I make it no secret that when couples come to me for premarital counseling, I will apply the pressure, almost like I’m trying to break them up (if you are recently engaged, please go to premarital counseling or, at the very least, check out “276 questions to ask before marriage (or regret it later)”).
It’s not because I’m a hater (marriage is a beautiful thing and when done right, I am its biggest fan!); it’s that I have seen far too many people go into a marital union, having no clue what it’s real purpose is and/or how to know if their partner is truly the best complement for them — and then Elmo shrug it off like divorce is nothing more than a break-up between two people who were seriously dating each other.
Marriage is a covenant. Marriage is a business contract. Marriage is absolutely nothing to play with. And that’s why I actually have all of the respect in the world for those who have the courage to say, via their actions, that even if they got to the point of engagement (or shoot, even the night before the nuptials), if they see red flags — whether with their partner, the dynamic or within themselves — that they will pump the breaks. Because like I say, “It is far better to break up than to go through a divorce.” (Just ask any divorced person.)
So, let’s hear from some brave women who respected marriage enough to not play with it.
*Middle names are used here*
1. Sarai. 34. Ended a 10-Month Engagement Two Years Ago.Giphy
“I already know that women are waiting on me to rant about all of the things that he did wrong but actually, it was on me. At the time, I was trippin’ because so many of my friends were jumping the broom. So, I gave him an ultimatum after two years of dating that if he didn’t propose, I was going to end the relationship. Shellie, you know how you always say that ultimatums are threats? I used to not get that — oh, but I do now.
"If you’ve got to pressure a man to marry you, something isn’t right. I was miserable because I kept wondering if he really wanted to marry me and he was miserable because I went from pressuring him to get engaged to pressuring him to set a wedding date. I finally ended it so that we both could have peace. We didn’t speak for a year. We’re kind of rebuilding now. We’ll see.”
2. Raquel. 28. Ended a Five-Year Engagement One Year Ago.
“IT. DOES. NOT. TAKE. FIVE. YEARS. TO. GET. MARRIED. Let’s start there. I’ve read that if you wait longer than a couple of years to do it, you really don’t want to and there’s some truth to that. After some therapy and arguing with people like you [she means me, Shellie], I get that I think I just wanted the security of knowing that he wanted to marry me…someday. But after about 14 months of putting it off, I got a promotion that took priority and then he decided to totally switch career paths. And when an opportunity came up for him to relocate, he did and we tried the long-distance thing.
"Before we knew it, it was five years later and we were no closer to getting married than before. So, we ended it. Yes, it was mutual. No, there are no hard feelings. And next time, if I say ‘yes’ to someone, I’m gonna be his wife in under 12 months. Otherwise, what’s the point?”
3. Sophya. 29. Ended a Two-Year Engagement Five Months Ago.
“I’m selfish and he’s got too much growing up to do. We’ll both own it even if you ask him. I’m selfish because I honestly don’t care as much as I should about what he needs to be happy in a marriage. I mean, I’ll do what I feel like doing but I’m kind of inflexible beyond that. Always have been, I just think that there haven’t been enough consequences for my mindset…yet.
"He needs to grow, not because he’s immature but because there are a lot of things that he wants to do that I don’t want to compromise on — and I don’t think any woman does. Things that will cause finances to be inconsistent and affect his time at home to where a woman would have to make a lot of sacrifices."
"We ended on good terms. Maybe I’ll become more flexible and he’ll become more stable. For right now, we just want what’s best for each other and it’s not us.”
4. Wanda. 46. Ended a One-Month Engagement Almost Two Months Ago.Giphy
“I’m not sure what other stories you’ve heard but this might be the wildest one. I love my ex-fiancé. We’re actually still together. A lot of times, when people talk about ending an engagement, people break up but I’ve been married twice before and he’s been married once. He proposed on Christmas Eve in front of our friends and family because he thought that marriage is what I wanted.
"After two [of them], I’m not so sure and I didn’t want to give him or our families the impression that I was. So, I gave him the ring back, we agreed to take some steps back and…who knows? I don’t need the hoopla this time. I’m happy with the way things are and he honestly is too. Sometimes happy is enough.”
5. Averie. 30. Ended a 10-Year Engagement One Year Ago.
“Before women talk about how crazy it is to be engaged for 10 years, remember that I’m just now 30 which means we got engaged when I was 20 — actually 19. It was a real proposal although it started off with a promise ring and then a tiny engagement ring when I finished college and a bigger one at 26. We were long-distance and wanted to get our careers off of the ground before I relocated. Once I did, it was during the pandemic which forced us to get to know each other in a way that we never really had before.
"I get why so many divorces happened [during that time] because folks think they are in an intimate relationship but if you’re only having dinner together and watching an hour of TV before going to bed, you don’t really know each other at all. We love what we knew. We just didn’t know…enough.”
