I am not in love with the woman I am about to marry.
July 14, 2008 5:24 PM   Subscribe

I am afraid I am marrying the wrong woman, but I hope that our it will still work. Am I making a mistake?

My story is about guilt and regret. My fiancee and I met a long time ago, and I think that I have never truly truly been in love with her. When we first started going out in college, I never felt like she was the one. She was nice and sweet, but it always felt to me like there was something missing. But when I first tried to break up with her, she simply would not let me go, and because I ended up going into a deep depression I ran out of energy to resist her.

This pattern repeated itself a couple more times over several years. We left college, we got older, but I still always felt like she was holding me back somehow, but when I would leave, the depression would come and she would save me from myself by taking me back. I might not be alive today if it weren't for her.

We will be married soon, and yet again when I look at her I wonder where that spark of true love is. I do feel a lot of affection for her, but I am always thinking that I might have done better and fear that the only reason I proposed was out of a sense of obligation. Sometimes I get angry at her, because I feel trapped. Other times I want nothing more than to be with her. Now I have my depression under control and life is starting to look good for me, I wonder whether I should leave, because she does not deserve someone who doesn't really love her.

I often dream about a woman I loved while my fiancee and I are separated. Even now years later, the fire I feel for her is strong. She is long gone, of course, and probably would not have had me anyway, but I long to have that kind of passion be part of my life again.

I don't know how to make things better. Sometimes things are fine, others I feel like my head is about to explode from everything I want to say and feel but can't. After so many years together our life has become comfortable and safe, but now that I feel so much more confident and happy than I used to, I feel the need to get out of the house and make up for lost time. Whenever I tell her this, she gets frightened, thinks I am on the way to breaking up with her again, and refuses to change. She is shy and timid and likes the things she likes, but doesn't like to try new things or meet new people. Eventually I stop asking until my boredom and longing overwhelm me again.

I don't know what to do. I know this isn't just cold feet, because I have felt this way too many times before. The wedding is close, and I could never call it off. Am I making a mistake? Is there any chance for me to be happy?
posted by fairlysober to Human Relations (78 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
ummm... how old are you? We need some more info. But I'm thinking she deserves someone who loves her.
posted by chickaboo at 5:27 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do you have a therapist?

Please get one and tell them everything you said here.
posted by Miko at 5:29 PM on July 14, 2008

Read my previous post below.

Also: get married and have affairs or break up with her completely before you get married. I suggest the latter. But one of these things will be inevitable.
posted by Zambrano at 5:31 PM on July 14, 2008

The wedding is close, and I could never call it off.

Would you rather walk down the aisle planning on getting a divorce?
posted by scody at 5:32 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I already have a therapist, part of the reason why I mostly have the depression beat, but whenever I talk about this I never feel like he gives me any helpful advice other than that we should go to relationship counseling, which is not in our budget.
posted by fairlysober at 5:32 PM on July 14, 2008

relationship counseling, which is not in our budget.

I'd reconsider that in light of how much divorce costs.

Seriously - you should not get married feeling as you do. I'm not sure what you need - time apart, separate experiences, therapy for her, more therapy for you - but getting married just because you planned to, even though you really don't want to, is not it.

I'm sorry to hear your therapist isn't helpful on this topic. Maybe you should bring it up and say directly "Relationship counseling is not an option at this time [if that's what you decide]. What I need is for you to work with me on my approach to this. If you can't do that, please refer me to someone who can."
posted by Miko at 5:35 PM on July 14, 2008 [6 favorites]

If you think you feel trapped now, imagine how trapped you will feel when you have two kids and you're bound to her for life. My helpful advice for you is dump her, move away so you don't get weak and give in again, and move on with your life.
posted by headspace at 5:35 PM on July 14, 2008

No, we don't need any more info. You just wrote that you are not in love with the woman that you are about to marry, which makes everything else irrelevant. You must break it off. You deserve better, and she deserves better.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 5:36 PM on July 14, 2008 [14 favorites]

I have a belief, which I have repeated often here in AskMe, which is if you don't know with absolute certainty that you're in love with a person, you aren't. This is true for both romantic and platonic love. Think about your parents and ask if you love them. You know you do... you just know. No second thoughts, no ummm-ing or ahhh-ing. You just know you love them. And for the woman you're with, if you wonder if you're in love with her, the same rule applies.

You, however, seem to intrinsically know that you do not love her, and you even say you dream of another woman. While cold feet are a possibility I wouldn't rule out, it seems clear to me you're not marrying the right person for you.

Thos feelings of boredom and longing you're feeling now? It's only going to get worse once the law binds you together. For your own sake and for hers, for the sake of both of you finding someone you intrinsically know you love, you need to do a very hard thing. You say you could never call it off, but I think you really need to do so. It will be hard to do this... there's no sugar-coating that fact, but when you inevitably divorce, that situation is going to be a whole lot harder, especially when the dirty despicable vultures lawyers get involved. It'll be especially harder if you guys have kids in the interim.

If you get out now, you have the chance of finding someone you really do love, and so does she. You have the chance of avoiding all that hard stuff down the road for some short term pain now.

Another saying I have is that love shouldn't be hard. Your relationship has no love but it sounds hard anyway. So I'll say it again; get out, and get out now.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:37 PM on July 14, 2008 [5 favorites]

If you don't call it off now, you'll be calling it off with a lot of paperwork and expense later.

Have you seen this xkcd strip? It doesn't always work like that, but it can and it probably will if you let your unresolved issues about your current relationship goad you into marrying for the sake of inertia.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:38 PM on July 14, 2008 [6 favorites]

You have wasted many years of this woman's life. Why do you continue to do so? Why do you think it is in any way a sane idea to marry someone you don't love? I don't think you're a bad person, but this is a bad choice. Better to hurt her badly now than to destroy her in another few years.

The wedding is close, and I could never call it off.

