Breaking up freed both to love again

  • Article by: CAROLYN HAX
  • Updated: July 1, 2012 - 6:22 PM

Editor's note: Carolyn Hax is on vacation, so she's letting readers give the advice while she's away.

On resisting pressure to go ahead with the wedding even though you have doubts -- from three different angles:

Thirteen years ago, I was engaged to a wonderful man, "Ed," who was a giver, and I was a taker. He did so much for me, helping me further my career, and supporting me throughout college. I did love him, and we had wonderful times together.

On the outside and from his point of view, everything was going fine. However, I did not feel that way. While the relationship felt and looked fulfilling, for some reason I am still not sure of, he was not right for me. Whenever I would try to talk to a friend or my mother about my feelings, they would say I was being "unappreciative" and "too demanding," making it even harder for me to accept my feelings that this marriage shouldn't take place. I actually even used to imagine that "Ed" would get in a car accident so that I could save myself the guilt of breaking it off.

Finally, I had a vision of what our life would be like 20 years from now. And I knew if I married him we would not be together because I knew I would be unhappy, and by association make him unhappy. I also felt so much guilt. I really believed he would make a wonderful husband for someone, but not for me.

I broke it off, but Ed refused to believe the relationship was over. We tried to be "friends," but that did not work out, since he kept on promising what he could do for me if I would just get back together with him.

Fast forward to today. I am married and have never had these feelings about the man I am with. Some of my family and friends did not understand the situation with Ed and, yes, some took a "moral" stance and do not speak to me now. Last year, I ran into Ed's sister, and she gleefully told me he has moved to another state and has gotten married and has a daughter. She seemed so determined to rub it in that I could have had that life with Ed, but I realized the happy life he is having now is in a small way because I let him go.

Be brave, please

When you have cold feet, you are called upon to access your bravery and do something excruciatingly difficult. It's not breaking up -- you clearly want that -- or hurting the other person, since you've already been doing that.

The task is to accept responsibility for being utterly, cluelessly, head-smackingly wrong.

Most of us HATE to be wrong. It is drilled into us as children that there is no worse fate than wrongness. But we are all, ALL wrong sometimes. Part of growing up is learning how to be wrong and to make right any damage we may have caused others.

This is a critical moment in your life. You can either prepare for and accept wrongness and set you both free, or you can be afraid of being wrong and marry someone to avoid experiencing wrongness. Doing the latter will cause a world of hurt. Just imagine how much your kids will feel that hurt in 10 years.

You cannot climb out of this hole unscathed. You can only pack a lot of bandages and prepare for it. You can do it, even if you think you can't. You can. I promise. Both of you deserve to find a person you adore and who adores you.

Call it off early

After 10 years of marriage and two beautiful little boys, my husband came to me out of the blue and told me he wanted to separate. It took him nearly another year even to attempt to explain his reasons, one of which was that he felt pressure for us to be married. It wasn't from me; instead, he felt at the time that we should either break up or get married, so he proposed.

And now, after nearly 14 years of loving this man with all of my heart, sharing our lives, creating these amazing little boys, he's leaving me. I am left feeling as if my whole adult life has been a lie, and forever wondering why he married me if he knew it wasn't right and, even more so, why did he pretend to be happy for all these years if this really wasn't the life he wanted?

So please, call off the wedding. A bride- or groom-to-be will survive a broken engagement much better than being left 10, 15 years and several kids from now, when you finally get the courage to leave because you can't take another day.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her at 11 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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