The engagement ring was perfect: white gold and a tasteful inset diamond. It fit my finger perfectly. As I slipped it off and handed it back to my fiance, I felt outside myself. It was as if I couldn’t believe I’d choose to end an engagement — particularly one I had lobbied so hard for and dreamed of for so long.
No one told me I might feel a sinking feeling after accepting a proposal, or that I’d sit in my room and cry an hour after receiving a stunning diamond ring. With the delicate ring came a heaviness: the weight of the decision I was promising to make, and the life I was giving up by making this choice.
I thought I was ready, and I wasn’t.
I kept the ring on my finger for a few months, but I couldn’t bring myself to make wedding preparations or feel joyful. Even though my fiance and I had dated for the better part of a year, I was realizing that there were questions we hadn’t worked through and fears I’d never taken the time to confront.
As I pondered my dilemma, my reasons for staying engaged were all wrong. I was afraid of breaking off an engagement we had already announced on Facebook. I worried that this was my only chance at love. I knew he had the right to say goodbye forever if I asked for space, and I feared that he would.
But I didn’t want to trudge fearfully down the aisle; I wanted to skip. So, on a night full of tears and hurt, I ended it.
And here’s where my story takes a turn you aren’t expecting. After Ben and I called off our engagement, we stayed in our relationship. With the self-imposed pressure turned down, I started talking about the things that scared me. I worried that our personalities were all wrong for each other. Since we were both introverts, I feared we would run out of things to say to each other and retreat into ourselves. I fretted that his slow way of working through a problem would clash with my snappy way of processing things.
We talked, and we asked other couples what to do. We fought through our differences. We stared into each other’s eyes.
I realized that while Ben operated on a different frequency than I did, he shared the values that I held dear. His love for his mother and his family made me melt. So did his gentle blue eyes. I had searched my heart for red flags and found none. There was only his kindness and his choice to stay by my side for months as I struggled with internal conflicts I couldn’t even fully explain.
I also made my peace with leaving single life behind. I hadn’t realized until the night of my proposal that singleness was something I’d have to give up, and that there were parts of it I would miss. Knowing that made me treasure the time more, and it made the decision to end that part of my life forever all the more momentous.
After many long conversations and lots of good advice, Ben proposed to me again. I wish I could say our perfect fairy-tale life began there, but it didn’t. I accepted and put the ring back on my finger, but fear of the unknown still taunted me sometimes. This time, though, I had conviction behind my choice and I knew why I loved Ben and why I chose him.
I didn’t skip down the aisle, but I walked with a broad smile. When we drove away from our wedding, fireworks from some summer display erupted in the sky. In the two short years since that day, I have never once regretted my choice to spend my life with Ben.
But I think I value that choice a little more because I had to make it twice.