Oh yes, you can. There would be nothing more irritating than knowing I went to a wedding where one of the parties was meh about it. Don't waste my Saturdays, man. And don't waste another minute of this woman's time. Good luck.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:41 PM on July 14, 2008 [8 favorites]

Pardon me. You're about to spend money on a wedding but you don't have the budget for relationship counselling? Have you lost all semblance of sense?
posted by DarlingBri at 5:41 PM on July 14, 2008 [11 favorites]

There would be nothing more irritating than knowing I went to a wedding where one of the parties was meh about it. Don't waste my Saturdays, man. And don't waste another minute of this woman's time.

Furthermore, if it's fear of other people's disappointment or disapproval that's keeping you from considering canceling the wedding as a viable option, consider this: people are going to be disappointed when (and at this rate, it is "when," not "if") you get divorced. Secondly, there may be less disapproval than you think. You may find that a number of people actually support calling off the wedding, because they may already see this isn't a good match but they've been biting their tongues because etiquette tends to demand it.
posted by scody at 5:45 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

I could have been you 30 years ago. I made the mistake of going through with the wedding, despite my intuition telling me it wasn't right. It sounds like you really already know the answer to your question. I believe you are making a mistake. There is a chance for you to be happy, but not in this relationship. Don't waste 25 years of your life in a miserable marriage just because you don't want to hurt someone's feelings. Call it off. The sooner, the better. It will be difficult for a period of time, but trust me, you'll get over it, and she will too. I wish you the best.
posted by wv kay in ga at 5:50 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

You have all these reasons about why you can't do this or that and they're complete and utter bullshit. You have not stood up for yourself for years and years, and now you're about to knuckle under again. No one is doing this to you but you. Her shyness and timidity and fearfulness do not control you. You are stronger than you know. She is stronger than she knows.

Hurt her now or hurt her later, but the way you're going, it's certain to happen. She is not going to die without you, and vice versa. You are both going to die a slow, torturous death together. Get out.

I am engaged to be married in September and we have already spent thousands and thousands on the wedding, but if I felt half as bad as you did I would call it off in a heartbeat.
posted by desjardins at 5:50 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

I don't know what to do. I know this isn't just cold feet, because I have felt this way too many times before. The wedding is close, and I could never call it off. Am I making a mistake? Is there any chance for me to be happy?

You're making a mistake, and every syllable you've written here indicates that you're perfectly well aware of that fact.

"I could never call it off"? Bullshit. You can and you should. If you don't, you'll be miserable and you'll inflict far more misery on the woman you claim to love.
posted by dogrose at 5:52 PM on July 14, 2008

maybe it's the depression that makes you think that you don't love her, maybe you in fact do
posted by matteo at 5:54 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Almost everyone who gets married second guesses or has cold feet at some point. This sounds like it goes very much deeper than that.

There are many things you can do in this situation, but given what you have said, I think the one thing you should not do is get married to this woman right now. It seems hard to break it off, but it sounds like it may be much harder staying in the relationship.
posted by worstkidever at 5:59 PM on July 14, 2008

You only get one shot at life. When you imagine yourself at the end of your life, are you going to feel good about "fulfilling your obligation" or are you going to be lamenting a life spent without someone that you truly love?

You're in charge of your own happiness. This really isn't about her; it's about how YOU feel about her. If there's no spark or passion there, maybe you need to do whatever you can to turn over a new leaf.
posted by Ostara at 6:00 PM on July 14, 2008

I was with a man for 11 years (since college- like you). He would tell me he wasn't sure if he was in love with me. He knew he loved me- but not sure if he was IN love with me. He and I both went through periods of depression on and off over the years. It weighed both of us down. I think we caused part of the depression in each other.

He wouldn't propose- although he did consider it because he felt he owed it to me. He felt like he missed out on a lot because he had been with me for so long. I finally said enough is enough and moved far away because I knew that would be the only way to really end things.

You know what? The world didn't end for either of us. It was hard- sometimes very hard. Sometimes I regretted my decision. It has been a year since I left. My life is finally becoming my own again. I no longer regret my decision. I am thankful that there was a part of me that was strong enough to walk away.

We still talk about once a month, but I no longer feel sad about the situation. I am grateful for our time together- and thankful for this new life without him. He was honest with me about his feelings. It allowed me to be honest with myself. I had my eye on the prize- the wedding- but never stopped to consider how fundamentally different we actually were. When I finally saw him for who he was- and not who I wished he were- and not who he tried to be for me- life became much easier.

Be honest with her. That is what you owe her and yourself.
posted by MayNicholas at 6:05 PM on July 14, 2008 [6 favorites]

Re-read what you wrote here - I suspect you already know the answer.

It's better to break up with her before the wedding than after.
posted by lullaby at 6:18 PM on July 14, 2008

Hurt her now or hurt her later, but the way you're going, it's certain to happen. She is not going to die without you, and vice versa. You are both going to die a slow, torturous death together. Get out.

A Million Times, Yes.
posted by phrontist at 6:22 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thank you all; of course I know the right answer, but I am too much of a coward for that. Since we got engaged I became better at putting these feelings away, telling myself that mature relationships are about commitment, not true love, and circumscribing my life to avoid temptation. Its fallen apart for me a little now, but I can get it back. Maybe that will be enough.

There's no chance of us having kids for at least two years. If we can't make it work by then, then I know it will be time to go.
posted by fairlysober at 6:28 PM on July 14, 2008

A lot of people seem to use couples counseling as a way to break up without hurting anybody's feelings. (After a few sessions, well, you both tried, but it doesn't seem to be working.) Maybe you should do that.
posted by callmejay at 6:28 PM on July 14, 2008

Do you hate her? It seems to me that you're about to do a really cruel thing to a person you say you care about.

Note the "it seems to me" part; I'm not you or the woman you are going to marry.

Good luck, fairlysober. Maybe going for the couple's counseling would give you a way to stop this and at the same time make it a mutual decision.
posted by reflecked at 6:36 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

the depression would come and she would save me from myself by taking me back
It seems like the only reason you are still together is that you don't know how to manage the depression of a break-up. While it is great that she is there for you, it is not great that you have no other way to manage the depression than by going back to her. In a successful marriage, each partner needs to have the strength to stand by themself. You want your loved one in your life but if you need them to survive, it leads to some very dysfunctional relationship. Aside from whether you love her or like her, you don't have the internal strength to be a good marriage partner.

