I’m not ready for you’, and, wait for it, they may leave.

I spent a long time how I could reconcile my thirst for freedom and adventure with the image of domesticity that marriage presented me. spent time abroad with girIfriends and wished even more that I was ‘free’. And then, all of a sudden, I was. I was so free and I didn’t know what to do with that. It was lonely and doubly afraid. So here’s what I did.

I cried. I cried at home. I cried at work. I cried on the treadmill. I had so many feelings.

“I had so many feelings.”


I banned love songs and negative self talk. I was so frequently bubbling with rejection and rage and unspoken hurt, I didn’t need to wield those two oh-so popular weapons.

I lived day to day. I couldn’t cope with this ‘no plans’ business and wiping clean the future, so I just disengaged and took each day as it came. Until I saw cheap flights and then I made plans…
…and caught planes. Lots of them. It was lonely and beautiful and I could then cry in planes, too.

I rebounded. The first post-breakup kiss made my stomach flip. I thought I was going to be sick. Next tip: if your body says it’s wrong, listen up

I travelled more. I walked more. I cried less.
I made new friendships and re-learned that I wasn’t totally wretched and unlovable. I was just hurt.

“And one day it was okay.”

There were setbacks. There were a million references to the ‘stages of grieving’ and I realised that they really don’t work in a linear way. You’ll think you’re all healed up and then you’re a total mess again. Grief and rejection are vicious jerks and they will wear you out. And occasionally they are more powerful than memory, fact and rationality. Last tip – don’t make that call, you’ll regret it. Even the third time.

But one day it will be okay. And one day it was okay.

The biggest thing I learned in this rollercoaster is the value of listening to myself, knowing what is right for me and the importance of having the courage to act on that intuition. I also learned the damage of ignoring that voice that says ‘something’s wrong’. It’s better to listen than to find yourself Googling ‘trapped and unhappy’ in ten years.

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