How To Get Through Calling Off An Engagement

Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images.
When Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson announced their engagement in June (after only a few weeks of dating...publicly, at least), the couple shocked lots of people because no one expected such a quick engagement. "They’re just two people who found love quickly and make each other happy all the time," a friend of the couple told PEOPLE at the time.
Their whirlwind romance started a movement. After their engagement was announced, the internet wanted to know what the couple did every week — whether it was get couple-y tattoos, "make out" at a concert, or adopt a pig. And now, many are heartbroken to hear that Grande and Davidson have called it quits, only five months after they started dating and four months after they got engaged.
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But it's both their whirlwind romance and the fact that so many people have been following their relationship, week-by-week, that will likely make calling the engagement off more emotionally difficult for Grande and Davidson. But calling off a wedding is hard no matter what, and it can be even more difficult when the relationship was short and intense, says Guy Winch, PhD, a psychologist and author of How to Fix a Broken Heart. When a couple has a whirlwind romance, their feelings have been burning brightly for their whole relationship and it can be devastating to come down from that high.
Yet, breaking off a whirlwind engagement can also offer some protections, Dr. Winch says. If a couple has been dating for years when they get engaged, they've likely intertwined their whole lives. They have the same friends, they've bonded with each others' families, they probably live together and maybe even have joint banking accounts. When the relationship is a whirlwind, there likely hasn't been enough time to put down some of those roots. Sure, the couple may live together (Davidson, for example, moved into Grande's NYC apartment), but it's less likely that they've developed deep relationships with each others' loved ones. And so, the break can be cleaner, Winch says.
Not matter what — whether a couple had been dating for only a few months or several years — breaking off an engagement comes with extra heartbreak as well as logistical nightmares. "Because it's still so early and beautiful and new, and there's so much promise, and because you've announced to the world that you love each other so much that you're going to make this commitment, there's a lot of social shame," says breakup coach Natalia Juarez. "It's like a car wreck that people are just watching."
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Having those kinds of eyes on your relationship can be difficult, and couples can feel a lot of embarrassment and shame about having to admit to their family and friends that they've made a mistake, Juarez says. After she called off her own engagement, she decided to write a resource for other people who are going through the same doubts she had leading up to her would-be-wedding. And after she wrote her guide to calling off a wedding, Juarez kept getting messages from women who told her that if they'd had this guide years ago, they never would have gone through with their own weddings.
First, she suggests having at least one person in your corner who can take care of you post-breakup and who won't judge you for calling your wedding off. Then, tell a handful of people who can spread the word for you — there's no need for you to be the one calling every aunt, cousin, and old college roommate to tell them the wedding is off. You could even send out postcards to let everyone know that the wedding is off, instead of having to tell people in person or over the phone. Whatever you decide to do, take care of yourself first.
Of course, depending on how far along you are with wedding plans, you'll have to handle some awkward logistics, like canceling vendors, figuring out what to do with your wedding dress, and giving back your engagement ring (yes, etiquette says you do have to give it back). And that's likely to be taxing on your emotions as well. "Trying to go through the logistics while you're heartbroken feels cruel," Juarez says. Throughout the whole process, she says it's most important to remind yourself that you called the wedding off for a reason, and that it will make you happier in the long-run.
It's going to be difficult to get over the embarrassment and sadness that comes along with calling your wedding off, that's for sure. But you've made a decision that's best for you, and there's no shame in that.
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