Wednesday, December 21, 2011


From my experience with blogging, when you blog, you don't expect that it will become this place that you really go to for advice. Maybe it's because I lack a family support structure, but I look to some of you for your wisdom like I would look to my own family. It was that way with the wedding post. For a few months now, I have been feeling like my engagement to Harris was more about me wanting a family than being "in love" with Harris. I think I'm damaged beyond fixing because getting to know Harris was wonderful and growing to love him was wonderful but I really became attached to him when I met his family. So why am I so unable to give up any control to that family that I came to love?

Harris and I are no longer engaged. It's over.

I don't believe it was his fault. I think it's mine. His family wanted a big wedding and Harris wanted it to. I couldn't do it. It's my failure. When we all sat down to talk about the wedding, his parents said that they understood my fears about big weddings- and what it really came to is that I have had to be such a private person for so long that I couldn't get comfortable with so many eyes on me and so many people wondering why Harris was marrying me- me with no family and me with no real background. His family is so well-off and so educated and I just didn't feel worthy or like I fit. When Harris started talking about how involved his family was and would be in our lives, I saw it as something to fear rather than a blessing that it probably would be. It's control. I was going to lose control.

I've met some of his extended family and it exposed how inept at family I really am. I don't understand families. It's me. I don't know how to be part of that bigger thing because the only family I grew up with was so commanding and exacting.

I have done 'the work' in therapy. We, as a couple, were doing 'the work'. I was happy until it came to that aspect of family. I asked Harris if we could just continue as we'd been - not married, but moving ahead in a committed relationship. He said no. He was afraid of me "never coming around to the idea of being part of something bigger" and "always wanting us to be separate". He's right. I had this idiotic idea that we could be a couple and have his family be this thing that we'd see when we wanted and invite in just as much as we wanted. That's not how marriage works, I guess.

In our pre-marital counselling, one thing that also came up is that I don't think I want children right away. I love kids. But I'm terrified of holding that responsibility in my hands. I talk a good game about how my childhood was robbed and handled wrong and yes, I could change diapers or cook meals and "provide" for the physical needs of my child, but I'm emotionally damaged and you can't mother if you yourself are so damaged, right?

I don't know what I will do from here.


  1. however your decision came about, I'm sure it was a hard one to make. (hugs)

  2. You're not damaged! You've just grown a different way than convention expects. No tree grows exactly straight and tall as our image of tree would imply; they all grow crooked and bent from the environmental forces around them. But guess which trees are the ones that photographers flock to capture on film? the trees we all exclaim over their unique beauty and charm? The most crooked and bent and weirdest trees out there, the ones that grow sideways or only bear fruit on one side or have weird stuff embedded in their from some kid throwing toys into them early in their growth.

    You are a beautiful tree, not the ordinary crooked and bent, but the truly marvelous creation of Life that no one else but you can be. If you think you have to be a tree straight and tall, you will never notice the magnificence and majesty of the wild and holy form that you are.

    So you can't "do family". Big deal. Lots of so-called normal people can't do family either. You could just as easily see the breakdown as coming from The Family who can't do solitude and privacy. It's not wrong, per se, it just is. You are not broken; you and Harris' family are just not a good fit right now. If he/they are not willing to see how you could all grow together, that is so NOT indicative of brokenness on your part--more like fear and inflexibility on his/their part.

    You still have lots of years left to consider children. Parent yourself as long as you need to. But know also that children are the best therapists in life, if you let them be. No one will point out your inconsistencies, foibles and flaws as directly and honestly as children. And no one will ever love you despite those quirks as much as a child.

  3. Ruth--

    I'm sorry you guys weren't able to resolve these issues. Marriages have to have a strong foundation of compromise, and you've been taught that you--as the woman--should do all the compromising. Harris seems to have forgotten at least partially from whence you came, and he seems to have very different ideas regarding boundaries towards his families.

    I have in-laws that we see when we want and invite in just as much as we want. Marriage CAN work like that, even if Harris thinks otherwise.