I can see healthy options: 1. Break up with her and break off all communication for a year while you get your act together. Move to a new city if it makes sense. Keep going to therapy. 2. Postpone the wedding, use the wedding money and/or reduce visits with your current therapist in order to see a couple therapist. See if you can learn to be honest with each other and figure out what is and isn't working and if it is worth changing. This both requires you to be honest with her and her to want to work on the relationship.

I had a teacher who said that the most important financial decision that you make is who you marry because divorce is so extraordinarily expensive, particularly if there are children involved. Don't be afraid to call off or postpone the wedding.
posted by metahawk at 6:37 PM on July 14, 2008

telling myself that mature relationships are about commitment, not true love,

Mature relationships are about love that leads to commitment. You don't have the first, so you can't have the second.

There's no chance of us having kids for at least two years. If we can't make it work by then, then I know it will be time to go

Wait, so you're going to go ahead and get married with a secret plan to get out if it's not working in two years?

That's not just cowardly, it's cruel.
posted by scody at 6:38 PM on July 14, 2008 [9 favorites]

Maybe that will be enough.

Enough for what? Enough that you can barely stand your whole life? Callmejay is giving you excellent advice - if you go to counseling as a couple (call it "premarital" - say your therapist recommended it) and if you tell the counselor, in front of your fiancee, what you've told us? Then she'll call off the wedding and you won't have to do it.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:38 PM on July 14, 2008

Doing premarital counseling and performing wedding services is part of my job. Because I'm a minister, and not an agent of the state, I always tell the couples I work with that I reserve the right to decide not to perform the ceremony, or to ask them to postpone it if issues arise in our premarital discussions that make it clear that their relationship needs more work, or that they are not well-matched.

If someone told me in person exactly what you have written here, I would definitely advise them to postpone the wedding, while we focused our conversations on whether they were good candidates for a marriage together.

It's embarrassing to postpone or call off a wedding. I know. Engagement is a huge public thing, and you've reserved the place and sent invitations. You probably have a gift registry. Your families are counting on this taking place. It's not easy to do.

But it sounds like you need to consider it. And as painful and expensive as it is to change direction just before a wedding, it is considerably more painful and expensive to divorce later.

I should also say that you sound much like a friend of mine whose marriage happened under similar circumstances. His wife suffers from depression, and he married her out of guilt. He's making it work, 20 years later, but still thinks about the other woman he dated seriously. He knows he made a mistake. Their marriage is always on the rocks, because eventually guilt stops working. It'll get you down the aisle, but not much further. Then you get frustrated. And resentful. And tired, just tired. And he would beg you to stop know, while it's not too late. The anger and the trapped feelings have already begun.

It seems like there are some basic things in her personality that aren't bad things in themselves, but are different from what you really want in a wife. No one should get married unless they can say honestly and unreservedly that they love the other person and believe they can be happy together for the rest of their lives. Many people believe that and still have trouble. But to marry without believing that is to invite trouble.

Don't marry her unless you've slowed down, gone through the counseling, and found certainty.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:39 PM on July 14, 2008 [12 favorites]

The wedding is close, and I could never call it off.>>

The wedding machine is a bear, but I have a cousin who called off her wedding two weeks before the event, and I never respected her more. And it was in Mexico. People had their tickets, their dresses, their plans. But it was the right thing. Why go in knowing you're going to be another divorce statistic just because the cake is picked out? It's the wrong reason for getting married, and just one of many that you've stated here. You'd do the right thing for both of you by calling it off.
posted by FlyByDay at 6:43 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

You get one shot at life (that I know of). So does she. Every day matters. Every year. Don't waste them. You know this isn't what you want and you're not being fair to her or to you. Sometimes you just have to accept that a relationship is not meant to be long term. It sounds like this is one of them. Don't drag it out and waste years of your life. You're young, you won't ever be 29 again. Make the most of it. Nobody's going to give you any medals for being be a cowardly martyr... I know that the older version of you certainly isn't when you look back on this experience.

It'll hurt and be difficult at first, but if you know in your heart you're not meant to be with someone then listen to your heart and DON'T BE WITH THEM. Find someone that you can't imagine wanting to live without. She may very well be right under your nose, and you might miss out on years of happiness with her if you don't start looking now.

Likewise, your fiancee deserves to find someone who adores her with all of his heart. He no doubt exists as well, but she'll not find him by spending her life committed to a marriage with a miserable, unappreciating you.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:48 PM on July 14, 2008

There's no chance of us having kids for at least two years.

Are you planning on not having sex for two years after you get married?
posted by lullaby at 6:48 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, it may not seem this way, but the sympathy and support you are probably going to get when you call off the weddings will be overwhelming. As in FlyByDay's example, lots of people will respect you enormously for doing the right thing, and will be there to help you through it. Some might even tell you they had concerns that they didn't know how to bring up, and are relieved that you didn't go through with it.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:48 PM on July 14, 2008 [7 favorites]

If you don't really love her, call off the wedding.

If you think she was "holding you back" or she isn't bringing something to the relationship that you think that is missing, find someone else. There's a good chance that you'll think a lot of women are "holding you back". It's not really her job to inspire you. Although people can inspire us all of the time, including our partners, it shouldn't be your main reason for leaving. You have to inspire yourself. I believe a person cannot complete us or fill a missing part.

Not loving her, yes, that is a good reason to call off the marriage.

I think you have received a lot of good advice upthread. I'll add something:

Sometimes when we don't love ourselves it's hard to love someone else, as cliche as that is. Dreaming about the old flame can be your way to escape reality. You may be thinking about a fantasy. An ideal.

Another thing to think about is you could be equating your soon to be wife with the bad times, the depressed times. There's no reason two people can't progress into a new chapter. A happier chapter. Relationships are ever-changing. You worked through a rough patch together. This isn't the time to bolt, unless you don't really love her. Then yes, bolt.

The person that said that you know if you really love someone could be right. It's true. I know I love my kids. When I look at my husband sometimes I wasn't so sure. It's complex. It's different than parental love or love for your children. I had a dream that my husband died. When I woke up I was so relieved and ecstatic that he was here. I do love him. I wouldn't want him out of my life.

