Mom wonders what's next after son's fiancee calls off wedding
Q: Two weeks before their large wedding, my son's fiancee called it off with no warning. Apparently she is afraid to get married now, but wants to go with him to couples' therapy to try to work out her fears. Neither has been married before and they are in their early 30s.
Yes, I know it is better to find out now than to divorce later, but I still do not understand why she enthusiastically planned this wedding, seemed happy, warm and loving, and then suddenly did an about-face.
Leaving aside the obvious squandering of time, effort, money and the public humiliation, etc., I am crushed and my son is even more crushed. How can I help him? What to do?
We loved this girl; she and my son appeared to be compatible and supremely happy together. I know he has to decide what to do next. Can she be trusted? Will she do this again? I don't understand this kind of behavior. This just happened and we are reeling.
Is it possible for a situation like this to ever result in a long, happy marriage?
A: Enthusiastic planning can be a haven for people with doubts: The more you have to do, the less time you have for thinking uncomfortable thoughts.
I hope you'll have steadied yourselves by the time this appears, enough to see there are no solid answers to your questions. Can she be trusted, will she do this again, can this produce a successful marriage? Maybe, I don't know, I guess you'll find out.
Here's what can be said: As painful, expensive and humiliating as the abrupt cancellation was, what matters most is what it tells you about the bride-not-to-be — and what your son comes to learn about himself.
The answer isn't one you can determine out of context, or even just based on the past. Let's say the un-bride has a history of falling passively into step with others, only to have an abrupt change of heart. Her future would still depend on what she's doing about it now — whether she has awakened to her emotional pattern and is ready to challenge it, or whether she's invested in avoiding responsibility.
The former would mark her as someone of great courage; that's what it takes to admit to everyone you care about, "I'm a mess," and to make good on promises to get help. The latter would mark her as a bullet expensively and publicly dodged.
For his part, your son gets to find out how he feels about the saying "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger." Is it just delusion in a can, or a pithy way of saying: "Now that I've felt like roadkill, I derive new joy from times when I don't feel like roadkill"?
For your part, you can: realize you're not in a position to know what really happened; beat back the urge to judge the fiancee; love your son without hating the person who hurt him; believe in the transformative power of obliterating the expected outcome — even when someone else obliterates it for you.
When someone feels the impulse to run, it's best that she runs. At least now you know this for sure: A need to keep up appearances is no longer driving the bus.