FROM A BROKEN ENGAGEMENT TO HAPPILY EVER AFTER

#NeverGiveUp

Years ago, shortly after I turned 30, I became engaged on Valentine’s Day—to a man I ended up not marrying. There was a fancy diamond ring involved, and to be honest, I should have said no the minute my boyfriend proposed.

(A tiny voice in my head did say no.)

But I took a deep breath and answered yes for a variety of dumb reasons, including the fact that we had been dating for a year and a half, and marriage just seemed to be the train that we were on. His parents adored me, and we spent a lot of time with them as well as with his friends. We had attended several weddings together. How disappointing for everyone, if there was no happy ending for the two of us.

Getting engaged: It's not about the bling.

So there I was on Valentine’s Day, at Sign of the Dove, modeling a truly stunning ring. If you’ve had the experience of becoming engaged, you know that it can quickly intoxicate you—sometimes for the wrong reasons.

Every morning on the F train at least two or three people would glance at my left hand, smile, and congratulate me. I felt like I had passed beyond one of life’s many velvet ropes, into a VIP club. I did not want to give up my membership.

Becoming engaged can quickly intoxicate you. Sometimes for the wrong reasons.

FROM BEAUTY BRANDS

You probably noticed that in my intro I said only that his parents and friends liked me. So there’s your first red flag, because I can't say that my friends and family adored him. When I called my mom to tell her that my boyfriend and I were engaged, she said “Oh?” and was silent. Not the typical mom reaction. (She didn’t even tell my dad for weeks, because she knew he would not approve.)

Logo
Zales

My friends were skeptical about my fiancé, but more tolerant than my parents; I think they just hoped for the best. And they loved that ring. The ring was what everyone rallied around: how beautiful, how big, how perfect the setting. Because of the ring, we could avoid talking about real things, like did I truly love my fiancé, and wasn’t he kind of a jerk. Blinded by bling—we all were, for sure.

FROM ZALES

In the following 6 months, though, everything fell apart. Why? Because I slowly had to admit to myself that I didn’t really like my fiancé, and would have felt trapped in a marriage with him. He was a lot older than I was, successful, and I had been a little in awe of him. But I started to see things more clearly: he treated me like a possession—an extension of himselfnot like a complete human being. He expected me to play a certain part, and if I didn’t he got angry.

FROM DR. BRANDT

As our fighting increased he, too, started to pull back. The wedding date kept moving further out. I was having difficulty concentrating at work, and felt physically ill much of the time. After months of pain and misery, I broke up with him—something I could have and should have done much earlier.

WAS IT A ‘RULES’ RELATIONSHIP?

Clients who know my story often ask, "But was this a Rules relationship?" And I have to say that even though my boyfriend pursued me, did all the work, and ultimately asked me to marry him, it definitely was not. The Rules are about seeing and admitting the truth of a situation—even when it is unpleasant and uncomfortable to do so. If you’d rather remain in a state of denial (as I did) that is not a Rules relationship, even if a wedding is on the horizon. Just getting married, "getting the ring," is never the point. 

Also, The Rules tell us not to let romantic relationships take over our lives or keep us from doing the things we love. But my engagement had a toxic effect on nearly all of my other relationships—including my parents and my closest friends. If I had continued on a path of denial, I would have become more isolated, and my life even more focused around this one man.  By contrast, healthy love enhances and opens up your world. Life gets bigger when you’re with the right person.  

Healthy relationships open up your world. Life gets bigger when you’re with the right person.  

Most importantly, The Rules show us how to create a healthy dynamic in dating that will then carry over into marriage. It's a foundation of mutual respect—something I didn't have with my ex. In a healthy relationship, you feel that you are enough, just as you are; your partner isn't going to reject you just because you've gained a little weight, lost your job, or become ill. When life gets tough, you know you have each others' backs. That is a Rules marriage.

FROM BCBG

If a man's love is conditional, and you feel it could be taken away at any moment that you "disappoint" him or are less than perfect, stop dating him. That is not the foundation for a healthy marriage.