I agree with everyone else that suggests their is absolute no shame in calling off the wedding if you don't love her. It would be the most responsible and honest thing to do. Be true to yourself. Caring what a bunch of wedding guests will think is foolish. I think you need some more time to think about this. You need to talk to a professional about these feelings.
posted by LoriFLA at 6:59 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

You sound like my husband a few nights before we got married. And a few months into the marriage. And now I've left him because he kept thinking about leaving and I felt that I should be treated better among other reasons. I'm filing for divorce in the next few months. If we had waited it wouldn't cost anything at all.

Do not marry this girl. She won't die without you as others have said, and you both should be with someone that you are sure of. You said you know that this isn't cold feet, so then realize that you should back off the wedding or end it with the girl.

I know exactly how it feels to have someone always think that they want to leave. It made me feel horrible, wondering what I could do to make it better. Just leave her and don't dither about it. Waiting for someone to come back is a heartbreaking feeling.
posted by Attackpanda at 7:01 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

Now I have my depression under control and life is starting to look good for me, I wonder whether I should leave,

Yes, you should. Your entire intimate relationship with this woman is built based on you being depressed. You have a lot of life to catch up on, and you should go do it. If you live awake and alive and happy for a few years and then want to marry her, by all means do so.

And give up the true love bullshit. Love is good, passion is good, one deep abiding feeling of absolute belonging is a sign your hormones have got the best of you.
posted by tkolar at 7:01 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

Do you think that if you printed out your question and showed it to her she would still want to marry you? Do you think that she would at least want that information before she made her decision to say "I do?" By failing to be honest with her you are robbing her of her right to decide - with all the information available - whether or not she wants to marry you. You are going into a marriage with secret feelings and a secret plan to get divorced in two years if things don't change. That is cruel and dishonest. The only way you should go through with this wedding is if you tell her the truth and she still agrees to give it a go.
posted by JennyK at 7:13 PM on July 14, 2008 [7 favorites]

I don't know how well you know yourself, but you say you want passion - how long does passion last? Affection abides and grows, and for lots of long-term partners that's all there is - affection and a shared life. I believe love is a commitment, not a fire that flickers or grows moment by moment. I know this doesn't answer your question, but I just wanted to get that out there.

That said, you should tell her how you feel - at least that you're not sure she's the one, not sure about getting married. You don't have to go into the reasons why you dont think you love her. Marriage is a huge decision. Don't do it just because you think someone else expects you to. This is the rest of your life we're talking about!
posted by Xianny at 7:24 PM on July 14, 2008

If I was your fiancee, and I found out about this post, I would be very angry at you for keeping this information from me. Knowing whether or not someone loves you enough to spend the rest of his/her life with you is something one should be absolutely sure about. I think you are doing a great disrespect to her by choosing to cave to your own cowardice instead of being deceptive about something so important. Please please tell her how you feel. Imagine how much worse it will hurt her after the wedding, or in however many years it takes for your marriage to fall apart. If you care for her or respect her at all, you will do this.
posted by calistasm at 7:59 PM on July 14, 2008

Thank you all; of course I know the right answer, but I am too much of a coward for that....There's no chance of us having kids for at least two years. If we can't make it work by then, then I know it will be time to go.
posted by fairlysober at 9:28 PM on July 14 [+] [!]

Um, is she signing up for a two year "trial marriage"???

You can't go into this, hiding from her a secret this big. What do you think it means to be "partnered"?

Also, I'm surprised no one else has brought this up but....how old is your fiancee? If she wants to produce her own biological children, wasting her time with this is a much larger sin than even wasting your own. If you're going to have a "starter marriage" with her where you're mentally only committing yourself to two years (unbeknowst to her), how old is she going to be coming out of that (and back on to the dating scene, starting all over again and without having reproduced yet)? It's exponentially more difficult for women to start having biological children every year past 40. If you're not into this, SET HER FREE NOW.
posted by availablelight at 8:05 PM on July 14, 2008 [5 favorites]

of course I know the right answer, but I am too much of a coward for that.

I think you are really underestimating the harm that you are about to cause this woman. Do you realize what an assault you will be committing on her very dignity as a person, to walk down the aisle wishing to God you weren't marrying her, but you're too cowardly to call it off?

I don't know your fiance, but I know that everyone deserves to get married to someone whose heart is in it. It is a ludicrous farce that you are subjecting her to, to marry her while wishing you weren't. Don't let your cowardice destroy her life as well as yours.

People's lives are shorter than we like to admit. If your relationship to her is destined for failure (as it clearly seems to be) you are stealing years from her life, years that could be spending with someone else who loves her.

Please don't do it.
posted by jayder at 8:06 PM on July 14, 2008 [6 favorites]

..should have read, "every year past 30". But you got the message.
posted by availablelight at 8:06 PM on July 14, 2008

It's been 2 months since I told my husband I wanted a divorce. There's a ton of reasons why it didn't work out, but a simplified shorthand is that we got married when we should have broken it off.

Our divorce will cost us less than $1000 (in legal fees, anyway) because we're not fighting and we're not using lawyers. However, the house renovations (prior to listing it for sale), new furniture and stuff we'll both need, moving expenses, rental security deposits, storage units, et al, really add up. We're talking thousands. And we haven't fought over one dish.

But that's nothing compared to the 9 YEARS we've both wasted. It's 9 YEARS of my life I will never get back. It's a whole family full of in-laws that I love(d). It's friends who I, in retrospect, could see that I was unhappy but didn't feel comfortable saying anything to me. It's arguments with my mother who was all about "I told you so." It's having to explain to HR at work. It's explaining to my boss why I'm crying in the middle of a meeting about domain name servers.

It's a child I could have had, had I loved my husband enough to want to have his child. It's a neighborhood I didn't want to live in. It's the way I resent certain personal habits of his now that I never cared about before. It's the sad way we talk to each other about what we could have done differently to make it work.