    One of the things I learned in therapy is that EVERYONE is screwed up. Some people are better at coping with it or or hiding from it, but everyone's screwed up.

    Please do not think you're so scarred on the inside that you can't recover. You, too, can reach high levels of functioning. :) I did it.

  4. >>"I had this idiotic idea that we could be a couple and have his family be this thing that we'd see when we wanted and invite in just as much as we wanted. That's not how marriage works, I guess."<<

    If that is how you want your marriage and relationship with in-laws (not Harris's family but any future in-laws), then that is okay. Harris and his family could not understand that. They could not respect and accept your boundaries, which is their error.

  5. Sorry that this didn't work out for you. But please please don't think of yourself as "damaged". At least, not any more damaged than the rest of us. Our life scars can be worn with pride!
    As for fearing your ability to be a mother? You can try the "rule of opposites" that made my husband an excellent father despite having horrible role models in both his father and step-father, and also in his emotionally distant mother.
    In any parenting decision, he would think "What would they do?" and do the OPPOSITE! It has worked well.
    Love & healing

  6. “I don't know what I will do from here.”

    Ruth, you will survive and grow and become stronger and healthier. You will. We are all damaged emotionally in a variety of ways. Most people don’t realize it and even more can’t point to the causes. You are not at all “damaged beyond fixing.” You have simply found something you didn’t know was there, at least in that measure.

    You have learned a great deal through your relationship with Harris. I hope that, no matter what the future holds for the two of you, you can look on this time as precious and good. You learned that you can love and be happy with someone. You learned that you can stand up to your family even more than you thought. You learned that there are people out there who are capable of real love, without judgment and posturing. And you learned so much more.

    So now you grieve. That’s normal! Beware the words of self-condemnation. The thoughts that tell you, in your own voice, that you will never be healthy, never be happy. They are lies. Those words are really not much different from the ones you remember hearing as you grew up. In fact, they are your own programmed response to what you consider failure, based on what you were taught. Yes, you can overcome them.

    But grief points our focus back on ourselves and our identity. Perhaps you thought you were healthy because of Harris. Now that he is gone, are you still healthy? Would you have been healthy in relationship with a large and active extended family again? It is grief that has brought these thoughts to you and, I think, that’s part of grief. What you will find is what most of us find through grief. Life goes on and there is still hope. Much good lies ahead of you.

    I am sorry this has happened to you. Your readers will grieve with you. They may not say helpful things as they try to be helpful. It is even possible that some will take this opportunity to hurt you. But there are people who love you and who walk with you. Don’t be afraid to rest. You don’t have to fix this situation or yourself. You are still early in your walk. You will survive and find a good life. Trust.

  7. ((((Ruth)))) I am so sorry for your pain. I agree with those above who said it's not you, or him, it's just that is was a bad fit for you right now. Well done for your astounding bravery and strength in pursuing what is best for you right now. xxx

  8. Ruth, I know that your "issues" have most certainly come into play here, but hear this: your issues and your feelings are NOT wrong; are NOT unworthy.

    I had a fairly mainstream/normal/upper middle class childhood, and i also didn't want a big wedding because i'd recently lost my mother. We had a "planned elopement".

    My husband's family is geographically close, and relatively large compared to mine...nevertheless, marriage CAN work with the "In Laws Come Over When Invited" paradigm. Mine does.

    One thing my husband has always made clear, is that WE are the primary family unit now. His mom, while loved and respected greatly, is no longer the driving force in his relationships and actions. I am. He's held fast to this, and it does sometimes cause tension with his family, but it's been KEY for me. His support, and his acknowledgement that our little family unit is the primary one now, is not only "okay", it should be EXPECTED. especially if that's what YOU want.

    What YOU want, whether you believe it to be the cause of tension, is still at least worthy of 50% of the compromise.

    so there. you're cool. you'll find "it" when you're ready. Until then, i admire your courage in recognizing what you didn't want, and respecting your worth enough to embrace it, for yourself.

