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This article is from guest contributor, “Avery,” whose recent letter asking for advice prompted her to write the following.
Out of the blue, my ex-fiancé started to have doubts about our engagement, and he eventually ended it. The people in my life had a variety of reactions during and after the breakup – the comforting, the unhelpful, and the downright insensitive. Some of the comments I heard were like salt in the wound, and some helped me feel better. If you know someone going through the devastation of a broken engagement, here are a few suggestions for what to say and what not to say.
Top Three Things to Say To Someone After a Broken Engagement
1. I’m sorry.
These are such simple words that swiftly convey sympathy and compassion. They don’t attempt to be anything more than what they are, and even better, they’re easy to remember when tragedy strikes.
2. That’s a terrible thing to happen.
Because it is! A broken engagement is awful, horrible, tragic, and devastating. Just saying the obvious, minus the analysis, lets me know you feel compassion for me. It means you acknowledge that there’s a broken relationship and all the hopes and dreams that came with it are gone. That common ground can be a strong foundation for comfort and support.
3. What can I do?
This question was incredibly helpful in a way I never realized. You’d be surprised at some of the things that needed to be done that I just didn’t have the strength to do. I had a lot of people offer to listen, hang out, cancel stuff, visit, go on a trip, pack, etc. Bonus points to the friend of mine who said, “We can hang out, and you don’t have to talk about it. I won’t ask any questions.”
Top Three Things NOT to Say To Someone After a Broken Engagement
1. You’re so lucky.
A lot people told me I was “fortunate” to have this happen before the wedding as opposed to after. But, of course, I would have preferred to have no breakup at all. Canceling wedding bookings, seeing nonrefundable money go down the drain, suffering through the humiliation of telling people, etc. did not make me feel “lucky” at all.
2. I know how you feel.
I had a friend say this to me as she was literally planning her wedding. She’d never had a broken engagement before, but she swore she knew what it would feel like. Unless you’ve been through a broken engagement, then don’t ever say this. You really don’t know what it’s like and you just come off as condescending.
3. Can I have [borrowed item] back now?
There’s a time and a place for everything, and this is not it. If it’s really that important to you to get your beaded handbag back that the bride was going to carry down the aisle, then spend a little extra time with her first, and work your request kindly into conversation (after you express sympathy, ask what you can do to help).