However, I believe there is nothing we could have done to make it work, even with 6 months of couples counseling under our belt. We also did premarital counseling, which was required by the minister who married us. Looking back, I can see red flags, starting when the minister raised his eyebrows at my impromptu and clumsily stated reason for wanting to marry him: "Because he's a good person." The red flags continued until I found myself, 9 years later, telling an acquaintance "Yeah, he's not the person for me."

That's when I realized that if I could speak those words to someone I was not that close to, I OWED IT TO HIM to say it directly to him. And I did just that 48 hours later.

And you know what? It took him 2 days, but he came to fully agree with me, and later even praised me for having the courage that he said he could have never mustered.

You will die one day. Don't live in fear of that day and all the regrets it will hold if you go down this path.

posted by ImproviseOrDie at 8:18 PM on July 14, 2008 [45 favorites]

Ugh. You're willing to waste 2 more years of this woman's life? Being a coward has nothing to do with it. Sounds more like being selfish. Incredibly selfish. You may think you're doing her a favour by not calling the wedding off, but you aren't. If you wait another 2 years hoping for something to spark, if she's the same age as you are she'll be 31. She will have to start all over at 31 because you were HOPING it would work out. Get some balls, man. If not for you then for her.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 8:38 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

1. I get the impression that you know what you should do, but you can't bring yourself to do it.

2. I also get the impression that even if you tell her you don't want to marry her, you don't love her, and if you walk away - she won't just let you go. I gather that she will persistently and perhaps patiently continue to pursue you. This is what I gather from reading between the lines - and if it's true, then she likely needs some therapy as well.

So, I'm suggesting some sort of middle ground: you don't have to necessarily break it totally off with her; but you should at the very least "indefinitely postpone" the wedding.

Why the compulsion to get married now, especially if you aren't planning on having children anytime soon?

This way, at least you can begin to build the courage to call off your relationship without the immense pressure of an imminent wedding looming over you.

Good luck, man.
posted by jabberjaw at 8:47 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thank you all; of course I know the right answer, but I am too much of a coward for that. Since we got engaged I became better at putting these feelings away, telling myself that mature relationships are about commitment, not true love, and circumscribing my life to avoid temptation. Its fallen apart for me a little now, but I can get it back. Maybe that will be enough.

There's no chance of us having kids for at least two years. If we can't make it work by then, then I know it will be time to go.

It seems like you have no regard for this woman's feelings whatsoever. What you are proposing is really mean and dishonest.

Marriages may indeed be more about commitment than about passion. But what you are describing is a relationship that is not based upon commitment, but instead based on complete disregard for the other person's feelings, premeditated cruelty, and dishonesty.

Whatever marriage is supposed to be about, it sure as heck is NOT supposed to be about THAT. Please don't marry this woman. Please.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:50 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I have to weigh in again, for your fiancee's sake. If she wants kids, better for her to start the process of getting over you now (and yes, she'll get over you eventually) so that she can be in the position to meet someone new who she might be able to have kids with in a few years.

Time only moves in one direction, guy. You're never going to get it back, and neither will she. It's not just two years of your life you're planning to waste out of cowardice, fear, and selfishness -- it's two years of her life, too. Do you really have that right? Do you really think that's a fair tradeoff, just because the dress has been bought and the cake's been ordered and the invitations sent?

And what happens if she gets pregnant in the meantime? Unplanned pregnancy isn't just for teenagers.

Look, I got married at about the same age, and my ex-husband and I are thankfully very dear friends. But you know what? We shouldn't have gotten married in the first place, and in our heart of hearts, we both knew it before the wedding. We didn't call it off because we were too afraid of disappointing the people we loved, and too embarrassed we'd made a mistake. And like I said, we're friends now and we both are living great lives, but we never needed to put each other through the heartache of a divorce to begin with.

The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are often the exact same thing. You know this. I knew it at the time; I just wish I'd had the backbone to act on it.

on preview: yes, at least postpone it. Give yourselves the breathing space to face what needs to be faced.
posted by scody at 8:51 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have a couple of set of friends, in long term arranged marriages, and while I think none of them would say their marriages have become particularly romantic, they work for other reasons. So, on behalf of those pragmatic folks, I can say that "loveless" marriages do work, for other reasons.

But you don't write like a pragmatic person, fairlysober, willing to enter into a marriage that is as much business partnership and social anchor, as personal fulfillment. You write like a lovelorn swain, yearning for an old flame you can remember, but can't get. You write of depression, and cowardice, obligation and uncertainty, not of assets and family connections and the respect of an entire family you'd need to have to live in marriage with one of its members, on some other basis than romantic love.

But if you're looking for some answer to your question "Is there any chance for me to be happy?" let me suggest this. Try negotiating a pre-nuptial agreement with your intended, that will be fair to her and limit your downside, in the event this relationship goes tits up in 2 years. Just doing that will put your misgivings on the table in the most constructive way possible, if you are too much a coward to man up, and simply tell the girl you don't love her. At least, you're putting her on notice that you consider the likelihood of failure for this relationship to be high, at this juncture, and giving her the vehicle with which she can protect her interests, if you go ahead with this, but the marriage does fail, any way. And you may find that a pre-nup later saves tons of recriminations and drama.
posted by paulsc at 9:10 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

>The wedding is close, and I could never call it off.

What would happen if you did?

What would be the worst possible result of calling it off?

Is that result worse than spending the rest of your life unhappy, and feeling responsible for having made someone you care about unhappy... by marrying her, when you knew you didn't love her?

A friend of mine broke off her wedding a month before she was to wed-- and yes, she was ashamed (the plane tickets already bought! the maids' dresses! the gifts and cards and schedules!), and psychosomatically caught a cold, and felt compelled to flee the area for a bit-- but doesn't all that seem trivial, compared to spending a lifetime gritting one's teeth and trying to hide the frustration, anger, and resentment?

A few months later, she was her usual chipper self; her friends and family had pretty much stopped caring about the tickets and dresses; oh, and she was now a free soul.

Since you already know this *possible* marriage would be a painful mistake (remember: you've described this situation in such a way that almost every single respondent is giving you the same advice), just remind yourself of one thing:

You're 29 years old.