My broken engagement led me to study something called the Diamond Life — an idea that can be found in many different cultures and religions. Living the Diamond Life means that you commit to balance in Mind, Body, Heart, and Spirit — the 4 points of a sparkling gem.

Tommy Hilfiger

With respect to love and relationships, this means that you can't just "follow your heart," as most Hollywood movies suggest. Even if you are a free spirit, you honor yourself by engaging your mind as well. You love with clarity and balance.  

Easier said than done, right? One reason I recommend that women do The Rules and commit to them, is that Rules behaviors make it easy for you live a balanced, healthy life. Your heart (and body) might tell you to drop everything and spend every moment with your new crush, but The Rules prevent you from doing so. You remain active with your interests and activities, your career, and your friends and family. You wait to have sex until you are sure that yours is a healthy dynamic, and your man has given you clear signs that he loves you. 

When a Rules woman is uncertain about a man's feelings for her, she puts her heart on pause and waits for a clear signal from him. Over time, with daily practice, you can actually train your heart to respond only to men who make you feel safe and sound, and to instinctively reject a hot-and-cold, emotional roller-coaster.

FROM E.L.F.

Over time, you can train your heart to respond only to men who make you feel safe and sound, and to reject a hot-and-cold, emotional roller-coaster. 

The benefits are particularly valuable once you've met your wonderful Mr. Right. By exercising this self-restraint and not losing yourself in love, you will give your man space and become even more precious to him as a result. He knows you had a life before you met him, and he respects you for continuing to maintain other priorities. You are the cool girl he feels lucky to be dating. 

When you love with clarity and balance, you become even more precious to your guy. He truly respects and cherishes you.
Moving on after a broken engagement...  In a healthy relationship, you know you are enough for him, you don’t need to prove anything, and he loves your very essence. 

Moving on after a broken engagement... In a healthy relationship, you know you are enough for him, you don’t need to prove anything, and he loves your very essence. 

Never give up.

It sounds silly now, but I truly thought this broken engagement was my last chance at love and marriage. Over the next 5 years, I went through the driest of dry spells. I met men through online dating, but hardly any were my idea of Mr. Right. I tried a matchmaking group, and singles events. I was doing The Rules, but it just wasn’t my time yet.

I also worked on re-balancing my life. Before I dated my ex, I had regularly attended a Bible study group; I started going again. I decided it was time to reconnect with the people who truly mattered to me. I got busy with activities that were good for my soul, my body, and my mind, and resolved never again to silence my inner voice.

Glengorm Castle, Scotland

Glengorm Castle, Scotland

Then, at 36, I met my now-husband. And his proposal was truly a gift from the heart. He knew that Scotland is my favorite place on earth. After we’d been dating a year, he surprised me with a mystery trip to Glengorm Castle on the Isle of Mull, where he got down on one knee, in the rain, surrounded by Highland cattle. (He had already told my parents about his planbecause he loved and respected them— and they were fully on board.) The diamond my husband gave me that day, and that I've worn ever since for the last 15 years, is precious. But mostly because it reflects back a beautiful experience and a shared memory that we both treasure. 

Wishing you lots of love,
Robyn

Robyn Wahlgast is a Rules Certified Dating and Relationship Coach for Women. If you're online dating (or thinking about it) read How To Have An Awesome First Date With An Online Guy for road-tested tips and advice. Never miss a new blog post: subscribe to our FREE newsletter.  

HOW TO STAY LIGHT AND BREEZY IN ANY SEASON

How A 1972 Hit Song Can Help You Keep Harmony With Your Man

Even as autumn chills the air, and you begin to search for that second glove…or those perfect boots…you can still hang onto a little bit of summer. And, in all honesty, we should try to practice that summery, sunny mindset all year, in all of our relationships.

What do I mean?

If you want to know what a man’s fantasy of commitment and marriage feels like, just listen to the song "Summer Breeze" by Seals and Crofts. (I've linked to the sexiest cover version ever by The Isley Brothers.) 

Sweet days of summer, the jasmine's in bloom
July is dressed up and playing her tune
And I come home from a hard day's work
And you're waiting there, not a care in the world...