  9. You're not damaged! Put that out of your mind. No fault needs be attached to this event - it just is. I know that's hard for you to understand because the way you were brought up, everything was *somebody's* fault. This is just not meant to be, at least right now.

    You mentioned you've done "the work", and I believe you have done a lot of work, but I also think, just based on reading all that you've written on this blog, that there is more work to do. I think you need to take time to fully discover *Ruth* and discover what it is *you* want out of life and own whatever that is and not apologize for it. Given how you were raised, you're not there yet and there is more work to do - not because you are "damaged", but because honestly, having a healthy view of oneself and others is part of growing up and you, by no fault of your own, got a later start on that. You are on the road to do that, but you are not there yet.

    Many ((((hugs)))). You don't know me, but I'll say it anyway: I'm proud of you!

  10. Oh, Ruth, I feel such deep sympathy for you! I just can't imagine the pain of this journey, all piled on top of the pain of your upbringing.

    I want you to know in clear English that you are NOT "damaged beyond fixing" -- it's just that "fixing" nearly years of damage takes longer than a few months. I'm sorry, but it takes longer than a few years, usually. In fact, if you do come eventually by your own path to motherhood, you will find all sorts of even deeper places that still need healing. Damaged people can be good mothers... in fact all mothers are at least a little damaged. In your case, there will be some more fixing/growing/healing involved -- but it's not off the table. It's just wise to take your time.

    We are all impacted by our childhood. That's why many of us are so mad at the spiritual abuse that people expereince in families like yours -- because it does damage -- and the damage is not minimal. If it only did minimal damage, most of us wouldn't worry about it (since most parents do minimal damage to their kids just because parenting is hard).

    Having preferences is not a failure.

    Recognizing that a man and his mother who greet your preferences with a brush off might not actually regard you as highly as you would like... that's a score. That's peceptive. That's wise. (Marriage matters -- and little warnings that are heeded are much better than long-term issues in a marriage.)

    Control of one's self is the birthright of every human being. Blending that with the compromise of sharing married life can be challenging -- but it's still a choice. No one just 'tells you' what your life is going to look like. You choose. And you have a healthy sense of respect and good boundaries. It's not your fault that 'the Harrises' are still learning how not to walk over other people's personal boundaries.

    Harris wants to be tight with his extended family -- that's a fine way to be married when both people choose it. You prefer a degree of separateness -- that's also a fine way to be married if both people choose it. "Marriage" can "work" either way, it just can be very difficult when one person prefers A and the other person prefers B. It's not right and wrong, and it's not something you should feel pressured to grow into -- it's just a preference mis-match.

    I hear your 'damage' in the way you are assessing this situation in a way that beats up on you and closes doors on your future. Can you get back with your therapist to work through some of this?

    I wish I really knew you and could walk with you through all this. My heart goes out to you. I guess I'll just keep reading and commenting.

    I don't know how to be not-annonymous.
    I'm Pam.

  11. Ruth, I posted earlier with hugs, but wanted to add: I don't believe that having had a 'damaged' childhood necessarily means that you will be a 'damaged' mother; it may well make you a beautifully insightful and intuitive mother because of the skills you have learned and the insight on human nature that you have picked up in therapy and just through living your life. However, because of your difficult past I do think that it will be really good for you to spend more time, and as much time as possible, being a 'young, free and single' adult. You deserve to have fun and to be carefree, and although you can experience those things while married, you can often do so with much wilder abandon as a single girl. Therapy is a great healer but so too is living life the way you really want to live it. Although you may be feeling really, really crappy right now, I hope that one day soon you will wake up with an urge to just go out and share lunch and a bottle of wine with a few college friends, take a trip to the beach and go skinny-dipping in the moonlight, climb a mountain, watch a marathon of movies, or do whatever frivolous, spontaneous things that would make you, Ruth Razing, feel full of joy and energy and sparkle. I wish you great, overflowing buckets of joy and peace and happiness in your future - you really, really deserve it. :)

  12. I've been reading your blog since the beginning but only posted a couple of times - my deepest sympathies over the breakup. Please don't beat yourself up. It is HARD to make a wise choice in romantic relationships, and this was a wise choice. It's not the end of things for you and you are not a bad person. I hope you continue to learn how to be kind to yourself. I and many others are rooting for you to have a great life!

