ringsSix months before her wedding, twenty-four-year-old Melissa Smith* had it all: an enviable job as Director of Sales for a popular hotel chain, love with her college sweetheart-turned-fiancé Barry, and preparations for the wedding of her dreams.
Until the day her horse, a gift from her fiancé, fell ill. She took the horse to the local veterinarian and later that night, called her best friend with some startling news.
"I think I'm in love with my veterinarian," she announced.
"I had everything set for the wedding," Melissa recalls. "The dress, the invitations, the bridesmaids. Everything. But when I met him, I was in awe."
Related: 7 things I wish I knew about men before I got married
Melissa found Dr. Goodall*, a veterinarian and horse surgeon, to be handsome and witty. "He was a lot of fun," Melissa relates. "And I was completely in love with what he did for a living."
The next day, as she drove to her final dress fitting, Melissa's thoughts wandered back to the doctor.
"I found myself thinking, 'Well, if the marriage doesn't work out, I can always get a divorce,'" Melissa remembers, shaking her blonde hair slightly. With that thought, Melissa immediately slammed on her brakes in the middle of the interstate.
"I knew right then," said Melissa. "I couldn't go through with it."
Although official records on broken engagements are not kept, according to a 2003 article in Time magazine, an estimated 20 to 25 percent of engagements are broken each year in the United States. We have all heard of the pre-wedding jitters. But the decision to call off a wedding involves more than just cold feet. It's the decision of a lifetime.
1. You Just Know
Many women who have broken off engagements describe a "gut feeling" or an instinct that the man was not right for them from the beginning - but that they simply got too far in the relationship to feel like they could break things off.
"I think I always knew that I should not be marrying him," explained one woman who has broken off a previous engagement in the past and wishes to remain anonymous. "But I was waiting for a moment that was bad enough that I could justify to myself that I was doing the right thing by calling it off."
2. You Look for Excuses to Avoid Him
I found myself searching for jobs that took me away from where the town we lived in," explained Sarah*. "I knew then I really wanted out of the relationship if I wanted a job the kept me from seeing him."
3. You Avoid Making Wedding Plans
"I had made sure of that in the planning that nothing was hard to return, like my dress," Sarah confessed. "In all the days leading up to the marriage, I was very scared and didn't really want to make any plans.
4. You Fight All of the Time
The engagement time is a relatively carefree and happy time in a couples' relationship. And although that's not to say that wedding planning isn't stressful (it is!) or that happy couples don't fight (they do!), if you are fighting more often than not, something may be off. As Sarah noticed, "I didn't want to sell my condo in case I needed a place to go to when we fought…there were so many signs…"
5. He Threatens to Call the Police on You
Sure, it may sound like a no-brainer, but women trapped in physically or verbally abusive relationships, behavior that might have once seemed crazy can start to feel "normal" over time. For Sarah, after a bad fight that left her "bawling for the 1,000th time," it took her fiancé threatening to call the police on her to serve as her wake-up call. "I knew it was far past over then," she says. "I told him I would mail the ring."
-By Chaunie Brusie
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