T Nation

Ever Broken Up W/ Someone You Thought You're Going to Marry?


Just parted ways with my first serious GF. Pretty bummed and still not certain it was the right decision, but Im moving across the country for grad school and she was insisting on moving into grad housing with me. I love her very muc, but that sounded like too big of a risk, and I didnt want to sign a lease and end up withher getting homesick/jobless/bitter about me being too busy six months down the line. I was also concerned with the fact that her major life goals are traveling, marriage, and starting a family. I want her to want more from her life, and as-is (was) I felt responsible for her happiness, and a little like the best deal she’d found husband shopping. She’s a great girl and she’d make a great wife and mother, but Im just not ready for that kind of commitment yet. This is my first “real” breakup with my first “real” love. Any happily married folks want to share their first breakup stories for solidarity? Im bumming pretty hard right now, so any perspective would be much appreciated


The woman I was dating before my wife. She was nice, came from a good (pretty well off) family, educated professional. The thing is, I got the feeling that she didn’t actually love me. She loved the idea of having a husband, and really wanted to get married- but was it to me, or could you pull me from there and plug another guy in with the same results? When she couldn’t quite answer that question directly we were done.

It hurt to do that. She was my first serious relationship where marriage was actually talked about as an option. Looking at the way things have panned out though- I feel pretty good about it. I went on to meet my wife and we dated for about 4 years and have been married for… jeeze, I’m going to have to check. I suck with dates, but I’ll say 9 years this November.


This. Thank God Im not crazy


I have “seriously dated” three women. The first, I dated for about 9 months in college, but it was really just a break-the-ice-on-having-my-first-girlfriend relationship, and she broke it off towards the end of our senior year. The second, I dated for about three years and for a time expected that I would marry her, but I eventually broke it off. After a couple years of only casual dating, I hit the jackpot with contestant #3, we dated for three years, got engaged, and are coming up on one year married.

The breakup from #2 was rough. I’d been with her for two-plus years and marriage was on the table. Some of your reasons are quite similar to mine, although the biggest reason I broke it off was some friction between my GF and family that I felt was my GF’s fault, and it was gnawing at me that as hard as my mom and dad tried, my GF just didn’t seem like she would ever warm to them. We also had some different feelings on a few other issues, and eventually I decided that we should end it.

There were some sleepless nights in the week before, and a few more in the week after. For the next couple weekends, I was definitely in a bit of a funk…I had some weird Saturdays where I went to the grocery store in the morning, worked out…and then went back to the grocery store in the afternoon because I was so bored (I mean, for a couple of years I’d spent every weekend with my girlfriend…and suddenly that disappeared, what was I gonna do?)

The best thing I did to break out of the funk was…do stuff. I reconnected with some old friends from a local running group and started running with them again. I started going to my local yoga studio and actually talked to people. I started hanging out with my graduate school classmates, people who were super cool that I had never really spent “social time” with before I needed to, and suddenly realized how much fun they were.

Chin up, hoss. You’ll get through it. The next few weeks will have their share of bummer days, for sure, and you’ll probably doubt yourself and maybe even have the occasional “I’ve made a mistake and should call her” feeling. But if you’re about to move across the country for graduate school, you have a fresh start anyway. When you get there, do stuff. Join a gym or running club or hiking group or softball team or frisbee club, whatever floats your boat. Get to know some of your classmates. The “hole in your heart” that you probably feel right now won’t go away in two days; you’re a decent guy, you feel a little bad about this, it’s okay to hurt a little. Give yourself permission to feel like crap…a little bit, but don’t get stuck there.

As for when you should start dating again, everyone handles that differently. I would not actively seek out a new paramour for a little while, but if something comes along and you want to give it a shot, go ahead. Just make sure you give yourself a little space before you dive back in.


yes, twice. It sucks but you’ll get over it.


Definitely will heed this advice. I have zero interest in any kind of romance right now, and I can’t imagine that urge returning for the forseeable future. As guilty/doubtful/grief-stricken as I feel, I have to say I also feel so much freer. I have time to go home and surf, read more, and my writing productivity has already skyrocketed. I also know Im going to get a lot more out of my grad school experience if I have time to connect with my cohort (they only accept 6 applicants to the program each year) rather than splitting it between writing, teaching, classes, them, and her.


There isn’t anything wrong with this as a life goal. However, you wanting her to want more is a problem and it’s best that you cut it off now rather than later. People have different goals and life views that, while equally valid, can cause long term problems. In 5 years that may also be a goal for you and you’ll meet someone who also has the same goal at the same time.

I’ve never broken up with someone I planned to marry but I did cut off a two year relationship with someone fun, funny and attractive because they had no real goals or motivation and over time my respect for him eroded to nothing. Relationships are doomed if there isn’t any respect. It was tough to do and I missed him for a long time but ultimately it was like amputating an infected digit and had to be done.


I’ve been married twice. Widowed once, very young. Father of eight girls. Both marriages have been very good.

I come from a very Orthodox Jewish background. Both of my marriages were pretty much arranged by family and community, which sounds weird, but is basically what Match.com does by using various protocols of whether people would be a good fit. We obviously could say "yes or “no,” but we were pretty systematically picked out by mutual family members. (Anyone who has seen “Fiddler on the Roof,” well, that’s a Hollywood version of events 90 years ago in the Ukraine, but has a grain of truth.)

