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How to Call Off an Engagement With Class

by Freddie Silver

Calling off an engagement requires you to deal with many practical matters while experiencing intense emotions. Instead of the joyful plans you had for your future, you now face the stress and disappointment of shattered dreams and the embarrassment of dealing with friends and family. Preparing a list of what you need to do can help keep you calm and focused. Controlling your emotions as you work through the process will help you handle the situation with grace and finesse and reduce the pain and frustration for everyone concerned.

Talk face to face with your partner about your decision before you tell others. Regardless of the reason for calling off the engagement, texts or emails are not the way to do it. Plan out what you want to say. Recognize it's normal to have intense emotions, no matter what the reason for the break, but try to stay calm and in control as much as possible.

Accept some responsibility for the failure of the relationship. Be honest, but don't go overboard describing all of your partner's irritating habits or wrongdoings. In her article "The Thoroughly Modern Guide to Breakups" on the Psychology Today website, Elizabeth Svoboda suggests that if you restrain yourself and don't make insulting comments, you'll preserve your partner's dignity as well as your own.

Acknowledge the good times you had together with your partner, Understand that calling off the engagement might be a devastating blow. Recalling shared memories of the highs of your relationship might ease some of the pain.

Recognize that it's not necessary to give a long explanation with all the details of what went wrong in the relationship. Although you'll probably want to share some of the reasons for your decision with your best friend and your parents, it's preferable to give only a short statement to other acquaintances. Something as simple as,"We've decided that we are not suited to each other after all," avoids laying blame on either you or your partner.

Send a short printed notice announcing the cancellation of the wedding if the invitations have already gone out. Offer to return any engagement gifts you received. Even if some people suggest you keep their gift, insisting you prefer to return it is the classy thing to do.

Deflect probing questions from the morbidly curious who may try to pump you for all the salacious details. It's preferable to avoid the temptation to respond by bad-mouthing your ex. Saying, "I'm sorry, but it's too painful for me to discuss," is usually sufficient to make most people back off.

Return the engagement ring, If you received one. The laws of your state may even require it.

Check the contracts of any bookings you've already made and call as soon as possible to cancel. Expect to lose at least part of your deposit, but the sooner you cancel, the better. If you're feeling hurt or angry, it's preferable to delegate someone to make the calls for you.

Plan new living arrangements, if you've been living with your partner. Offering to be the one to move out, even if you were living there first, shows sensitivity toward your partner, who might be reeling emotionally from the shock of the canceled engagement.

Be prepared to feel some strong, unexpected emotions. Even if you initiated the breakup, don't be surprised to feel sad and doubt your decision. Remember that you've sustained the loss of a bright, happy future you were hoping for. Allow yourself some time to mourn the passing of your dreams.

About the Author

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.

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