I work with many couples who seek pre-marital counseling to address current issues that alone they cannot resolve. They want to determine if their issues are just bumps in the road that can be resolved or if they are deal breakers. They might not initially admit it but on some level they know there’s a risk in talking about their issues on a much deeper level. More than they probably ever have.

But they feel strongly they must take this path even if both feel differently about the complexity of the issues. Bearing this in mind, you can imagine that not every couple that comes in for pre-marital therapy stays together and has a happy ending. Some couples, after much hard work and introspection, take the less favorable path and decide to call off their wedding.

Gina and Rick

They dated for about a year and moved in together. They were engaged shortly thereafter. Much of the next year together was planning a wedding. Gina had always envisioned her wedding and, like many young girls, couldn’t wait to get married. She dreamed of that day – fantasized about it.  When her wedding day was finally set in stone, she couldn’t be happier. They couldn’t be happier. And then, like that, their life as they knew it was turned upside down.

From the outside, it appeared as if it was just one thing that caused the rift – Rick had stepped outside of the relationship. However, his infraction became the beginning of the end. Although his infraction might have been patched up and repaired (many if not most couples move beyond relationship infidelity), how they went about attempting to resolve the issues became a lesson in futility and set the tone for the next few months. The days and weeks that followed the infidelity -are the most crucial because the couple is in an extremely fragile state. They met with a couples counselor for a couple of sessions but by the time they had met with me, the relationship was in many ways, beyond repair. The spent weeks fighting and blaming the other and three weeks before they were to wed, they called off the wedding. They did try to stay together attempting to salvage the relationship, but it was too forgone.

Michael and Macy

They had been together for over 6 years and had been planning their wedding for the past year. Because his family was paying for it, it seemed reasonable that his parents would have a stronger voice and presence when it came to making decisions. The clashing of personalities and the lack of ownership on Michael’s part – by him showing more loyalty towards his parents than Macy at times – set the tone for the weeks and months of planning that followed. Quickly it went from bad to very bad. Hurt words coupled with a lack of boundaries by Michael were made extremely clear how Macy’s life would most likely be if she were to follow through and marry Michael.

For Michael, he really wanted to change and take more ownership for his life and learn how to redefine his relationship with his parents. Several weeks before they were to marry, they sought therapy to help determine whether or not the relationship was salvageable. They needed to know if this situation was specific to the wedding day or part of a bigger problem. However, the fear of Michael’s difficulty changing to be more independent from his parents coupled with bullying their way into their relationship and realizing they would not change their ways, became the breaking point for Macy and ultimately their relationship. It was not an easy decision for either of them. Although they desperately wanted to initially save their relationship, over time Macy lost faith in Michael’s ability to change and ‘have her back’. There were too many unbroken promises.

Collateral damage when a couple decides to call of their wedding extends far beyond the bride and groom. In most situations, regardless of who is paying for the wedding, there are significant financial losses that cannot be recovered. More damaging to this decision is the loss – the dream of a future together and a family of their own and more often a disconnect between families.

Although each person has their own journey back to feeling good post split, there are ways to start the recovery process so that eventually you can start to feel once again feel hopeful.

Ways to recover:

First and foremost, breathe. Take in every breath and be present. I know that’s easier said than done, but its both helpful and necessary.

In the short term:

1.)Take inventory. Where are you? Where do you want to be? What needs to be done first?

2.) Assess. Who do you have to contact? What is your role? What will you say? How will you manage the roller coaster of emotions you will have to face (or are facing)?

3.) What will you tell your friends and family? Are you prepared for what they might say?

In the long-term:

4.) Examine your contribution to the fallout. What could you have done differently? What did you do that was right? Where are your strengths?

5.) Self-care. Besides breathing, this is essential. Do things that are healthy, not destructive. Sure, we all have that time (or two) where we stay up too late, drink too much, and forgo exercise – but make that an exception, not a rule. Break those behaviors of exception quickly.

6.) Limit your negative time. It’s way too common and easy to focus on all that is wrong and spend time going over all the stories, the conversations, and how things could have been different. Now is not the time to be overly self-critical (actually, no time is a good time, but I recognize people do this). Create positive space and positive energy to help balance out all the negative and sad feelings.

7.) Finally, give yourself time. It will take time to heal from this major decision in your life. You may experience a mixture of good and not so good days. Allow yourself to ride the emotional roller coaster, remembering that tumultuous ride and remember that at some point (not today, and certainly not tomorrow, but eventually), it will get better. Take it one moment at a time.

In the end, deciding to call off a wedding is emotionally gut wrenching and at the very least, a roller coaster ride of emotions. Its’ rarely, if ever, easy. Being able to make a decision, one way or another, with the help of a professional, often helps get you to a better place, so that you feel equipped to manage what might when this decision is made.

The original blog appeared on SoulSpring.org

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