  13. Marriage does not mean giving up control to or even having contact with an extended family. This is not your fault - it is perfectly reasonable to want any type of wedding you ish and to dictate your own rules for family involvement. If your partner can't compromise on this, then you made a wise choice. There is also nothing wrong with having a committed relationship without jumping into marriage. I'm sorry you are so sad about this, but I think you'll be happier in the end because of it.

  14. Hi Ruth,
    I've read your blog for awhile, but never posted. I'm really sorry that things didn't work out for you and Harris, but as others have said, please don't blame yourself. Don't view yourself as "damaged". Unfortunately, this seems like one of those "it just didn't work out" scenarios, and I don't know if it's really anyone's fault.

    Your ideas of family and extended family aren't wrong. Harris just doesn't share those ideals, and that's ok. It's sooo much better to find that out now, then after you're already married. I would say kudos to you for standing up for what's important to you.

    For what it's worth, I was in a very serious relationship for six years. Unfortunately, things ended up not working out for us and it was devastating. I also felt damaged and broken. We had put so much into our relationship, and it hurt really badly to discover that things weren't going to work out for us. I really thought it was my fault, but maybe that's just part of the grieving process(?)

    It's been several years now, and I'm with an amazing man who completes me in ways I never thought possible. He is also married to a wonderful woman who can support him without enabling him (something that I wasn't able to do). Like you and Harris, he and I had different ideas on family, among other things. But by letting go, we both found the person we were meant to be with. I'm sure the same will happen for you.
    By the way, he and I are still very good friends. In fact, I think we are better friends than we were a couple. It's funny how that works sometimes....
    I hope you find a sense of healing soon. You are so much stronger than a lot of people, and I admire you for that.


  15. I'm sorry, you sound like you're in pain. I do hope you will continue with therapy to address this issue of "being damaged". For what it's worth, I don't think there are any "normal" families out there. Most have some issues, and while you're childhood was extreme, no one is perfect.

    Again, wishing you peace and happiness.

  16. Honey, I'm so sorry.

    But the work isn't over. It won't be over, ever. For anyone. You are growing. That is enough.

    I hope you can find peace after the grief. I'll be holding you in the light. You're worth happiness.


  17. You are not damaged. Remember that. You are scared. Scared from years of abusive treatment by your family. You are a child of God, a child that God loves and cares about.

    I believe everything has a purpose and Harris' purpose in your life was to start pulling you out of the shell that had been erected around you. Perhaps not right now, but later you will meet another person. A person who can understand your reluctance to have a big blown out wedding, a person who can complement you and the person you can live the rest of your life with.

    Today I've been married 26 years. It's not been easy by any means. We came from 2 different family types. His southern, full of expression, and the kind who didn't care if they had to make beds on the floor for extra visitors. Mine was northern, not prone to excess emotion, staid expressions, and a different view on life. We weren't huggers and I married a family of huggers. Talk about feeling uncomfortable. And fried foods. Good lord, I'd never seen so much lard in a kitchen. But we managed to find a middle ground.

    You have entered a valley of life. But on the other side of this dark valley, on the other side of this mountain of grief and despair is a green meadow where life will go on and peace will come.

  18. Family is not required in a marriage. My fiance and I are getting married in the spring - his mom is an hour away, we see her every few months. My folks are in another state, we see them once or twice a year. They aren't in our lives very much. There is absolutely no requirement that you invite them to be a huge part of your lives. And if you feel you aren't ready to have them be, that's okay.