Why not give yourself five or ten years to see if maybe, just maybe, you can meet someone for whom you feel something more than fondness and obligation?
posted by darth_tedious at 9:18 PM on July 14, 2008

I felt a lot of sympathy for you until your followup post:

Thank you all; of course I know the right answer, but I am too much of a coward for that... There's no chance of us having kids for at least two years. If we can't make it work by then, then I know it will be time to go.

After that I just think you're an asshole. And I'm not using that word lightly.

You know you don't love her. You know you don't want to be married to her. Yet you're planning on wasting two more years of her life, just because you're too cowardly to face the embarrassment of admitting that you made a mistake getting engaged to her in the first place. You're an asshole.

Here's a hint: it's not going to be easier to break up with her two years from now than it is right now. It's going to be a lot harder.
posted by ook at 9:45 PM on July 14, 2008 [15 favorites]

I agree with ook.
posted by Ostara at 9:59 PM on July 14, 2008

OK, there very much is a chance of you having children with her within two years, if you plan on having sex at all. You are planning on having sex with your wife, right? I don't care what kind of birth control you're on, birth control can fail.

Quit talking in absolutes. Quit seeing your life in absolutes. You can and need to call this off. You can and will have a chance of having a baby. Start telling the truth to her and yourself. It's OK, she'll be alright. You'll be fine too. But this, this plan you have, this is going to ensure that things never change.
posted by dosterm at 10:02 PM on July 14, 2008

she simply would not let me go, and because I ended up going into a deep depression I ran out of energy to resist her.

I cannot tell you what to do but this statement and others in your answer tell me that in order to find your answer, you must acknowledge that the things you have done are choices you have made. Your statements indicate that you have not done this. Once you answer the question of what benefit you are getting out of not acknowledging that you are making your choices, you will know the right thing to do.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:03 PM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Thank you all; of course I know the right answer, but I am too much of a coward for that.

A man does the right thing even when it is difficult. Are you a man or a boy?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:12 PM on July 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

You are taking a lot of heat here, and probably deservedly so, OP.

But I want to give you serious credit for one thing:

You came here and posted something CLEAR and HONEST. It was probably hard to do. It's probably kind of shocking now to read your own words on the screen and realize that you really did just make this admission, really and truly. You don't love your fiance, and you think the relationship won't make it.

That took a lot of courage. It really did.

I know it's really hard - you've been through a lot with your SO and it seemed like this was the right thing to do. But in admitting that it's not working out the way you'd hoped, you are strong enough to recognize reality. You're not operating under a delusion built of need and depression. You're actually thinking about what is best, and healthiest, in the long term.

That's a big deal. That's a really good thing.

So it will be hard to say to your SO "I'm not ready. We're not ready. Let's postpone this. I'm no longer sure we're on the right track. We need counseling."

But nowhere near as hard as facing your own thoughts and fears, which you've already done.

I think you kind of cast a line out, hoping AskMe might provide you some cover -- "Sure, it'll work out! Plenty of people marry folks they don't love!" -- only that's not the response you've gotten. Nothing here is going to endorse a plan of go-along-to-get-along. So you're left with your own truth: you don't want to do this. It's not working. You're terrified and sick at the thought of going through with it.

Acknowledge that! Be proud that you actually have enough backbone within you to be looking out for both you and your fiance before you make an irrevocable and legal mistake. It's not something to be ashamed of - it's something to be proud of. You stopped a bullet.

Now you have the chance to change course.
posted by Miko at 10:19 PM on July 14, 2008 [7 favorites]

I know about 8 or 9 people who've had an engagement break-up. The people span all the possibilities: the person who initiated the break-up, the person who was left, and two people who just agreed to part. None of those people regret the end of that engagement.

On the other hand, I know a large number of people (both married and divorced) who regret not having the courage to break off their engagement.
posted by 26.2 at 10:38 PM on July 14, 2008

Everyone on Askme always says you should break up. You came here and posted a one sided account of your situation and admitted that you already know that you should break up with your finacee. If you already know that, you don't need us to tell you that, but you probaly came here for some support.

If you are still not sure what to do, for the love of god, don't take advice from anonymous people on the internet, but get into couples counseling, so you can get advice from someone with a much more informed and balanced opinion.
posted by afu at 10:44 PM on July 14, 2008

There are a million wise answers in this thread, so I'll be brief: If you care about her at all, hell, if you even respect her, don't marry her right now. Even if it isn't what she thinks she wants or what she thinks is best, it's too cruel and selfish to marry someone you don't love because it's hard or painful or embarrassing to call it off. You don't want to hurt her, but it seems like that comes as much from the fact that it would really suck for you if you did as it does from real concern for her. Call it off and either break it off or get couple's counseling. She will never be happy or healthy if she's stuck in a marriage with someone who's only there out of pity. She deserves, everybody deserves, the chance to be loved. If you aren't the person to love her, you owe it to her not to pretend.
posted by mostlymartha at 10:45 PM on July 14, 2008

You know what you should do, and I think if you are thinking logically the next question should be "how do I get the courage to break off my engagement?"

So to try to answer that hypothetical question - Can you start sounding out one or two of the people you are closest to who are coming to the wedding about how they would react if you called it off? Do you have a best friend you could talk to about this? I know this may seem like a betrayal of your fiancee but better this than to marry her when you don't want to. I'm just wondering whether, if you told a close friend or two or even a relative that you might not go through with it, and they reacted much less horribly than you are imagining they would, perhaps it would give you the courage to actually go through with breaking it off?

Also, imagine the worst thing that would happen if you broke off the engagement. At the very most, people would be a bit miffed they had spent some money on a wedding that wasn't going to go through (but I'm sure nobody would actually prefer you go through with it at this point just so they could get their money's worth!). People would be understanding and most likely admirative that you finally did something courageous before it was too late.

You may think you are doing the moral, ethical thing by going through with this marriage, but in fact it is the exact opposite. No one would die if you called off the engagement, and your fiancee would certainly be hurt but not as hurt as if you married her knowing you didn't want to, and thereby prevented her from finding someone to have children with in time.
posted by hazyjane at 12:38 AM on July 15, 2008


What are you afraid of? Your own desires and needs? Do you really want to live like that?

