Dear Wendy: “I’m Afraid To Leave My Fiancé”

I have been in a relationship for five years, since I was 18. We got engaged about two years ago but have yet to set a date (basically because I don’t want to). The truth is, I contemplate leaving him almost daily. Why don’t I just do it then? Because I am terrified of hurting him, hurting our families, being alone, and one day regretting that I left him only for it to be too late by then. I have tried to break up with him a few times since we got engaged, but it always morphs into a “break” where we still talk often and then we easily slip back into our old relationship routines. I haven’t been without a boyfriend since I was 14, so the thought of being alone scares the bageezus out of me. What makes leaving the hardest, though, is the fact that he is such a good man who treats me wonderfully and also happens to be my best friend. There are so many things about him that love, but I don’t love him the way that I should love the person I’m going to marry. How do I leave someone who treats me so well, who hasn’t done anything wrong, and who I enjoy spending time with, only to live life alone and uncertain if I will ever find someone better than what I already have? — Reluctant Bride-to-Be

Here are some great reasons to marry someone: you’re very much in love and want to build a life together while enjoying the benefits granted to married couples; you complement each other well and have similar dreams for the future; you can’t imagine finding a better match; he makes you happier than you’ve ever felt; you want to have a family and you know he not only will make a wonderful husband, but a fantastic father to your children.

Now, here are a few not-so-great (read: BAD) ideas to marry someone: you’re afraid of being alone; you’re afraid of hurting the other person by not marrying him; you don’t want to disappoint your families; you don’t know what it feels like to be without a boyfriend and you don’t want to find out; you’re worried you won’t find better.

RBtB, I want you to look at those two lists and ask yourself which category you fall into more when you think about your reasons for marrying your boyfriend. If you let fear — fear of being alone, fear of disappointing others, fear of hurting your partner — steer your life, you’re going to end up nowhere you want to be pretty quickly. This goes with every decision you’ll make in life — if you know in your heart that your best chance for happiness and success is to do the thing that scares you, feel the fear and do it anyway. Fear is simply a signal that you’re taking a risk, and risks are the things that empower you and enrich your life. Feeling fear simply means you’re stepping out of your comfort zone, and you know what? You gotta step out of it some time if you ever want to get anywhere.

So, make that step. Put one foot in front of the other. Tell your boyfriend you can’t marry him. And then put your other foot in front of the other. Feel the fear and keep on moving. Step and repeat, step and repeat. Maybe you won’t know where you’re going at first; maybe you’ll feel lost, and yes, scared. You’ll probably even feel a little alone. You might even want to turn around and run back to where you came from — after all, it was comfortable and safe there — but just keep moving forward. One step in front of the other. At 23, you’re just starting your journey. You still have so much to see and do and learn. You’ll find new walking partners who’ll want to accompany you for awhile. Eventually, you may even find one you’ll want by your side forever. With luck, he’ll feel the same. Why would you want to deprive yourself of that opportunity? Why would you want to deprive yourself of the chance of finding someone who fills your heart with joy? Who gives you butterflies? Who gives you good reasons to want to marry him?

You know what you have to do, and it’s going to hard. But sometimes the decisions that are best for us are the hardest. One step at a time; just keep moving forward.

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