Dear Rosie & Sherry,

My fiancée broke off our engagement recently, after we had been nearly inseparable from the time we first got together. She gave no indication that the breakup was coming. Her mother plays a big negative influence in her life and my ex refuses to see me to try to work out anything.

I adore her and would give anything to talk to her alone. The police department called me to say that she has requested that I stop trying to contact her. I suspect that her mother is slandering me with false information, and I am not even given a chance to respond.

I am heartbroken. What do I do?

Richard

Dear Richard,

We understand that you are going through a very difficult time, but it seems to us that it may be time for you to mourn your break-up and move on. We understand that you were completely surprised and deeply hurt when your fiancée ended your engagement, which is a perfectly normal reaction to a break-up you never saw coming. Your wanting to convince your ex to change her mind, and your hoping that if you can talk to her alone she'll admit that she succumbed to her mother's pressure, are also normal reactions to a break-up.

Most people who are faced with a great loss experience a number of reactions like those you are going through. This process has been described as denial of what has occurred ("It just can't be! This wasn't her idea. It's not what she really wants"); anger ("I'm furious with her for doing this," or "I hate her mother for pressuring her to do this"); depression; bargaining ("If only I could talk to her I could help her get the courage to say no to her mom and get back together"). It's not unusual for someone who is mourning a loss to cycle through a number of these reactions during the time they are grieving. But ultimately, the final step must be acceptance that this has happened.

 

Sometimes a person so desperately wants to reconcile that they drive the other person farther away.

 

And it's not uncommon for someone who cares very deeply about the person who ended their engagement to try to convince her to reconcile. This is where things have gotten sticky. It sounds like you've been very persistent, so much so that your ex has asked the police to persuade you to leave her alone. Sometimes, because a person so desperately wants to reconcile, their efforts to do so accomplish the opposite of what they had hoped. They drive the other person farther away because what they're doing begins to feel like harassment or stalking.

Although you adore this woman, you cannot persuade her to marry you. It must be her decision. There comes a point in time when someone who's been heartbroken has to say to himself, "I want her back. I've tried to fix things. She doesn't want me to. And even though I'm heart-broken, I have to respect her decision." We know that it's been hard for you to do this because you believe your ex was pressured by her mother, but it is something you have to do. If your ex has had to turn to the police for help, and you still have trouble with her request that you leave her alone, you may need the help of a third party to enable you to understand why letting go is so difficult, and to help you do it.

It might be easier for you to accept the break-up and let go of your hopes of reconciliation if you look at the situation from for your former fiancée's perspective. Even though you didn't have any warning about the break-up, we have no doubt that this was a difficult and painful decision for her to make. And it doesn't matter that she may have been influenced by her mother. Ultimately, this was something she chose to do, and she is undoubtedly feeling the after-effects of that decision. And even though she was the one to end your engagement, she still needs more time to process the emotions she's feeling and to experience the different aspects of mourning that we described earlier. More than anything, she needs personal "space" to be able to deal with her thoughts and emotions. By persisting in trying to convince her to meet with you, you aren't allowing her the space she needs to work things through.

Perhaps you're afraid that the more space she has, the more convinced she'll feel that she made a correct decision. And that may be precisely what will happen. But you should try to respect her choice, as painful as it is for you. If you continue to try to tell her that she's "wrong, made a mistake, needs to hear you out, change her mind, etc.," you aren't showing her respect. You're insisting that your needs are more important than hers. And since respect is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship, the fact that you can't respect her decision says that this is a relationship that really shouldn't continue.

 

A letter is less threatening -- and will not land you in jail.

 

We appreciate that this was a shock to you and that you have a genuine need for closure in this matter. Our suggestion is that you write her a letter. It is less threatening than a direction confrontation (and will not land you in jail), and it gives you a chance to state your thoughts clearly. A letter also has the advantage that she can read it, think about it, and re-read it. At that point the ball is squarely in her court; you've done all you can. And if nothing comes of it, you can gain the closure you need to be able to fully process your loss and move on, knowing that you've made the proper effort.

Here's another point that might give you some consolation: If she is so unduly influenced by her mother to the extent that she bows to her will in crucial life decisions, then this is not the woman you want to marry. Be assured that her mother will continue to meddle in your affairs, and there's a real possibility that this woman does not have the spine to stand up and think for herself. So if that is the case, it's probably a blessing that you found this out now rather than later.

We understand how difficult this break-up has been for you, and how much you still hope that your ex will change her mind and come back to you. But you can't force someone to meet with you, to listen to you, to change her mind. If your reasonable attempts to do this are rebuffed, you have to stop. It means that this relationship is not meant to be. If you need help stopping your efforts, or if you do stop but have a hard time dealing with all the feelings that accompany a difficult break-up, you will give yourself an invaluable gift by meeting with a therapist who can help you through the process.

We wish you success in navigating the dating maze.

Rosie & Sherry