Should I Call Off My Engagement? (Extended Remix/Dance Version)

Readers:

You have no idea how much I edited both the original letter and my response and still this is a long blog.  Therefore, today you get two for the price of one!  This is the long version, the short version will be published forthwith.  Happy Monday!

Dear Robin:

I’m a 28-year-old college student recently engaged (wedding next summer) to my partner “Jim” of 5 years whom I love fiercely and until a week ago could see myself perfectly content with for the rest of my life.

Upon announcing our engagement, my ex boyfriend and the love of my life (“Scott”) called to congratulate me but then announced he still cares deeply for me.  We were together for years, but split because of significant mental health issues (me bipolar, him depression). Now, 7 years later, we are both healthy. 

He remains the ‘perfect’ man that I knew before: a handsome poet, musician, writer, and a deeply passionate romantic. He’s the kind of guy who’ll serenade you or fly you to your favorite city on his mealy teacher’s budget. He drinks and smokes more than he should but he’s faithful, loyal, and passionate about everything he does.

Perhaps he’s made contact now in order to convince me out of my engagement.  I might consider it because I believe he’s being genuine. Whatever relationship we have would be rocky, but without doubt passionate and fulfilling.

Jim helped me through the worst of my issues and encouraged me into therapy. I see him as the reason that I am so happy and healthy today so I don’t feel it’s right to ‘break it off’ just because of an old boyfriend who’s only just now said meep, but I feel like I’m settling for ‘second best’ with Jim. 

Jim likes Scott and is happy to include him in our social circle. We have even discussed making him godfather of any future children. He does not know of our feelings for each other. I of course feel infinitely guilty about all this. 

Should I drop everything, throw it all to the wind, for this potential romance?  Or should I resolve to be relatively content and secure with my husband-to-be, occasionally glancing at photos of this old flame and thinking ‘what if…?’

-Anna

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Dear Anna:

I think I’m damn good at what I do but I know enough about you from our correspondence that you may not be capable of following my advice.  You are unrealistic, impulsive, and deeply immature.  My characterizations are not meant to be hurtful but rather to open your eyes that you are about to make the biggest mistake of your life.

Now you’re thinking, “Which mistake?  Marrying Jim or dumping him for Scott?”

The answer is either.  Your perception of what your dilemma is has no relation to the real problem which is why you didn’t even consider there is a 3rd option: being alone.

At this point let’s tell the readers some of the other facts in your fun and dizzying scenario:

  1. This is your second go-around with Jim with whom you had a “very rough” relationship for 1.5 years when you were 18/19.  Hmmm…
  2. Jim has never had an intimate relationship with anyone else and suffers from depression, anxiety and dependency issues.  You certainly have a type, my dear!
  3. Jim (also a student with three years until graduation) is not in therapy even though you both agree he needs it.  He saw his last therapist for much longer than he wanted because he was worried about “breaking up” with the counselor and hurting his feelings.  In other words, his ball sack is currently MIA.
  4. You and Scott are each in therapy (not together, I hope).  That’s good.  
  5. You and Jim lived together until recently when he moved in with his dad after his stepmother died.  You are now living with your parents until school is complete.  Thank Goddess for that because home with parents is a good place for each of you to be, not playing house and pretending to be grownups by planning a wedding and children.  

You clearly have no concept of what marriage is and what it entails.  Let me use your own words to explain:

…whom I love fiercely and until a week ago could see myself perfectly content with him for the rest of my life.

If contact from an old boyfriend makes you question whether or not to marry Jim, your relationship is exceedingly fragile and unsuitable not only for marriage but for continuation in any form.  

As for your use of the word “content,” I find it notably tepid at best and depressing at worst.  Most people hope for “happiness,” not to be simply “content.”  You should be “content” with your choice of tampon or toner cartridges, not your life partner.  

If this relationship could be measured in terms of heat I’d say you are at absolute zero and getting colder.

Upon announcing our engagement, my ex boyfriend and the love of my life (“Scott”) called to congratulate me but then announced he still cares deeply for me.

Oh he did, did he?  That makes Scott a manipulative, scheming tool.  He could have reached out to you at any time over the years  to express his “feelings.”  That he waited until your engagement reeks of insincerity and gamesmanship.  