  19. Oh honey... I'm so sorry for the confusion and hurt of the place you're in right now. I've been where you were at... and we got married. And we have a good life together. But sometimes I think we would have benefited greatly from the further examination that you were brave enough to do; we might have discovered that we were meant for a purpose in each other's life for that period of time, but not for a lifetime. I pray that despite the extremely hard place you find yourself in now that someday soon you'll be able to see something good, some kind of growth out of it; either a gratitude that the hard stuff saved you from something even harder, or perhaps even that you both were able to cultivate separately what makes you work together. ((hugs))

  20. *hugs* My first engagement ended in a painful break-up and it was very painful at the time. But I know I would have been unhappy if I had married him.

    I did find a great guy who I mesh much better with that I did marry. But marriage isn't for everyone.

    I have a dear friend who has a long time boyfriend but neither wants to get married. They are happy the way they are. And being child-free is perfectly fine way to live your life - you just need to attempt find someone who meshes with what you want in life.

    For now, don't be so hard on yourself. Many people have been there without the history of abuse you have been though.

  21. God damn it, setting boundaries and being clear about your own needs is not evidence that you're damaged. When someone is trying to force you (gently or otherwise) into doing something outside of your comfort zone - even in a case like this, where it's something you want to do, but the way they want you to do it is outside your comfort zone - refusing to do it is not a failure on your part. Putting you in that position in the first place is a failure on theirs. You're not giving in to the scars of your childhood, you're standing up for yourself - please, please don't confuse those two actions.

    Sharon said: "I have in-laws that we see when we want and invite in just as much as we want. Marriage CAN work like that, even if Harris thinks otherwise."

    Quoted for truth. Yes, when you marry someone, in most cases you're also marrying into their family - but that doesn't mean you have to do everything their way, or put yourself entirely at their mercy. But I know married couples who have "divorced" themselves from one or both sides of their extended family, because the extended family just couldn't behave.

    And as much as this sucks, as sad and horrible and unpleasant as this is, it may very well be for the best right now. Communication and compromise are excellent qualities in a marriage, but there are some things that we cannot compromise on - and those things are different for everyone. If I'd been more aware of that in my youth, I'd never have married my Supposed Former Wife.

    You said, "When we all sat down to talk about the wedding, his parents said that they understood my fears about big weddings..." Well, they may have said that, but clearly they didn't understand. How do I know? Because they expected you to just get over those fears and do it anyway. That isn't reasonable. That isn't understanding. Above all, that isn't respecting your boundaries.

    Dave said: "Ruth, you will survive and grow and become stronger and healthier. You will."

    I'm quoting this for truth, too.

    If you want to talk, I believe you know how to find me on Facebook; feel free to message me. And if that seems weird or unwelcome or creepy, don't; it's a no-strings offer, and I won't be bothered either way. But I think I'm pretty good at offering a sympathetic ear, and sometimes it helps just to talk things out. (Though obviously you can do that here, too.)

  22. Also, pardon my language. I really don't make a habit of swearing, but this is one of those issues that brings it out in me. I don't know what your policy on cursing in the comments section is, but I don't mean to give offense.

  23. Oh Sweetie, there is so much I want to write from my vantage point at 50 to someone who is going through so much of what I did.

    It gets better. Really. You are not damaged beyond repair, unfixable, wrong or any of those other labels you may give yourself to try to make sense of how you feel. When you are told to measure up to a subjective and ever-changing measure of "perfect" given to you by a controlling and abusive Narcissist in a toxic environment you cannot do it. You will always "fall short" and it skews your self-talk and emotional framework. Ditto for living with a co-dependent personality. I am sure you have learned this in therapy. It takes a LOT of time to first unlearn and then relearn an emotional framework that is appropriate for you. As others have said, continuing therapy is a good thing. The face of your therapist, method and focus of therapy may change over time as your needs change and that is quite normal. I still go back to therapy off and on as triggers pop up for short term "tune ups".

    Next, there is a big difference between a dysfunctional family and a toxic family. Your truth is your truth; don't let anyone minimize your experiences but also remember that from great trials come great strength (eventually).