You are going to do whatever you are going to do. What we tell you won't determine your actions. You will determine those. But if you choose to marry this person feeling the way you do, you will take all the self-punishment you expressed in your question along with you. Is it fair to your future wife to use her as a whip to flog yourself? Is it fair to you?

You might still marry this person and live happily ever after - I can't tell from here - but you won't if you feel this way. Marrying someone should be a joyous event. If not, there is no reason to do it at all.

Except maybe the tax break. Do you need the tax break?
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:35 AM on July 15, 2008

posted by Talez at 4:54 AM on July 15, 2008

Before her wedding, Princess Diana hysterically told her sisters she couldn't marry Charles, that it was a mistake. Her sisters told her it was too late, her face was already printed on the souvenir tea towels. And look how that one turned out.

You're so submerged in this situation, and so in a rut with this relationship that I don't think you can weigh your options properly. You're thinking really short-term, in terms of wedding costs and disappointment for you and your fiancee, when you think should be thinking long-term, in terms of lifelong feelings like those you have now, divorce, traumatized children, and being bound to this woman forever.

Cancel the wedding and break up with this woman and spend some time alone until you can develop a better perspective.
posted by orange swan at 6:15 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think the person asking the question is in a hard enough situation and in harder place than most of us are at the moment....having that in mind I think is important for each and everyone of us to provide an ANSWER WITHOUT INSULTING THE PERSON IN QUESTION. Saying his actions are cowardly are enough for him to get the point calling him one does not help at all, please note the object of this website is to help and provide opinions not to force your point of view on others.

as for my .02 please leave her, take some time to think where your life is at the moment...and next time consider making an anonymous post.
posted by The1andonly at 6:41 AM on July 15, 2008

My story is about guilt and regret. My fiancee and I met a long time ago, and I think that I have never truly truly been in love with her.

That's as far as I got, or needed to get.

Don't marry this women.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:46 AM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


fairlysober you have to let her go, it is not fair to you and to her. We all know including youself how this is going to end and you are just prolonging it. If you read from some of my postings i been having trouble letting go of someone. But it's the right thing to do.
posted by SummerLove at 10:38 AM on July 15, 2008

There's no chance of us having kids for at least two years. If we can't make it work by then, then I know it will be time to go.

OK then...be prepared to be miserable for the next two years. Oh, that'll be fun for her.
posted by the bricabrac man at 12:24 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm with ImproviseOrDie. My marriage cost me $50,000 to dissolve. She wasted 9 years, I wasted 10. Both of us are sad we spent some of our best years with the wrong guy.

Divorce is expensive and hard. It can take anywhere from 3 months to 3 years to complete. If you can't afford $100 or so to have a person with however many degrees tell you this, take our advice for free and get out now.

You don't stay with someone because they refuse to let you go. That's a combination of your low self-esteem and her abandonment issues at work.

Neither of you is happy or healthy in this relationship. Why don't you try BEING ALONE and continuing therapy for a while until you know you're the type of person who you need to be for yourself and yourself ALONE?

Too many of us go through life seeking approval and self-worth reflected in others' eyes, and in their protestations of needing us. Love yourself as much as you can, even if you hurt this woman, and when the time is ready, you'll meet the woman you're supposed to marry. You will know. You won't be able to NOT know... your whole body, mind and soul will agree and there will be no red flags.

That person is out there right now, somewhere, and you can never be with her if you're married to someone else and unhappy. If you met her a month after you married, and realized that she would not have you because of the situation, how much worse would that be? Make yourself whole and available and trust that everything in life has its time and its reason, because it does.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:35 PM on July 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

Might I also add that I've been in the shoes of the woman that you will pursue to date right after your marriage with her finally ends. And trust me, you will not be in a good place to date for at least one to two years after you decide to finally divorce. There's a possibility that you'll project the baggage and poor relationship habits you gain from this relationship onto the woman in your next relationship, it's difficult not to when that's what you have to work with. Fact is, the misery you're about to put yourself (and your fiancee) through is not necessarily something people get over right away, it'll be MUCH harder to move on down the road after more time and emotions have been invested. The experience you're about to put yourself through... will last longer than the time of your marriage.

Divorce is hard and your ego will go through the ringer. You'll be older, regretting wasting your youth on a relationship that was a mistake. It takes people time to get through that. You'll probably be a little bitter and angry. So add two years onto whatever years you waste on this unhappy marriage. Unless you decide to marry someone right away, which you will probably do for the wrong reasons... and for that reason you might jump into marriage number two and find out down the road that it was just a rebound relationship where you were trying to fill up your emptiness. You'll be so eager to move on and "live" but fact is, truly healthy relationships can't be forced. By the time you are ready for marriage number three, you'll probably be in middle age.

So why not save yourself that misery? Why not choose a path that will make your life as well as the women in your life happy, not bitter and filled with regret and drama? Unless you love being an unhappy jerk, because if you keep up these relationship habits you're on the path to becoming a muuuuch bigger (and older) one down the road.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:24 PM on July 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

Doesn't she deserve someone who really loves her? You didn't post anonymously, and if there's any chance that she will ever discover your MeFi name, then this is really unkind. Cancel the wedding and set her free. Or admit to yourself that this is pre-wedding fears and drama.
posted by theora55 at 6:49 PM on July 15, 2008

I'm not quite sure why people are so hung up that the OP didn't use an anonymous name. He just joined, it's the only post he's ever made, two of the three comments he's made were in this very thread and he has no personal info on his profile. So unless he's known as "fairlysober" throughout the internet, he still seems pretty anonymous to me... am I missing something?
posted by miss lynnster at 8:37 PM on July 15, 2008

This question is haunting me more than any AskMe question in recent memory. The reason it has gotten so under my skin is that you seem to be on the verge of destroying your fiance's life because you are too passive and "polite" not to. Do you realize how screwed up that is?

What bothers me so much is that you are about to go through a wedding ceremony, an event that many people consider almost sacred in its importance, and hope to remember as the highlight of their lives, and view as the joyful culmination of a search for "the right person" to spend the rest of their lives with.

