This is one of many True Story interviews with people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of ‘Marie’ and how she left her fiance. I realize that many readers may take issue with Marie’s behavior but please keep your comments respectful. Polite, articulate dissent is fine, incendiary attacks will be deleted.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m originally from New Jersey and will be turning 24. Last year, I graduated from a small university with degrees in international relations and peace studies, but when I’m not trying to save the world or learn a new language, I’m an avid thrifter and online shopper. I just made a major move West and am currently working in social services with a refugee resettlement agency.
Growing up, how did you feel about love and relationships?
It’s taken me a long time to realize how unhealthy my thoughts on love are. Growing up, I was always closet boy crazy: I was quiet and at the top of my classes, and you wouldn’t expect those were my priorities so I had to keep quiet about it. I didn’t date until my senior year of high school but then stayed with the same boy for almost three years.
I went through a really bad breakup and had a solid year of liberating independence. But I always fall back into the same routine of sleeping with a man way too early and putting their desires before my own.
Tell us about your relationship with your ex-fiance.
We met through mutual friends but come from very different backgrounds- I was born and raised in New Jersey and he had just moved to the US from Portugal a few years ago. He is still the most amazing person I’ve ever met.
He’s kind-hearted, always smiling, and can make conversation with anyone. But, I slept with him on the first date and knew I loved him the second day, and I don’t know if I would have felt the same if sex wasn’t involved so quickly.
Nonetheless, we dated for about a year before we moved in together. In the beginning, I could tell my feelings were stronger than his but also more unstable.
We have very different goals for the future, and he’s always been more family-oriented than I am. We decided to move in together and I knew he would propose shortly thereafter.
How did you feel when he proposed?
I generally knew it was coming, so I think the lack of surprise added to the disappointment. We had been to see the Christmas tree in New York City a few weeks prior, and a couple was engaged on the ice rink while we were there. He knew I didn’t want anything big like that, but the way it happened just didn’t feel right.
One evening, I was in our room getting ready for bed. I turned around, and he was there with the ring. It was beautiful, and I said yes, but even in the moment felt like I was faking some excitement. I knew I loved him, but it just didn’t feel like the right time.
While you were planning the wedding, how did you feel about marriage and your relationship?
I was initially very low key about the engagement but got swept up in it very quickly. I actually wanted a long engagement, but my then-fiance was the first to say he wanted to get married sooner, and I obliged.
At the time, I had friends who were also planning weddings, so I tried to feed off some of their energy. But in the back of my head, I knew there was this lingering unhappiness about all that was happening.
I do want to clarify though that I take full responsibility for it all.In an attempt to please everyone, I didn’t speak up for what I really wanted. I would often silently tell myself, “this isn’t right, but if he and I are happy in the end, why does it matter?” The problem became that I really wasn’t happy, and used the stress of the wedding planning as a facade.
I like to think I hid it from my fiance pretty well, and though we did have tense moments at times, he’s an impossible person to be mad at. He did his absolute best to comfort my stress, but I kept so much hidden from him.
What actually happened on the day of the wedding?
I didn’t sleep at all the night before. I was scheduled to start getting ready around mid-morning, but at sunrise I was in my car. I just started driving and eventually had to pull over just to cry.
I was sitting in an empty mall parking lot, and the first person I called was my best friend. She tried to calm me down and insisted I was just nervous, and although I couldn’t tell her, I knew it was deeper than that.
I ultimately told her to call everyone in the bridal party and call it off. She called my parents, who were then able to field the guests and vendors.
I waited much too long before calling my fiance. When he answered, all I could do was cry. I think he knew right away what was going on. I just apologized over and over again and told him I loved him, then he hung up. We didn’t speak for the rest of the day, and I waited until the evening before I drove back home. I didn’t want to face the reality of what had just happened.
How did your friends and family react to your decision? How did you fiance react?
I think the hardest part was dealing with all of the reactions. I already felt so guilty about what had happened, and the anger I experienced from everyone only made it worse.
My friends didn’t speak to me for a few days, I think with the intention of giving me time to calm down, but then all the questions, accusations, and jokes came in at once.
My fiance didn’t speak to me for about a week. He wasn’t angry, but he was disappointed- mostly in me, for waiting so long to say something.
Why didn’t you call it off earlier? Why did you wait till the actual day?
This is the part that feels the worst- knowing I could have made the situation so. much. better. Truthfully, I have no real answer. During the planning process, it’s easy to get swept up in the details.
I tried as hard as I could to ignore the negative feelings I was having, and ignoring them for a day very quickly becomes a day and a month.I wanted to believe the feelings were just “cold feet” and nervousness, and that I could force some excitement on the actual day. That didn’t happen, so I ran (drove) away.
What’s your relationship with your fiance like now?
Despite everything that has happened, I am in love with him. I have incredible visions of being with him when we’re 60 and enjoying our retirement together, but I know in my heart this just isn’t the right time to start our forever.
We’ve recently started talking on a regular basis again, and rebuilding the strength in our relationship. I believe we can get past this, in time.
It’s been made more difficult by tensions from his friends and family members, though, who are not so keen to have me back in his life.
Have you had any regrets?
I wish I could say otherwise, but I have so many. I wish I had spoken up for myself. I wish I had trusted those around me, including my fiance, to understand my feelings and hesitation. I wish I had trusted myself to believe that my feelings were more than standard nervousness.
What advice would you give to people who are engaged and getting cold feet?
I think the most important thing is to sit down and think about whether your feelings are just nervousness, or a true alert that this is not the right thing to do.
I encourage people to talk to their friends and families openly about their emotions, but in the end, you really need to be true to yourself. And keep your significant other involved every step of the way.
I think this can be the hardest part – to be able to convey your thoughts without making them feel as if it’s their fault. I know a lot of people won’t understand the decision, but it’s ok to be selfish this time.
Have any of your ended a relationship in a way that you’re not proud of? Any (respectful!) questions for Marie?