I have a hunch that the stamps in my passport have contributed most of my insights, and prompted most of my questions.
Girlfriends and boyfriends break up every day. Half of American marriages end in divorce. It's the purgatory breakup — calling off an engagement — that's less common, and it comes with many unique annoyances.
As someone who's been through it, I found that the experience following a called off engagement can be broken down into six aggravating stages.
1. Constant contact from the wedding pros
Every website you subscribed to, every vendor you gave your email and physical address to, every dress shop you left your phone number with — they're all relentlessly on your ass. The people you most want to forget about are the people that will make sure they don't forget about you.
Need a countdown to the doomed day that will never be? The Knot has that covered. How about the travel agent you discussed your honeymoon with? She'll send you an anniversary card. Remember that shop where you tried on a hideous dress six months ago? They're going to call you for the next year.
It had to have been the fifteenth call I got from a dress shop while out on an awful first date nine months after the engagement ended when I finally screamed into the phone, "He left me, OK?! I'm not in need of your freakin' dress! Have a nice day!" You'll have to go into the wedding protection program just to start over.
2. Reciting the story over and over
Maybe you'll only have to tell your friends, family, and a few coworkers and be done with it. If you have a job like mine, with hundreds of clients excitedly awaiting your wedding plans and big day, you'll have to repeat your story every day, multiple times a day, for months.
It will become a robotic-like speech. Insert coin here to listen to the worst day of my life. You'll master an emotionless announcement to spare people from needing to take an Advil and lie down from shock. "Really, it's fine! I'm fine! Really..."
Even talking in general to people that know will be awkward. The concerned "How are you?" every day will be enough to make you want to scream. Suddenly, a normal conversation feels like verbal assault, and getting through a day of it is exhausting.
3. Adjusting to a less sparkly finger
In retrospect, when you're away from all the gross feelings, the worst part really is taking off your beautiful diamond ring. Especially if you picked it out. How awful is it that because he changed his mind, you suddenly can't wear your most prized piece of jewelry anymore? The only thing worse is the phantom weight of the ring on your finger and moving your pinky to adjust what isn't there for months after.
4. Staying away from familiar faces and places
You guys aren't together anymore. Your last name isn't going to change, you're going to be eating dinner alone for a while, and all the things you shared together are vanishing before your eyes. Their family was about to become your family, and suddenly, one day, you can't really ever talk to them again. Even if you still hear from them in the beginning, soon it will be too painful. The easiest reality now is one where they don't exist anymore.
Your routine might change completely. You won't want to go the same spots on the weekend for a while. Heck, even a trip to the same grocery store might make you sick. It's a different world, and you've become a different you.
5. Starting over
Maybe it's just me, but it seems a lot of people have a psychological timeline they try desperately to stick to throughout most of their twenties. There's this "I'm almost a wife" air about you when you're engaged. It's a sickening feeling when you can sense the wind on your face approaching the finish line (marriage) and BOOM! Back to the start. Lose a turn. Do not pass Fiji. Do not collect your KitchenAid.
You'll suddenly realize one evening in a bar, when you're looking around at all the creeps, Ew, I'm single again? Noooo!
6. Being happy for everyone else
It can't be all about you and your pity party forever, after all, you and your friends are in this aforementioned psychological race to the finish, so naturally, everyone is passing you to the altar. People are going to get engaged, they are going to get married, they are going to buy a house, and they are going to have kids. (Not necessarily in that order.)
Don't be jealous of your friends. Be happy that good things are happening for them and trust that you'll get your turn when it's right. Celebrate with them the way you would have wanted them to celebrate with you. And while you're at it, celebrate that you probably dodged a bullet and have been spared the headache of divorce paperwork later down the road.
If you've been there, you can relate. If you know someone going through a called off engagement, be a good, supportive friend. If you're going through it now, hang in there! It gets better.