Just think about it: You could break this off with a minimum of expense and difficulty. It would actually be an act of tremendous grace to do so. If you need to delegate a friend to tell her, do it. If you need to tell her in a letter, do it. If you need to just not show up at the wedding, and then disappear for a six-month sojourn in Thailand, do it. Any of these options is better than marrying her when you really don't want to.

You are about to marry this woman after you appeared in an online forum talking about how much you dread marrying her, how you wish you didn't have to, how you're too cowardly to break it off. And what a farce it will be when she sheds tears of joy for finally having found the right man, anticipates spending her life with you, beams with delight on her special day, and it's all a lie. What you are contemplating is a horrible thing to do.
posted by jayder at 10:01 PM on July 15, 2008 [8 favorites]

I've been in your position, fairlysober, and I feel for you. It really sucks. My former fiancée and I had started dating in college, I'd tried to break up with her a few times because I knew she wasn't the one, and eventually I gave up trying and lived with her for seven years before proposing because I felt I owed it to her. And I did love her--I don't think it's possible to live with someone that long without experiencing some sort of love for them--I just wasn't in love with her. And proposing wasn't what I really owed her; what I owed her was honesty and respect. I'd known for years that I didn't want to marry her. I should have told her this well before we'd sent out the invitations and booked the reception hall, and had her mom spend tons of time sewing her wedding dress. But I couldn't bring myself to do it until well into the process.

When we broke up, I felt like a real asshole. And that was appropriate--I'd been an asshole. But marrying her would have been worse for both of us. A lot worse. Breaking up was the least asshole-ish thing to do at that point. I knew that we weren't right for each other, and it sounds like you know that too. Suck it up and have the hard talk as soon as you can, because it's not going to get easier the longer you wait.

You both deserve better than this. Do the right thing.

(In my case, I started dating an awesome woman about four months after the breakup, I realized that really for real True Love wasn't a myth after all, and we've been married now for almost five years. I am way, way happier than I would have been if I'd stuck it out for two more years in a marriage I knew was going to fail. Last I heard of my former fiancée, she'd joined a cult and moved to Sedona. But she was happier and healthier than I'd seen her in years, so...)
posted by hades at 11:43 PM on July 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

This question is haunting me for a completely different reason: I'm 99% certain that fairlysober is an extremely close friend of 10+ years. If I'm right, he'll know who I am. If I'm not, well, I know someone in exactly the same position, down to every detail, so maybe the following will hit the mark, or at least come close.

(I'm going to keep this deliberately obscure and detail-free so as not to, you know, embarrass everyone mightily on the Internet.)

Listen, man - I know you hate asking for advice, and the fact that you reached out to AskMefi is telling. This is too painful to bring to your (our) friends, and you have the cowardice complex to deal with. The comments here speak for themselves, and these are people who've never met either of you.

I know the separations were painful, that you were deeply depressed. But like your dad told you, you never really made a go of it as a single guy. You took cursory steps - internet dating, forced social interaction - but you were too deep in the depression to really do it. You needed to solve that problem first, but as with every other orbit around this girl, it was just easier to go back to her, because explaining your problems to another woman seemed impossible. She already knew how fucked up you were.

And she knew because if anyone is more fucked up than you, it's her. You know our code: we give our friends the benefit of the doubt when it comes to girlfriends. Nobody on the outside really understands a long-term relationship and only the participants can possibly decide what's best for them. So why did we all caution you against getting back together with her, and outright urge you to end the relationship when you were dating? Because she was hurting you. She enables your depression, keeps you from the things you love, and even talks shit about you in front of your friends, because that's all she's got. You've managed to find someone with more self-esteem issues than you. It's the opposite of healthy.

Like I said when I heard the news: all any of us ever wanted was for you to be happy, and if marrying this girl is going to make you happy, we'd get behind it even if it meant swallowing pride and better judgment. But if you're at the point where you absolutely know you're not in love with her, you must end the engagement. It seems impossible, yes. But it's not going to be any easier when you're married. As has been explained above: divorce is much more costly. But even scarier is the idea that you wouldn't get divorced, that you'd keep pushing on despite deep, deep unhappiness. Well into your fucking 50s. You know you can't be that guy.

In closing:

1) Just end it and deal with the fallout later. You'll be stronger for it. Your friends and family will support you 100%, because it takes an amazing amount of strength to end it. It may be the hardest thing you've ever done, but you need a "hardest thing you've ever done" right about now.

2) Her mother's always hated you anyway.

3) That girl, now long gone? She was in love with you. She maybe still is. She emailed me from far, far away once she heard the news (and before I did!), begging me to talk some sense into you.

4) Give me a call. Really. Your voicemail's full and your phone isn't accepting texts. Please call - we need to talk about this.
posted by prettydrunk at 7:54 AM on July 16, 2008 [11 favorites]

Prettydrunk....now thats some freaking GOOD advice....good luck to everyone involved.....people here must know that DTMFA is not as easy as it seems for a variety of reasons.
posted by The1andonly at 8:10 AM on July 16, 2008

Hmmmm. Why am I finding it somewhat amusing and altogether not unfathomable that prettydrunk and fairlysober would actually be close friends?

Good luck to you. And if he is your friend, lean on him. He sounds like a good one.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:31 AM on July 16, 2008

If you were my brother, or my son, or my best friend or my distant cousin, I would feel horribly, horribly bad for you if you went into this wedding and marriage knowing that you don't love your fiancee.

I'd want you to be happy. I wouldn't love you less or lose respect for you at all if you canceled or postponed a wedding that you were feeling this doubtful about. No, not even doubtful - you don't have cold feet; you have "Oh god, no, I can't marry this person."

Please call it off. As everyone else has said, you deserve better, and so does she.
posted by rtha at 11:03 AM on July 16, 2008

miss lynnster, maybe because I paid five bucks earlier today specifically to respond to the this thread? :)
posted by prettydrunk at 11:06 AM on July 16, 2008

fyi, MeTa

Miss L, the issue of a signed post is that it is more likely that it will be found. If the fiancee is computer literate and nosy, or just uses the OP's computer for something, it could be found by accident. Would be quite hurtful.
posted by theora55 at 11:29 AM on July 16, 2008

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