    Some people will understand you, some won't understand but will respect you, and some just won't mesh with you. That is life - for everyone regardless of their childhood experiences.

    It is very difficult to ask for what you want when you were not even permitted to discover what that might be, let alone discuss your preferences out loud. Most of us from toxic and abusive families discover and re-discover as we go. Our ideas about families, including marriage and children will change over time. Surprisingly, most of us make good parents because we THINK in depth about what a good marriage, a good partner, and a good parent might be. But whatever we decide is OK, even if we have been taught not to think for ourselves, or that our wants are foolish and bad.

    I don't think you are finished discovering "Ruth" yet and that can be as fun as it is frightening.

    One last thought, perhaps Harris is not as far along in his emotional and psychological journey as we may think and we should treat him gently in our thoughts.

  24. I’ve been reading for a while now but have never felt the need to comment before now. I’m really sorry you’re going through this. A broken engagement, while not uncommon, is incredibly difficult. Let me preface everything here by saying that right now you’re grieving, and that’s what you should be doing. All of this talk about how you’ve made the right the decision, how you will find someone else who fits you and what you want out of life better, and how strong boundaries with family is important (all true!) will become more important later, right now you’re probably just sad, and that’s an okay and healthy place to be.

    That said, let me just echo some of the things others here have already said.

    Your family history has undoubtedly left you with some unique scars, but let me promise you that this does not mean the normal looking families around you are without their (often significant) faults. Your family was controlling to an extreme degree, but Harris’s family sounds plenty controlling as well. They sound like they’ve continually overstepped their bounds and tried to take over a relationship that was supposed to be about two people. Now, they probably meant well and didn’t do any of this maliciously, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay or that you were wrong to bristle at that. You were so right! You were forced to separate from your family at a young age, and it sounds like because of this, you have likely matured beyond Harris in this area. He probably still has some growing up to do when it comes to saying no to his family and forging ahead with his own identity. Families often react negatively to this but it has to happen. It’s healthy. And it doesn’t make you damaged because you wanted to hold on to the control that his family was trying to take from you, it makes you HEALTHY.

    As for kids, I’m sure you’ll be a great mom, and I’m sure if you had kids starting tomorrow they’d turn out just fine, but that doesn’t mean that it would be good for YOU. It sounds like what you need right now is to be a little selfish, so do it. There is no need to rush this, you have many, many years before you have to start thinking about your biological clock, and even if you miss that deadline, you can always adopt. There is nothing wrong with not wanting kids for a while, it doesn’t mean you don’t like kids or won’t be a good mom, it means you know there are other things you want out of life first. And that’s great.

    Give yourself the space to be unsure about yourself and where you’re going. Be okay with not knowing what you believe, what you want out of life, when/if you want children, why you feel the way you do. Be okay to want things even if you’re not sure if they’re “right” or “good”. Take these next few years to discover what you like, you may surprise yourself. Maybe you’ll discover a career that you love, or a sport, or music, or girlfriends with personalities that are far different than you ever thought you’d enjoy, or even being a little slutty. It’s really nobody’s business but yours. It’s never too late to forge out a new identity and try something new. I’m single, childless, almost 30 and am just now starting to do this, and it is WONDERFUL. Marriage is good, but it doesn’t really allow you this space. The best thing I could wish for you is for you to learn how to be happy. Learning to care about other people’s happiness and compromise is important too, but you’ve been doing that your whole life, there is plenty of time for that later.

  25. "I had this idiotic idea that we could be a couple and have his family be this thing that we'd see when we wanted and invite in just as much as we wanted. That's not how marriage works, I guess."

    That's not idiotic, that's EXACTLY how some marriages work. If you two want different things, that's fine, but it doesn't make you an idiot. It just makes you maybe not right for each other.

