8 Very Valid Reasons To Break Off Your Engagement

Better to end it now than go through a divorce because you didn't.


With December being the most popular time of the year for somebody ('cause it ain't always the fellas) to get on one knee with a ring in hand, and with Valentine's Day being right around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to explore engagements a little bit. More specifically, let's explore some of the reasons why it's not only OK to break off an engagement but, in my humble opinion, it's highly encouraged, too.

It's not that I'm trying to be a Debbie Downer or anything. It's just that, if there are two things that a lot of couples who regret getting married tell me, it's 1) they knew that they ignored some significant red flags when they got engaged and/or 2) they also knew on the night before their wedding that they should have called things off.

I personally know some couples who ended their engagement. By no means was it an easy thing for them to do. But now that they have healed and moved on to individuals who are a much better complement for them, they also have no regrets when it comes to making that initial decision. I say it often—break-ups are hard but man, they don't even begin to hold a candle to how devastating a divorce can be. So, whether you're contemplating getting engaged, or you currently are and something doesn't feel quite right, for the sake of your ultimate long-term health and happiness, take a moment to read some of the circumstances that you should feel totally fine with breaking off your engagement for.

1. His Boundaries with His Family Are Unhealthy (or Non-Existent)


Something that I spent a lot of time doing in 2019 was figuring out the difference between "PTSD Shellie" and "actual Shellie". When your childhood consisted of trauma, sometimes you don't realize that a lot of who you are is tied to pain rather than your true authentic self. When that is the case and you end up linking up to someone who also hasn't done the self-work that's needed to heal, not only can that result in a really difficult relationship, it can put you both in the position where you are constantly dealing with the toxicity of one another's families too.

No family is perfect. Lord knows. But if you are sensing that your man has narcissistic parents or other toxic relatives, and either he doesn't have healthy boundaries with those individuals or their influence keeps him in an emotionally unhealthy place and space, at the very least, encourage him to get some therapy before saying "I do". A lot of the married couples that I work with, their marital problems are rooted in their unresolved childhood issues. What they all have in common is they wish they had focused on healing those things on the front-end rather than constantly triggering each other, sometimes without even knowing it, on the back-end. If you want a thriving marriage, childhood healing should transpire as much as possible and family boundaries must be set. If none currently exist, it is beyond wise to pump the brakes until they are.

2. The Two of You Don’t Communicate Well


One of the reasons why I think it's a good idea to not be so quick to have sex in a relationship is because you need time to get to really know each other. If you don't, you could mistake good sex for an actual true emotional connection, or you could abuse sex by relying on it to be the only real way to get on the same page with your partner.

It's no shocker that one of the biggest causes of divorce is poor communication or a breakdown in communication. That's why I think it is so important to focus on developing a true friendship during the dating and courtship process.

And how can you know if you and your man are good communicators? Do you listen to each other? Do you respect one another's feelings? Can you both say that you have an intimate connection outside of sexual activity? Do you both feel emotionally safe with one another? Do you handle conflict well? Are you both good at forgiving? Do you both avoid toxic practices like gaslighting and being passive aggressive? Can you each share your deepest secrets and biggest vulnerabilities without hesitation, worry or regret?

Yeah, all of this is a tall order, but if you plan on spending the rest of your life with someone, these are just the kind of things you need to be able to say "definitely" to. If you can't, don't rush walking down the aisle. Better to wait than to end up in somebody's divorce court…right?

3. Money Is Super Funny


Wanna know one of the main reasons why I wrote "7 Solid Reasons To Strongly Consider Eloping"? It's because, along with poor communication issues, another leading cause for stress, strain and ultimately divorce is financial drama. And weddings? The average cost of those bad boys is somewhere between $20,000-50,000 (depending on where you live). If you factor that in, along with the almost $40,000 worth of debt that the average American has as well—whew! It's easy to see how student loans, credit card bills, car notes and mortgages (or rent) can truly take its toll on a relationship.

Listen, no one is saying that you and yours have to be independently wealthy before becoming one. But if you think that marriage isn't also about two people entering into a business partnership, you are in for a real roller coaster ride that could leave you queasy on so many levels. You know what they say—love doesn't pay the bills. If you're in a world of debt or your man can't seem to get his coins right—and worse, he doesn't intend to—don't think that it's superficial to not get married just yet. Or, if you continue to see red flags—like if he's a dad who's not paying child support or if he's someone who is always borrowing money—not getting married at all. A ton of married people will tell you that they wish they had paid more attention to their partner's financial habits beforehand. Don't find yourself being a statistic because you didn't.

4. The Wedding Planning Process Sucks


Back before I became a marriage life coach, I used to think people were exaggerating when they said that if you want to look at the potential future of someone's marriage, all you need to do is watch how they act during the wedding planning process. But chile, there is some super-duper wisdom in that. While a couple is putting their upcoming nuptials together, you get to see who is the most controlling, who sucks at compromising, how folks handle delays and irritations, how they deal with their family members and friends, if they are good with money, how good they are under pressure—I could go on and on and on. Weddings are nice. They really are. But they only last for a day. Besides, if you ask any couple who has already jumped the broom before, one thing they will probably vouch for is the fact that it all goes by in a blink.