A sunny attitude doesn't always happen for us naturally. It may take some practice and mindfulness. Take baby steps toward the sunshine!

A sunny attitude doesn't always happen for us naturally. It may take some practice and mindfulness. Take baby steps toward the sunshine!

Now, of course you—the “you” that is the woman in the song—aren't lounging around without a care in the world. That’s pretty much the opposite of your experience right now at work or in your home life. But that simplified version of domestic life, and breezy, carefree imagery is an ideal any of us could crave, especially when life is so complicated, and continually throwing curve-balls. That vision is especially powerful because such a “lite” mindset can be used to positively affect your actions and interactions with your partner. After all, cultivating peace and rapport in your relationships is a day by day commitment. At any moment, one can feel like sinking from the pressures and expectations that exist in any long-term situation. Creating an aura of ease and lightness can seem completely out of reach.

As with vocal harmony, choosing to spread sunshine is a skill you can practice and get better at over time. When you’re practically crackling with stress, you may think it’s your man’s job to somehow take away the pain. Maybe it’s your secret desire that he can read your mind (nope), relieve you of your burden (only you can do that, doll), and give you a hug (yes, that’s reasonable). If your guy appears to be upbeat or oblivious to your mood, it can be infuriating. “If he really loved me,” you think, “he’d pick up on my mood and fix this.” Your instinct may even be to pull him down down down into the Wicked Witch’s vortex of doom, with you. You know it’s childish and selfish, but still you have this impulse. The next thing you know, you’ve picked a fight or dumped your issues and complaints onto a somewhat innocent bystander. Now his mood is soured and the negative chain reaction continues. And if you have kids, their little antennae are likely to transmit and amplify the distress signals.     

So pause and remember summer breeze….  That’s what he hoped he was getting when he fell in love with you. That’s the you of your early dates. And, truth be told, that’s the you that you like best. Like a child on a swing, soaring up toward the sky. She’s still in there, and she’s maybe a truer reflection of your self than the stressed-out version. So what can you do to keep the peace, both within your head and in your home?

1. Refrain from “sharing” all the bad things that happened today. (If you’re already unloading, it’s o.k. to stop mid-sentence. Really, he won’t mind.) Sometimes these types of conversations are best left to your friends or other family members—if, after sleeping on it, you still feel like venting.

2. Refresh and reset. Can you try to muster up one good thing that happened during your day? Or something you’re looking forward to in the near future? When all else fails, spend 7 minutes on YouTube watching silly cat videos or that #TBT Sister Sledge video, or anything inspirational to you. When the screen freezes, mentally high-five the millions of other stressed souls who’ve chosen this in lieu of picking a fight with their honey.

3. Make a quick plan to deal with your #1 issue. Tonight is not the time to tackle all 99 of your problems, but you can make a baby step in the right direction. After all, being breezy doesn’t mean being irresponsible. Identify your most pressing issue and come up with one next step that you can take to make things better for yourself. Write it down and place it in a keepsake box or a jar. Close the container and set it aside with intention. You will reopen it in the morning, after a good night's rest.

4. Appreciate him as he is. It sounds so simple, but when you learn to stop "grading" your partner, you will relax and connect with him more completely. Comparing him to other, more perfect specimens of manhood may artificially motivate him at first (when the competitive instinct kicks in), but over time he will simply tune you out. Making comparisons is not an effective means for motivating anyone over the long term, and the habit may drive a wedge between you. Instead, think about one of his recent successes—something you know he values and is proud of—and mention it. 

5. O.k., about that hug. Just ask him for one! You don’t need to overwhelm him with lengthy explanations and details—your snuggle will be that much sweeter as a result.

When I was younger, the wifey, domestic tranquility portrayed in this song seemed to me embarrassingly retro and sexist; I cringed every time it came on the radio. But now that I’m married, I get it. Because in the grown-up world, summer breeze is mostly a dream anyway. It’s a serene state of mind we all long for. So, go on—let him have his fantasy. Try to share a little bit of summer with those you love—including yourself—all year long. 