If you dump Jim (which you should do) to take up again with Scott (which you should not do), Scott will be done with you in 6 months or less as he will have soothed his tender ego via this little test of “can I get her to leave Jim for me?”

I’ll admit I could be wrong.  You have no idea how hard that is for me.

Maybe Scott heard you were getting married and it triggered him to do what he had been considering for a long time: reach out and try again with you.  His motives may be purely based in love and the belief you two were meant to be together, but that doesn’t change my opinion you shouldn’t jump on his baloney pony just yet.

You are enjoying this drama of two men wanting you, don’t you think?  It’s kind of flattering.  I know because I have this problem on a daily basis.

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He remains the ‘perfect’ man that I knew before: a handsome poet, musician, writer, and a deeply passionate romantic. He’s the kind of guy who’ll serenade you or fly you to your favorite city on his measly teacher’s budget.

First, there is no “perfect” man and if there were the most important attributes of this miracle man would not include: being good looking, able to spin a verse, write something clever, wield the wiener expertly, sing a song or spend money recklessly on impromptu travel.

I’ll admit you also described Scott with the adjectives faithful, loyal, and passionate, but those words basically mean you’ve found an enthusiastic lap dog.  

Some of the words missing from your assessment of Scott that stood out in their absence were loving, smart, affectionate, driven, capable, mature, and independent.

He drinks and smokes more than he should…

Don’t we all.  

You know who should be drinking and smoking more than they should?  That poor bastard Jim, whose fiancée is still in love with her ex, considering dumping him, and trying to insinuate the ex (whom she refers to as “the love of her life”) into his social circle and the religious development of his unborn children.  

Pass me a gallon of vodka and a carton of Marlboros, because just responding to your letter is driving me to drink and smoke more than I should.

Should I drop everything, throw it all to the wind, for this potential romance? Or should I resolve to be relatively content and secure with my husband-to-be, occasionally glancing at photos of this old flame and thinking ‘what if…?’

This is where we get to the heart of the matter.  The answer is as I said above: neither.  

Life is not a movie, Anna.  Adults who live their lives off the silver screen with integrity, honor and both feet planted firmly on the soil of reality don’t operate as you are operating now.  They don’t make massive life choices in a whimsical manner based upon a fantasy of what “romance” looks like and in an effort to rekindle a relationship that probably died because it was terminal.

In addition and something which you disturbingly never thought to address: Jim deserves better – especially after all he has done for you and his part in your healing process.  Continuing this relationship is so unkind as to border on cruel and you don’t strike me as a cruel person.  

How do you think Jim would feel if he could read your mind (or this blog, I suppose) and realize you are considering a marriage to him “settling for second best?”  I understand that’s how you feel right now, but the very fact you would type those words to me says all I need to know about a potential marriage between the two of you.

Put yourself in Jim’s shoes and imagine Scottie the Hottie is having a beer with a friend right now and wondering aloud if he should “settle for second best” with you.

Ouch, right?

You are young and have much on your plate with finishing school, finding a job, and moving out on your own.  

Add to those monumental challenges your immaturity and bipolar condition and I’d say a committed (no pun intended) relationship heading towards marriage is just about the last thing you need right now, especially since when I did the math it appears you have been in a serious relationship with either of these men (and possibly others?) since you were a teenager.  

Anna, you owe it to yourself and your future husband(s) to grow up and learn how to be an independent adult who can operate on her own without bouncing from man to man.  This will teach you much about who you are and what you need from a partner, two areas I’d say are very fuzzy for you right now.

Please work with your therapist on your tendency to attract broken men and your fantasy-like perception of the world. Show her this blog and ask what she thinks.  

I’ve been talking with you for several weeks now and you strike me as a very caring and intelligent woman who has done a lot of work to improve her health.  I would hate to see you undo that work by making a terrible decision that will have serious repercussions for years to come.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Colleen

    There is such beauty in a woman being young, strong, independent and SINGLE. Good for you, Robin, for laying it out so clearly. I hope that this message connects with what Anna knows to be true in her heart – I’m sure that is why she reached out. Marriage can be an option at any age, why rush things? There will always be a pretty dress and many friends to help celebrate when the time it right.

    Love the photos, they delight me.

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