6. Ursula. 28. Ended a Five-Month Engagement Seven Years Ago.
“He cheated. Am I the only one with this story? He cheated with an ex. An ex who he told me he was over. I found out because she actually came to our engagement party and I saw them arguing outside. No, he didn’t invite her. She found out about it on social media and invited herself. But the fact that he was arguing with her instead of celebrating with me meant that I knew something was up.
"He admitted to sleeping with her right before proposing to me. He called it ‘getting closure,’ so even though I don’t give AF about her feelings, I get what she was so mad about. Anyway, needing to get someone out of your system right before asking for my hand means she’s still in your system. Good luck…but not really.”
7. Malynda. 31. Ended a One-Year Engagement Six Months Ago.Giphy
“Social media is a strange place, sis. I loved my ex-fiancé but there was always a part of me [that] felt like I would be settling if I went through with marrying him. Not because he wasn’t cute enough. Not because he wasn’t a good provider. Not because I don’t think we could’ve had a good life together. It’s just that there was someone in my past who I knew I would drop everything for in a heartbeat. So, when he hit me up to say that he was back in the country and wanted to give us another try — yep…guess what I did?
"People can say what they want but I’m happier than I’ve ever been and we’ve been discussing getting married around the end of the year.”
8. Shannon. 24. Ended a One-Year Engagement Two Weeks Ago.
“Anyone who plans on getting married should go to premarital counseling first. The break-up is still really fresh, so I don’t want to get too much into the details. I’ll just say that even though my fiancé and I passed [counseling sessions], when we thought about what it takes to not just say ‘unto death parts us’ but mean it, along with the biblical ramifications of not taking it seriously, we realized that we’re ready to love each other…just not commit for the long haul.”
Shellie here: Shannon gets all of my respect and never-ending applause for this. Also, as far as the Bible goes, Malachi 2:14-16, Matthew 19:1-12, and I Corinthians 7:10-11 are great places to start re: what Scripture says about marriage and divorce.
9. Toya. 40. Ended a Three-Year Engagement 18 Months Ago.
“I guess the best way to define us is we were the friends who said that if we weren’t married by 40, we’d marry each other. Yes, I said that at almost 37, and yes, we stayed engaged for three years. I guess the best way to explain it is we used that time to see if we were feelin’ each other beyond the strong friendship love that we had. Yes and no. We had sex and it was good. Our families always wanted us together. He felt like a safety net.
"But I don’t want ‘safe’ love. I want full love. Funny thing is, I attended his wedding four months ago and he’s overjoyed. I believe you should marry a friend but not just a friend. I know all of what I need now.”
10. Brea. 27. Ended a Six-Month Engagement Two Months Ago.Giphy
“My ring was fake. I don’t know what else to tell you. The rock was huge and I was hype. I went to get it appraised to prove to some of my what-I-thought-were-hater friends wrong because they didn’t get how a UPS guy could afford a ring with 2.5 carats. When I confronted him, he didn’t even try to hide it. He said that it didn’t make sense to spend all of that money on an engagement ring if we were saving up for a house. I don’t know if the lie or the ring pisses me off more. I just know that if he was never going to tell me that, he could be hiding other stuff. I’m good. Not really but I’m getting there.”
11. Xia. 32. Ended a Five-Year Engagement Four Years Ago.
“Now that I’m married to who I’m with, I’m so glad that it didn’t work out with my ex. I don’t want to put all of our business out in the street because it’s in the past but what I will say is if you’re taking more than a year to get down the aisle, there is something telling you to wait and you should listen."
"Every year that you put off means you’re not ready, even if it’s just with your finances. Being engaged means you’re ready to get married, so there’s no need to drag your feet.”
12. Imani. 40. Ended a Three-Year Engagement Three Years Ago.
“I always wanted to be married…but I wasn’t really sure why. And when the pastor asked me, I drew a blank. So, I pushed the wedding date back while my ex patiently waited and I still couldn’t come up with my ‘why.’ I think I just thought that being a wife and mom are things that women are supposed to do. Three years later, I don’t think I want to get married. I respect it too much to not take it seriously and being single out here has all kinds of benefits. I like weddings — just more as a guest. I feel peaceful in that place.”
There you have it, y’all. Just like no marriage is a monolith neither are the reasons why engagements end. If you’re single, hopefully, this will give you a lot to think about. If you’re engaged and see yourself at all, hopefully, you’ll also find the courage to push pause. Because until you’re married, you are still your top priority. So, if marriage is not for you yet, for whatever the reason, be okay with choosing what is — starting with yourself. Full stop and no apologies.
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Featured image by Jelena Stanojkovic/Getty Images