  26. I wish I could hug you. You've been thru all that legalism, found freedom and now more hurt is coming out. I know the decision to not marry Harris is very painful, but I think it's also a sort of milestone for you. You stood up for yourself. Right now you are not at a place where too much compromise is ok--and that's fine. You've never been allowed an opinion of your own until very recently. You've also grown up with Marriage is absolutely unbreakable--doubts can flare up huge in that environment. You've never seen "normal" in terms of marriage and parenting so it's understandable that a lot of it is scary.

    I hope you can find some peace in the next few weeks. Hopefully you'll continue in college or work and that will bring you some stability.

    One of the tough things about "freedom" from any totalitarian "society" (and your family was such an entity) is many things that the rest of us view as "mere" choices can become frightening and overwhelming--after all most have been taught as evil, of Satan,not ladylike, defrauding, ungodly--you name it. Do you recall the movie "Moscow on the Hudson?" Your decision reminds me of Robin Williams freaking out over the choices in the supermarket only for you LIFE is that supermarket right now.

    I will be thinking of you and praying for you in the REAL Christian way and asking for comfort and reassurance for you. You are a brave young woman.

  27. Your wedding should be what YOU and your partner want and are comfortable with, not what your partner and his mother wants. I think you dodged a bullet here, Ruth. I know you're seeing this as a failure right now, but I think you'll be able to, eventually, see this as a turning point for setting your own boundaries.

    "He's right. I had this idiotic idea that we could be a couple and have his family be this thing that we'd see when we wanted and invite in just as much as we wanted. That's not how marriage works, I guess. "

    This has been addressed, but just to repeat: no, he isn't Right. That might be his preference, but it isn't yours and that is okay and RIGHT FOR YOU. FOR YOU.

  28. I just wanted to say I think you're doing something really brave. I absolutely think Harris was being unreasonable by not acknowledging your preferences regarding the wedding and how involved his family would be in your lives. I love my in-laws, but I would be creeped out if they suddenly decided they had the right to barge in on us whenever they wanted and make impositions just because we're family.

    I hope all of this will end up being for the best. Hugs to you!

  29. Seconding everyone above. You will look back and see this as a bullet dodged, I think. Harris has loved you very much - that is real. He also wasn't able to respect your boundaries on something very important to you. That is also real.

    In my observation, young marriages often are about the merging of two families because one or the other partner aren't fully grown up and ready to be independent adults. I think that can work and be beautiful if that's what both partners want. It's not what you want. What you want is important.

    What you deserve in a family are people who have your back. Harris is also young. Harris didn't have your back in this. That's a good reason to end an engagement. I am so sorry for the pain you both are in. I don't think that a minute of your relationship was wasted or pointless. I think you made a good decision for you.

  30. There's no fault or failure here. I'll be thinking of you! Take care of yourself. And let us know what you'll be doing over the holidays!

  31. Hon, this isn't about being damaged. This is about being strong enough and wise enough to know that you and Harris are not compatible right now. Yes, it's sad. But someday you may see this as one of the smartest, bravest things you've ever done.

    Next week and next month and next year you need to come back and re-read all these comments. Once the initial pain is past, I think you'll learn even more about boundaries and families. ((Ruth))

  32. despite how hard it must feel, im so proud and impressed that after being through so much you could still figure out the nuances of what was going through your head and stand your ground. know that people 'out here' love you and care about you. you are not are finding your way....

  33. Stand back and think how you would react if you were in Harris's place. If your future spouse wanted to slow down, keep things personal, and had the background you have, would you ever even consider asking/demanding what Harris has?

    Young women, even those not raised in a toxic environment, often act the submissive in a relationship. Then when you get older you look around and realize you haven't got the life you want or the relationship you thought you were building.

    The best relationships are when two nurturing people come together and take care of each other. Find someone who would bend over backwards for you, not someone who is trying to fit you into the idea they have of their life, like smashing down a puzzle piece.

    You deserve better then that.

  34. Someone needed to tell Harris that the umbilical cord doesn't stretch down the aisle. If you want to throw the bible in there I can do that too -- "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).

    The ending of a very serious relationship will usually mimic the stages of grief, so please be prepared for those normal feelings. Please know that you are not damaged, and lol, if you are, you're in exceptionally good company -- I can't think of anyone I know who isn't "damaged" in some way.