Romantic love is important, but it is just a small part of what makes a good match.

Shared goals, preferably shared religion (or no religion), shared likes, and (importantly) shared dislikes are probably more critical. I know many an arranged marriage where there was shared likes, etc., physical attraction, and initially no love. Now, 50 years later, they walk hand-in-hand and couldn’t live without the other.

Marriage (or any relationship) especially with children, is basically a small business. If you would not run an ice cream shop (or whatever) with the prospective spouse, it is not a good match.

So, yes, you did the right thing. You were not ready to start a small business with her. It’s only fair to her to cut her lose.


here’s my thought on this sort of thing. If you’re not sure if you want to be with the person in this sort of situation, then a break up is almost always the appropriate move.

Something to consider: You’re young. People change a lot in their 20’s. She will and you will. Keep in touch with her. You never know what will happen. I was with an amazing girl on and off for a year in high school and then most of undergrad. But I wasn’t ready to be committed to 1 person. I had several serious relationships in my 20’s. I had a 5 year marriage and a child. Now I’m back with the girl I was with in college, and we’re both much better suited for each other.


I didn’t really see what the problem was until you admitted that you weren’t ready for the commitment. But you are young yet, and if you are going to graduate school for the humanities, you were probably doing her a favor. The job market on the other side of that is a (insert preferred word here).

When my college g/f and I broke up it was hard on me. I was in a real funk, but spending time with friends always helps as long as they can take you outside of your problems.


so much growing up happens from 20ish to 35ish. And having a gf or wife is so stifling. I can understand why some people tie themselves down early, but anyone who is at least moderately attractive/ successful should stay out of committed relationships as much as possible at that age. I mean, relationships are fun, but never get trapped in them. As soon as it doesn’t feel right, cut it off. We’re taught that we’re supposed to work things out and that relationships are hard, yada yada. And it’s such bullshit. They don’t have to be. Find one that’s easy. That’s a keeper. If you have to ‘work everyday on your relationship’, an concept that some people seem to value so highly, you’re gonna have a shit life.

I know this doesn’t all directly address the OP. A bit of a side rant.


As a 30-year-old, I think this is something that I appreciate now, but had a much harder time believing / understanding while I was actually in my 20’s (i.e. when I was in the OP’s shoes at age 25 and beating myself up for a few weeks about whether breaking up with my then-GF was the right move).

Just wanted to reiterate that to the OP. In the thick of the situation as a 20-something, it feels like the world is ending and you’re making a permanent, life-changing decision. Trust me, you’ll still come out on the other side of your twenties.

Also, flip, without prying too hard into your personal life - I’m glad to hear the second bolded part. Hope all is well.


Dude, this x1000. We know it, and it’s nearly impossible to communicate to younger guys. My 20 year old self would have said fuck you to my 30 year old self.

And thanks, man. I’ll share a bit more. I was the reason she and I broke up. I was a piece of shit at the end of college. I gave her no attention, I was a drug addict, alcoholic, cheated on her… it was bad. And she stayed with me a long time even through that. But there was nothing about our 20 year old selves that could have worked long-term. We’ve both had relationships since then. We have career paths. We’re both much better people. And we have a really great relationship now. We live about 5 hours apart but see each other 2 or 3 weekends a month, took a trip to Ireland together, etc. Being an adult is fun :slight_smile:


Wow this really resonates with me. I am going to be going to grad school and I also just started talking to my girlfriend about marriage. Granted she is highly motivated and wants to go to grad school too. Way smarter then me actually. I am just a dumb guy who is too stubborn to give up. The plan is for her to spend the first six months to a year with me while I am in my first year and she is hearing back from grad schools. And once I graduate we meet somewhere in the middle. Probably in Austin Texas. I am from the east coast were we are both at now but she is from Austin.

Its tough to make decisions like this especially when you love the person. I know for a fact I want to spend the rest of my life with my girlfriend though. Could I find another person. Of course. None of us are as truly unique and special as we think we are. But I absolutely do not want to.

In regards to your split. From what you shared I would have to agree with your decision. You can always reconnect when your done. Unless she’s married with children by then. If she is then I guess you definitely made the right call.

You going for Phd? What field of study?


As long as you stick to partners who share your philosophy, the more power to you.


MFA in fiction. I feel your struggle here, the farther away I get from my decision though the more I realize it was the right one. I’m all in wrt writing, which means I’m going to be poor for a very long time. I’m going to a top-5 program and I’ve already published some stories, but chances are I won’t have a stable teaching position for quite a while. My girlfriend (ex, I guess) wants kids by thirty, and I cant promise her that. The shittiest thing I could think of was moving out there with her, being a half-assed bf while I poured myself into school, then not being ready for that family she wants so much seven years down the line. Painful decision, but foe me it was the right call.


So true and a great way to phrase it.

OP - it won’t help much in the short-term, but rest assured that you’ve enabled yourself to live out additional life experiences and freedoms that many (read: the ‘one-and-done’ types) are forced to forego.

And in the meantime, staying busy always helps to pass the time (which, in turn, dulls the pain).