Molly Booth
August 02, 2015 6:15 am

It seems like every time I scroll through my news feed, another couple is announcing their engagement. This has been happening since my twenties hit, and I’ve already seen some of these engagements end—mine was one of them.

Ending an engagement is a special kind of break up. There’s a lot at stake: intertwined lives, families, sometimes a ring, maybe wedding plans already in the works and all of those attendant expenses. The most significant thing at stake is your planned future with your partner. You think you’re done—the search is over, you’ve both found the person you want to be with, now you get to figure out the rest! It’s heart wrenching to realize that future is not best for either of you, and you need to go back and start again.

It’s hard not to regret having gone through the process of getting engaged in the first place. It feels like wasted time, feelings, and sometimes money. Not to mention the humiliation of having shouted to the world “I’ve found my soul mate!!!” and then having to follow it up with a quiet mumble: “Oh, wait, no, I haven’t.”  But as an ex-fiancee, I can tell you there are plenty of reasons not to regret having been engaged. These are revelations I had over the course of dealing with my own break-up, so I hope they can help if you’re going through one now:

There’s no such thing as wasted time in a relationship

It feels terrible now, but you’ve gained a lot from this experience. You know you’re capable of feeling intensely and really going to a longterm commitment, even if it unraveled. That’s an accomplishment, and something you can be proud of. You’ve been incredibly vulnerable, which is a necessary skill of being alive.

You know more of what you want in a partnership

Getting engaged might have forced you to confront questions you hadn’t before: what do you want to do for work? Where do you want to do it? Do you want children? No? 6 cats? No cats? Month-long hiking trips? Though this relationship didn’t work, you’ve learned more about what you need for your future.

Things ended for a reason

There’s a great Louis CK quote: “No good marriage has ever ended in divorce.” It’s true. When people get divorced, it’s because they’re very unhappy—so it can be unbelievably hard, but ultimately, it’s a good thing. I think this applies to engagements as well: no good marriage resulted from a failed engagement. If you have the foresight and the bravery to end things now, it’s for the much better. You’ve evaded a painful realization down the road, when things might’ve been drastically more complicated to call off.

Your feelings about marriage are way more developed

If you’re poised on the brink of that kind of lifelong commitment, you really think about what it means. Maybe you decided monogamy is not what you’re interested in. Maybe you just want to start a relationship differently, or change the dynamic. Whatever it is, you know more now than you did then. 

You might’ve formed other, great relationships while you were engaged

 One of my best friends and I were brought together specifically because of my engagement, and there’s no way I could regret that. Relationships have a lot of value because they introduce you to new people, and those bonds can sometimes outlast the one with your ex-partner. That’s perfectly OK.

You’ve joined a club of people who know your particular kind of heartbreak

 This club includes Anna from Frozen, Lorelai Gilmore, Rachel Green from Friends, and probably at least one of your actual friends. One of my work buddies, who had also ended an engagement before, had me over for tea right after my break up. We talked about what she went through, and what I was going through. After that I felt like we had a special bond because of our shared experience.

Things are going to get better. And when they do, you’ll know you couldn’t have made it there without the pain along the way. “Mistakes” keep us sharp, and that’s the way we learn and grow.

Related Stories:
The questions I couldn’t answer when I got engaged

[Photo via NBCUniversal’s Friends]