Should I Call Off My Engagement? (Reader’s Digest Version)


As promised, here is the short version.

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…?’



Dear Anna:

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?”

Both choices are a mistake. 

You should certainly break off the engagement, because 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.

I feel for 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.

You asked:

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…?’

My answer is “do 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.

You never even considered that 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.


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Margaret Eccles

    Geeez, thank goodness for you Robin.
    She’s a mess.
    Great feedback. Direct, constructive and to the point as usual.

  2. Agree!

    Wow-Robin, YES! This girl has no concept of real meaningful love and a relationship. She doesn’t love either of them and clearly has the maturity of a 18 year old. Sorry, but you don’t spend 5 years with someone, get engaged and then the second an ex pays attention to you, consider dumping them. Invest in some counseling, ask yourself what you have to truly offer someone in the unconditional love department and let these two poor guys go.
    Life is not perfect. Love is not perfect and a lot of work. Marriage can be awesome if you do it right and miserable if you do it wrong. Spend some time alone, figure out how to fulfill yourself and then the right guy will fall right in. The right guy will be the one that if Brad Pitt came knocking on your door professing love, you’d slam it in his face.

    Nothing is worth losing the partnership you have with someone who cherishes you and you cherish them enough to volunteer your entire life to them.

  3. Pingback: Is My Marriage Dead or in a Coma? Part Deux! – Robin Descamp

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