Planning a wedding can be a stressful time, as there are so many details to focus on. Often, couples can feel a strain in their relationship due to all of the pre-wedding stress. But it’s important to determine if the strain really is due to wedding planning stress or if it’s because of something deeper in the relationship. Our contributor, Shetal Desai, discusses why she called off her wedding to her fiancé, and why that decision turned out to be the “best” worst thing to happen to their relationship. Her story is below!
“I can’t do this anymore. I think we should call off the wedding.” I said to my fiancé over the phone. My voice trembling as I held back the tears.
“I don’t know what to say. I’m shocked. Do you want to talk about it?” he said in a tone of voice that indicted this was a punch to the gut.
“No, not today,” I replied. “But we should discuss how we’re going to announce this to our family and friends in the next few days.” I then promptly hung up the phone before he could hear the tears rise up from within and the sobs ravage my body from inside out.
And just like that, I was single again at 44.
Our love story was still in its infancy. We got engaged on July 4th—my favorite holiday. We were in Santa Fe, NM, when he proposed and I couldn’t believe it. The day I had been dreaming about all my life was suddenly a reality. I’d never been married let alone engaged before. We didn’t want a long engagement. After all, we were in our 40s and wanted to start a family as soon as possible. A Thanksgiving weekend wedding seemed reasonable and gave friends and family time to make plans to attend the wedding over a long holiday weekend.
We were only two months away from our wedding day when I made the decision to call it off. Invitations had been sent out. The venue had been booked and paid for. The perfect wedding dress that I had spent weeks shopping for lay hanging in my closet. Paid in full and never to be worn. I was stunned. I never imagined this could happen to me.
We had just celebrated our 18-month dating anniversary the evening prior and while the evening wasn’t perfect, we chalked it up to our less-than-enjoyable evening to the stress that was inevitable between any couple planning a wedding in 4 months, selling a home and managing a demanding business. But honestly, it was more than that. Over the few short months we were engaged, it became clear that we were not aligned on finances, family dynamics and communicating our fears and our needs in a respectful and productive way. The engagement season had unearthed some deeper issues for my fiancé and the stress of wedding planning forced those issues to the surface.
My fiancé is an accomplished man in is late 40s. He’s also a widower, as cancer prematurely took his late wife from him and from this this world. Their love died young and my fiancé was devastated by the loss. Time passed and he eventually moved on. However, our recent engagement and the process of selling his marital home had unearthed some strong emotions that I wasn’t fully prepared for. His reluctance to share the news of our engagement with his family and friends caught me by surprise. As did the turmoil I saw him go through as he sifted through nearly two decades of furniture and personal belongings in a home he shared with his late wife. It was gut-wrenchingly painful for me to watch him grieve. He wasn’t fully engaged in the wedding planning process and his reservations about the timing of our impending nuptials were beginning to come out sideways. It was nothing at all what I thought a first-time bride would be experiencing in what should be a blissful season of bridal gown shopping and wedding registries.
Calling off the wedding for the following reasons allowed us to take a step back and give us the time we needed to explore the issues that surfaced during our wedding planning process.
- Unaligned Expectations: We weren’t on the same page with regard to planning our future let alone a wedding. I felt the proposal gave me the green light to proceed with my agenda to plan our wedding, but I neglected to hear my fiancé’s concerns about the stress he was under financially with his businesses and the emotional weight of grieving his former life. He needed some more time to feel comfortable with the idea of getting remarried and it was hard not to take that personally.
- Breakdown in Communication: Instead of having constructive dialogue, our discussions were turning into heated arguments where we were unable to hear each other clearly anymore. The misunderstandings we experienced caused so much pain and resentment to build up between us that it prevented us from working together as a team.
- Unpacked Baggage: Life is complicated and most people enter marriage with baggage of some kind from the past. I didn’t realize just how much the issues from my fiancé’s past were affecting his present and future. Without taking the time to unpack those issues and work through them, we wouldn’t be equipped to meet each other’s deepest need for love and acceptance in our marriage. I didn’t feel emotionally safe with my fiancé because I couldn’t understand the baggage he was carrying and it made me question his love for me and his commitment to our relationship.
To my pleasant surprise, my fiancé returned after a few days and expressed his desire to work things out between us. He agreed that we needed some professional help communicating our needs and our fears with one another and he was committed to doing the work it would require to make our relationship flourish. We both committed to individual and couples’ therapy.
It’s been a month now since we called the wedding off and our relationship is slowly evolving into a healthier and happier one. We’re more intentional with one another now and are getting more comfortable expressing our needs and our deepest desires. We’re building a foundation based on mutual respect and communication not just romantic love, which is important because if romantic love is the cherry on the sundae then the mutual respect and communication is the ice cream. When asked now about our decision, we tell our family and friends that calling off our wedding was the “best” worst thing we ever did. We’re still working on “us,” but at least we have an “us” to work on. And for that I’m grateful.
About the author
Shetal Desai is passionate about relational and spiritual health for women and endeavors to make an impact in the world by living a more intentional and authentic life. A former pharmacy professional, Shetal left her 20-year career behind to embark on a radical sabbatical to pursue storytelling through her writing. She is a nature enthusiast, lover of her four-legged friend Barley, and grateful to be engaged to a wonderful man who encourages her daily to be the best version of herself. Shetal calls Orange County, CA home, for now.