Marriage is a constantly evolving institution in our society. It is both traditional and ever changing with each generation. And while it is a challenging but incredibly beautiful endeavor, so often we use it as a mile marker to make sure we’re “on track” with our lives. It becomes a goal we need to accomplish. So many people desire to have a partner to build and share a life with, but sometimes we find ourselves on the path to marriage and suddenly realize that we’re building with a partner that doesn’t align with the deep truth of our souls. And such a thing is hard to put into words, much less identify as doubts about the engagement.
So how can you tell if you’re just feeling nervous about marriage or if your worries are much more than that? You’re the only one who can really decide, but here are a few things to consider:
Are you secretly searching for answers?
Are you Googling about ending engagements when you’re alone? Are you reading books or articles in your car over your lunch break? Secrecy like this in any romantic relationship is cause for alarm, and it’s definitely a sign that you need to stop and think. Are there issues that you and your partner need to talk about and work through? Or do you know in your gut that you can’t go through with it and are desperately searching for some outside validation?
Do you find yourself dreading or resisting wedding planning?
You need to be careful with this one because most people dread the stress of wedding planning, and it does not usually mean that they want to end their engagement. The monumental expectations around weddings is a topic for another day. However, notice if you find yourself resisting involving friends or family members in the process. Is there a part of you that is keeping them at arms distance so that they won’t notice something is off? Or do you have this feeling that there isn’t going to be a wedding?
Do you tell yourself that you can just get a divorce if it doesn’t work out?
Divorce is necessary sometimes, and these days, it is quite common and carries less stigma. But it is still excruciating. Not to mention expensive, disruptive, and messy. You’ve woven your life together with someone. Mortgages, bank accounts, credit card debt, health insurance, name changes, on and on. In a divorce, you have to unweave all of that. And you know this in your heart, but mentally it is easy to think of it as an easy escape door. But there is nothing easy about it. And the shame and embarrassment and heartbreak that you might deal with in ending your engagement will be much easier than divorce. Don't gamble with your heart and your livelihood simply to avoid making a difficult decision.
Are you having trouble separating the voice of your head from the voice of your heart?
Another way of thinking about this is, “Are you able to identify the voice of your intuition versus the voice of your logical brain?” People call intuition “a gut feeling” because we sense it in our solar plexus, in our core. Do you ever feel a sense of withering or wilting in your interactions with your partner? When you’re in an emotional battle between two warring voices, it’s hard to pick out which one is the gut and which one is the head. We need both to make decisions, but there is so much outside pressure and expectation once you’ve gotten engaged to someone and you’re planning a wedding. Take an afternoon, a day, or a weekend to try to go someplace on your own, away from the noise. Often our intuitive voice speaks in quiet moments.
Do you doubt your own self-worth and the possibility of finding love again?
Or are you more afraid of being alone than of marrying the wrong person? For a long time, I told myself that it was better to be loved and a little miserable than to be single again. And even the right relationship will have its mix of joy and struggle. But it still pains me to know how much I was willing to sacrifice in myself to maintain that singular desire. Getting married doesn’t actually prove that you are lovable and desirable. You are always worthy of being loved and of being desired.
Ending an engagement doesn’t happen unless the pain of staying outweighs the pain of leaving. And if you’re in that position, you are the only one who knows when the scale has tipped. Continue to make choices from love instead of from fear, and you will find your way soon enough.