If You Want To Break Off Your Engagement Respectfully, Here's How And When To Do It

Think back to when you announced your engagement. You were likely flooded with praise and congratulations, right? Now, think back to the biggest accomplishment you've ever achieved, whether professional, academic, or personal. Did it receive similar fanfare? When you take a moment to observe the way society views marriage as the ultimate accomplishment, especially for women, it becomes easy to see why so many end up in engagements and marriages that don't really serve their needs. The pressure to marry persists despite the fact that unmarried and childless women are the happiest group of people in the world, as reported by The Guardian.

If you find yourself in an engagement your instincts are telling you isn't the right one for you, getting out can be difficult and emotionally draining. It might feel very tempting to just follow through with the wedding and figure out what's wrong later. Unfortunately, that approach will likely land you in a situation where you face the choice between being one of up to two-thirds of women who feel "trapped" in their marriage or facing the cost and uncertainty of divorce (via StudyFinds). It is far better to face the uncomfortable truth now than it is to face it a decade or two of entanglement down the road. Here is how to break off your engagement while maintaining your dignity and respecting your partner.

Be compassionate with your fiancé

Once you've made the decision to end your engagement, spend some time planning the conversation you'll need to have with your partner. Choose a low-stress time when you have a few hours of privacy. Times right after work or right before a wedding-related event are not ideal. National Public Radio (NPR) reports that blood pressure and heart rate are lowest in the evening hours, paving the way for a calmer reaction to bad news. In any case, be prepared for a strong emotional reaction and to give them the space they require to express their thoughts while you listen. If you're already cohabitating, have a plan lined up to get yourself out of the home for at least a few hours to allow separate processing time before you start working on a more detailed plan for separation. 

While you may have been struggling with this decision for quite some time, there is a good chance your fiancé is about to be blindsided. Gently express that your decision is final but maintain compassion throughout. No matter what has contributed to your decision to end the engagement, this is a person you've cared about who is experiencing pain. If your decision stems from conflict within the relationship, avoid accusations and inflammatory statements. Express the way you feel using "I" statements and don't allow yourself to be pulled into an argument, which might suggest that you're open to changing your mind (via Good Therapy).

Stand your ground with family and friends

When it comes to friends and family members, there is less of a duty of compassion owed. Loved ones can sometimes become emotionally invested in your wedding and some may have even financially invested in the day. Don't let this dissuade you from following your inner knowing. Offer to sign a contract agreeing to repay any costs associated with the wedding if it makes you and the person footing the nonrefundable bill feel better (via Debt.org). Be prepared to set and maintain healthy boundaries, as detailed by PsychCentral.

Regardless of any guilt you might feel at the hands of your friends or family members, the truth is that you don't owe any of them the sacrifice of your long-term happiness. At the end of the day, your mom, dad, and Aunt Suzie aren't the ones who were going to end up married to your fiancé; you were. The decision is yours and yours alone. Don't be afraid to make it abundantly clear that you've made your choice and are now asking for support, not judgment or opinions. Allow them space and time if they need it, but insist that they respect your new boundaries as you move on with your life.