advice: how to break it off without breaking up



“So my fiancé proposed to me a little over 5 months ago. I said yes, and I wasn’t as excited as I thought I’d be. A lot was going on around that time with my family, so I figured that I wasn’t as excited because I was so stressed out about that… but here I am 5 months later, asking for advice.

I am absolutely TERRIFIED. I’m not sure if we are going down the right path. Here’s why:
First of all, we are both young. I’m 20 and he’s 21.
Second of all, I haven’t even gotten my associates degree. I’m worried that getting married will get in the way of finishing school.
Third of all, I am his first truly serious relationship. I am worried that he doesn’t fully understand what he is getting himself into. There are other little things as well, but all in all I’m just not sure if I’m ready to get married yet. It’s not that I don’t love him, because I do. I love him very much. Usually we can talk to each other about anything, but this is tough. I don’t want to hurt him and I don’t want him to get the wrong idea. How do I tell him that I want to wait a little longer?” 

aIf only all the advice I’m asked to give were this easy. I know, it’s a lot easier said than done. If you were to see your lives as a movie, and yourself as the protagonist in this particular predicament, what would you expect her to do? Cheer for her to do? What action could she take that would disappoint you? Watch your life up on that screen, and you’ll usually come upon the answer you already have… way faster than you’ll arrive at it by talking, and over-analyzing with friends. By virtue of your asking me, it’s clear that you know the current situation is wrong for you, at this time. It’s not necessarily the wrong man, though. I really commend you on being mature enough to have that perspective. Honor future you and all the possibilities you want open for her. Explain it to him just that way. That you love him. That you’re excited about your future together. That you have concerns he needs to understand as your partner. Be honest and tell him what those fears are, and that truly, only time will give you the answers you need. Actions and time. So while you wait for those answers to reveal themselves to you both, make memories together, enjoy each others quirks, get to know each other by heart.

If he brings up the wedding, you owe it to him to explain once again, that it overwhelms you. He doesn’t but IT does. If he, though, is 100% ready to dive into marriage and wants to be married yesterday, this will only cause you both grief. The fact is we all of us want what we want when we want it. And too many of us (yup, bringing me into this) refuse to listen to reason in spite of ourselves and our own happiness.


If you have questions or need advice on anything from where to eat to how to get over the bastard, just email your question to my advice email address.



  1. I was you. If I could go back in time, and counsel my young self, I never would have gotten married at barely 20 years old. At the time, I was so certain that I would be the exception. I WOULD finish college. I WANTED to be married. My love would CHANGE him. Oh heavens. That was a long time ago, and a long way away.

    My daughters are now older than I was when I married, and I look at their sweet, young faces and realize they are nowhere near old enough to be married. They aren’t ‘fully baked’ yet. Yes, they are nearly college graduates, live on their own, are almost off my dole, mostly pay their own way…but they are still enjoying that wonderful freedom that you lose upon uttering the words ‘I do’.

    I wonder why in the hell I was so anxious to grow up, to assume all of that responsibility, and leave the comfort of youth. And what is the big deal about getting married, anyway? Why is it such a prize?

    You will be grown up for a really long time – I suggest you enjoy being young and free for as long as you can. Hold loosely to your guy…but let him grow up too…without a wedding ring. The changes that happen between 20 and 30 are monumental – profound – vast. When you look back in 10, 20…30 years – you won’t believe that it was legal to make the decision to get married at the age of 20.

    I married at 20, had three babies, dropped out of college, stayed married for 13 years before it all crumbled beyond recognition. Then, carrying 3 babies with me, I had to put life back together. It took me 22 years to graduate from college. The darlings have consumed my life, my money, my mind. I adore them more than breath – but if I had a do-over, I think I would have chosen a different path.

    1. Author

      So very well said. If she were my daughter I’d say, hell no. But I also remember being that age and deeply wanting to be respected, taken seriously. I took “not ready yet, so young” as a type of dig, as if to say, “you’re not good enough yet.” Had someone said it to me, just as you have, “You will be grown up for a really long time – I suggest you enjoy being young and free for as long as you can…” I would’ve seen it differently, I think. When we’re young, I think we often feel like we’re patronized, and being married feels like proof. It’s actually the opposite, but we don’t learn that until we’re older!

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