If you're currently planning out your wedding day and you two are about to kill each other, I'm not saying you should automatically call everything off, but I will say this—if you sense some serious red flags and the only reason why you are moving forward is because "Everyone already knows that we're getting married", that's not a good enough reason. Weddings are to be a celebration of two people coming together in a healthy and happy way. If you can't honestly say that is where things are right now, wait until you can. The right people will only respect you for it. And at the end of the day, they are the only ones who truly count.

5. One—or Both—of You Have “Unfinished Business”


Unfortunately, there are more than a few people in this world who get married, not because they are running towards someone but because they are running away from someone else. That's why, whenever I am in a premarital session, I devote an entire meeting (more if needed) to people's exes. And you know what? I already know, off top, that if it's something that is ducked 'n dodged, there is some stuff that is definitely unresolved.

One thing about being engaged is, while it does speak on your intention to marry someone, it is still not nearly as "weighty" as actually being husband and wife. So, if you know that you've got someone in your past that you're still A) carrying a torch for, B) needing to resolve some things with, or C) haven't fully healed from, you really need to get that handled before becoming someone else's spouse.

I know far too many married people who have cheated with an ex, snuck around to communicate with an ex, or are constantly comparing their lifetime partner to an ex, and it's all because they went into their marriage with "ex baggage".

It is totally delusional to think that a stroll down the aisle will automatically make any ex issues that you have go away. If you need time to work that out, now would be the time to do it. If your fiancé doesn't understand, well, you might need to call things off until you can be sure that you are in a good space—mentally as well as emotionally with where things stand…with your ex.

6. You Still Want to Do Some Things You Can’t Compromise On


Whenever I encounter a new married couple, something that I have the habit of doing is asking them, "So, what did marriage teach you about yourself that you didn't know before saying, 'I do'?" Hands down, what I hear the most is "How selfish I was." Or "I am." Paul Washer, a pastor, once said that nothing teaches us how to love well better than marriage which means that sometimes we will have to make great sacrifices in order to do it. I totally agree. At the same time, if you are about to sacrifice goals and dreams that would be far easier to accomplish as a single woman—that is something else to think long and hard about. If you want to see the world and he doesn't, why get married and sulk about it or try and pressure him to do what he isn't interested in? Wait and go now. If you want to go to finish school but he wants to have kids right away, maybe y'all should cool things off for a bit. If there is a business that you want to get off of the ground that you know will take up a lot of your time and attention—getting married right at this second could be like raising twins. Literally.

Being a selfish spouse is one thing (and something that I will be sure to get into at another time), but feeling like you are being selfish simply because you are still single and want to do some things that would be easier done as a single woman is smart, wise, and highly recommended.

7. You Love…But You’re Not in Love


Personally, I think the word "love" is misused way too much. I try to avoid applying it to any and everything that I simply enjoy. I mean, "loving" my favorite tube of lip gloss should pale in comparison to loving my late fiancé, don't you think? I feel similarly to the term "in love" as well. And you know what? Science agrees with me. According to a lot of scientific research, if you're truly in love with someone, not only are you attracted to them, you also are emotionally dependent on them, you share similar interests and values, you both like making plans for the future (that include each other) and there is a profound sense of empathy that the two of you share.

Aside from science, another sign of being in love that I think is valid is there is no one else you'd rather be with; there is also no one else that you are wondering about. A good example of this would actually be a chick flick. Dear John (Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried), to be exact. If you've never seen it before, John (Tatum) and Savannah (Seyfried) were head over heels for each other. He was in the military and she married someone with cancer who had an autistic son. Savannah loved her husband, Tim but who she was in love with was John. Her husband even recognized it. Her love for Tim was based on friendship and obligation. Being in love with John is what led John to wait for years, to anonymously donate money to Tim's cancer treatments, and for them to eventually reunite once Tim passed away.

I already know some of y'all are like, "Did you really just use a movie to illustrate your point?" Yes, I did. Although it's fictional, I bet you could feel the difference between Savannah and Tim's relationship versus Savannah and John's connection. If you are about to marry someone and it feels more Tim-like than John-like, you and your fiancé deserve better and more. Love both of you enough to call things off. It might hurt for a while, but you won't regret your bravery in the long run. Neither will the man who you eventually do fall in love with.

8. The Timing Seems Off


Whoever said that the right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing—they ain't neva lied.

The problem is, a lot of people move forward in relationships without actually knowing what the signs of bad timing actually are.

If you're curious, here are some of them—your career is currently more important to you than your relationship; you feel like there is some internal work that needs to be done alone; you believe that you and/or your partner have a bit more maturing to do; the love is there but you need more time to see if you're as compatible as you'd like to be; you're in different states and neither is ready to move (yet) and/or there are some personal, professional or even health-related issues that would be better served while you are single.

Although a lot of people don't approach engagements this way, once two people are officially betrothed, they are basically saying that they are planning to get married as soon as possible. If you are engaged and you don't feel like you are in this head or heart space, there is nothing wrong with ending your engagement until you can feel good about your decision—or breaking things off indefinitely.

Getting engaged is a really big step. But don't feel like it puts you at the point of no return. If you see any of this in your relationship, marriage will only magnify matters. Not in a good way either. Please choose wisely.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Getting Engaged

If Your Man Is Missing These Things, Wait Before Marrying Him

Ask These Sex-Related Questions BEFORE You Marry Him

This Is Why I Have Mad Respect For People Who Break Off Their Engagements

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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