Robyn Wahlgast is a Certified Dating and Relationship Coach for Women. Book a private consultation or subscribe to her FREE dating and relationship newsletter and get priority access to all new content. 

HE WON'T PROPOSE... WHAT TO DO?

get him to propose faster

You want to get married, but he's in no rush. Don't let your insecurities ruin a good thing. Follow these 4 tips and you'll be walking down the aisle in no time. 

If you are a woman who is happily involved in an exclusive relationship, your thoughts have probably turned to marriage. This is understandable: for many people, the act of getting married is the ultimate expression of a couple’s love for one another.

The phase just before engagement can be one of the trickiest for a couple to navigate, however. If you have been dating for a year or more, you may feel that your guy should already be Instagramming ring ideas to your BFF. And though he may not show it, your boyfriend may be struggling with his own expectations and pressures as well.

Follow these 4 tips to ensure that you're moving in sync, and you and your man will build a solid foundation for your life together.  

1. Take a deep breath. Although you may have good reasons for wanting him to hurry up and propose already—a madly ticking biological clock, family pressures, or other very real concerns—practice stepping out of the “I want” mindset.  Many women come to me saying “I want a husband” or “I want to get married.” It may be helpful instead to say, “I am ready to become a wife” and fully embrace the major changes you will face when your wish becomes reality. In many religious traditions, marriage is viewed as a covenant with God or a spiritual union—a solemn undertaking indeed. Marriage is also a joining together of communities, forever altering your relationships with parents, children, relatives—even your friends. Appreciate that you stand at a momentous threshold, and choose to cross calmly and with intention.

2. Open your eyes to the truth within. I get many calls from women who want to get their boyfriends to propose, but as the conversation continues it becomes clear that the future groom has been MIA for several days or otherwise has a pattern of disrespecting the caller. Ladies, please take note: A man in love who has made the mental commitment to propose is very easy to spot. He may not specialize in fancy seduction moves, or shower you with diamonds and rose petals, but he respects you and is supportive, follows through on his promises to you, and makes sure you know where he is and who he is with. If your boyfriend is a triple-D (regularly disappoints, disrespects, and disappears) recognize that you are just his good-enough-for-now girl, not his future wife.

3. Embrace his perspective. Even when men and women face identical cultural pressures (such as marrying by a certain age or producing an auspicious number of offspring), men typically balance these expectations with practical considerations. Of course, if he is a junior attorney postponing engagement until he makes partner, that may be a red flag. But if he is waiting another 6 months so that he can receive a bonus, a promotion, or clear up some financial issues, consider yourself lucky to be in a relationship with a man who takes seriously his role as your future partner. The first year of marriage is one of the hardest, and addressing practical concerns in advance can be a wise move.

4. Create positive momentum. While your expectation may be that marriage is the inevitable next step in your relationship, your man may think that things are comfortable just as they are. A cozy holding pattern can set in when a couple is already living together, or otherwise treating each other like spouses without having made a formal commitment. In this case, someone has to rub two sticks together or the relationship may lose its sizzle before you have a chance to reach the altar.

  • Although you may think the solution is to confront your guy and detail all the ways in which he is not meeting your needs, he will hear this talk as an ultimatum, and its one-sidedness could cause him to pull back rather than opening up an honest exchange.
  • Instead, start creating your own positive momentum. Have you been avoiding the gym? Tomorrow, get up early and go. Have you fallen into a rut at work? Register for classes to help you transition to a new career. Start reconnecting with old friends. Dress and look your best at all times. If your guy loves you, he will take note of these changes. Just keep going with your positive energy and let things percolate. Over the next few months it will become clear whether your guy is willing to step up and join you, or if you will be moving forward solo.   

Waiting for him to propose may require more self-restraint than you think you can muster, especially if you are a woman who is used to making things happen in other areas of your life. But the proposal is an important way for a man to express his feelings for you. Accept this gift graciously, and you will both share a wonderful memory that will help sustain your connection throughout married life.

Robyn Wahlgast is a Certified Dating and Relationship Coach for Women. Book a private consultation or subscribe to her FREE dating and relationship newsletter and get priority access to all new content.