According to a 2013 release from relationship expert Hellen Chen, some 85 percent of relationships end in breakups.
By extension, the vast majority of relationships don’t lead to marriage. Of those that do, 50 percent end in divorce. The divorce rate is even higher for remarried couples; some 60 percent of twice-or-more-married couples eventually break up.
It’s harder to come by figures on broken engagements, as engagements aren’t legally recorded, and the authorities don’t track wedding ring sales. (Thankfully.) That said, it’s likely that a significant minority of engagements—perhaps as many as 1 in 5—end before the wedding day.
Even in ideal circumstances, the interlude between “Will you?” and “I do” is a stressful one. Many couples wait until they’re engaged (or nearly engaged) to move in together; in closer proximity, once-charming idiosyncrasies often try patience. Comfortably cohabitating couples still have weddings to plan, creating boundless opportunities for conflict. And then there’s the harder-to-define process of coming to terms with a major life transition—a psychological tussle that can take years (long after the impending ceremony) to fully work through.
What should you do if this all becomes too much for you, your partner, or you both to take? In the depths of post-breakup disorientation, it can feel like the only thing harder than breaking off an engagement is bouncing back.
But bounce back you must. Not today, or tomorrow, or next week—but eventually. Here’s how.
- Stop Communicating (Yesterday)
Props to Scarlett Zayne for this priceless bit of post-breakup wisdom: “You can’t move on to the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.”
That’s pretty much the long and short of it. If you keep rehashing the past with your now-ex, you’re not going to recover as quickly as you could (if ever).
Cutting off communication means cutting off all communication, permanently, unless you’re sharing parenting responsibilities. A total break means:
- No calling
- No texting
- No emailing
- No social media engagement (block them!)
- No sending messages through friends
- No asking after one another through friends
- No in-person home visits (definitely not!)
- No contact in public, to the extent possible (e.g., stay away from your favorite parks, coffee shops, bars)
If the above isn’t enough, consider more drastic measures like changing your email or phone number.
- Sell the Engagement Ring and Recoup Your Losses
It sounds crass when you’re recovering from a breakup with the person you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with, but you can’t lose sight of the financial implications of your broken engagement.
Unless your engagement ends right before your wedding day, after you’ve paid for everything, the engagement ring is likely to be the biggest single piece of the financial puzzle.
“Emotionally, nothing can replace the void left by your broken engagement, at least not right away,” says Josh Opperman, founder and principal of popular peer-to-peer online jewelry marketplace I Do Now I Don’t. “Financially, the matter is more straightforward: By selling your wedding ring on the secondary market, you can recoup most—perhaps all—of your original investment in the piece.”
Do your utmost to recover the ring from your fiancé without putting yourself at risk. (Your fiancé will probably return it voluntarily.) Then use a peer-to-peer marketplace like I Do Now I Don’t to see what it’s worth and offload it. You’ll be grateful for the extra funds as you work to put your life back together.
- Validate Yourself
This step is all in your head.
Breaking up is a traumatic experience, full stop. Depending on how it all went down, it’s all too easy to put the blame on yourself. You of course need to view the situation holistically, but when you’re too close to the break, turning a too-critical lens on yourself can be counterproductive.
Instead, look for ways to validate and affirm yourself. Take to heart this simple mantra: No matter your flaws, you are a good person, capable of amazing things.
- Get Rid of Reminders, Sentimental and Otherwise
This step is physical.
It involves getting rid of anything and everything that could possibly remind you of your ex. Depending on how closely your lives were intertwined, that’s likely to include:
- Home goods
…and the list probably goes on.
Don’t throw out valuable items in a fit of vindictiveness. That’s not nice, and you’re likely to regret it later. Instead, make a one-time exception to Rule No. 1 and get a friend to ferry any important items back to your ex.
- Keep Your Circle Informed
You don’t have to start announcing your breakup the moment it happens, but you don’t want to keep it to yourself for too long either. Within a day or two of the event, begin intentionally reaching out to your close friends and family to break the news. This isn’t necessarily a time to overshare—it’s more important to lay down a marker now, and then make it clear that you’re willing to talk about the situation in more detail later. If you need space, ask for it.
- Set a Hard Stop on Your Grieving
Left to yourself, you could probably grieve your breakup for months. But that’s not healthy or productive.
Resist the urge to wallow too long by setting a hard deadline on your grieving period—say, two weeks from the date of the breakup. On or before that day, intentionally move on to the next phase of your life. And, yes, that might just mean logging into your dating app for the first time in forever.
- Take a Treat or Two
If you’ve been saving up for a vacation or big purchase, now’s the time to cash in. One of the best ways to recover from a bad breakup is to get a change of scenery. Consider traveling somewhere you wouldn’t normally visit, either by yourself or with a close friend or two. By your second or third day on the beach, you’ll barely remember your ex’s name.
Have you ever had your heart broken? How did you bounce back?