    Harris should have had your back and considered your feelings. Period, end of story.

    I am very familiar with MiL issues as I almost didn't marry my husband because of his mother. But in the end, he told her that I am his family, the one he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, the future mother of his children and she needed to back off... because if she made him choose between us, it wouldn't be her. And we've been married almost five years and have two kids and it was a somewhat mutual decision for her to no longer be in our lives. Some people have to be in control of their children their entire lives... and you've had enough of that. You've had that in spades.

    Just out of curiosity, was it ever up for discussion for a small, private ceremony and reception and then a larger family reception later on? Maybe a family reunion so that you wouldn't be the main attraction?

  35. "I had this idiotic idea that we could be a couple and have his family be this thing that we'd see when we wanted and invite in just as much as we wanted. That's not how marriage works, I guess."

    Um, yes it how marriage works. It's called healthy boundaries, and most parents have them with their adult children. Especially those adult children who are married.

    Hopefully one day you will see that you really dodged a bullet. I'm sure that Harris and his family are nice and all, but considering what you've gone through in your life, it would be continuing the theme of not being in control of your own life.

    There are men out there who will love their wife as well as their extended families , but the core family (the one you will have built together) is and should be the most important. Harris wasn't that guy.

    The best advice I can give you is to wish him well and try to figure out what you want out of life before you take on the identity of someone's wife (and possibly mother).

  36. Ruth,

    Hugs. I know this is a horrible way to start the holidays, but some times space is a good thing. Just as it's hard for you to put family in a different perspective, I'm sure it's hard for Harris to figure out where his mom fit in with a marriage. You are both relatively young (in age and in experience).

    You can love someone to death and realize that you can't live with them. It's sad to look back and realize you still love someone you aren't with, but knowing at the same time there's a reason a stat for "murder/suicide" exists. It's hard to live with someone. It's all about compromise and that compromise has to be on both sides or it becomes resentment.

    You aren't damaged. As other posters have noticed, we are all screwed up by our parents. The key is to find someone who mitigates your issues and adds spice with his issues. A friend once told me to marry someone whose faults I could live with because the tolerance for those faults go a long way.

    You set some boundaries with this situation. Harris wasn't comfortable with those differences and that's fine. It just means you want different things right now. But having the courage to say what you want and to expect to get some respect for those boundaries show you have grown tremendously.

    Don't beat yourself up. Loving and hurting is a part of life. This isn't a failure but rather an experience that makes you wiser for next time.

    I love my family. My friends come here for holidays over their own distant homes. HOwever, after five hours or so, I'm done. I can't take another one of my siblings or my nieces or anyone else. I just want to go back to my place and rejoice in the silence. And that's okay.

    I love it when my bestie flies in to visit and I love it when I drop her off at the airport. I'm single because I haven't found anyone that I love more than myself. And I'm okay with that. You just need to find someone who is okay with Ruth being Ruth.

    Hang in there, girl. No matter what, it's better than being your age with 7 kids in a trailer with no heat!

  37. I'm so sorry you had to make this difficult decision, but the older I get, the more I think the the right thing to do when people want different things is to just break it off, to leave you more time to do what you really want with your life. I think your deep reluctance to take on these extra relationships (daughter-in-law, mother) is an important sign that you should wait until it's right - and if Harris doesn't respect and love that strength and purity of self, he's not respecting and loving the real you.

  38. I'm so sorry that you're hurting. There are no bad guys here - and there doesn't have to be a bad guy for a breakup to be the right thing to do. He has his ways and it's incompatible with what you need. Everyone else is saying it, and it's true: family involvement is totally up to the couple and there are people who are completely enmeshed and people who visit on holidays or not at all and everything in between.

    It's going to be ok. You are not damaged. You are going to find your life.

  39. I'm so, so sorry. I'm sure you are grieving so much right now. Even those of us with wonderful & amazing parents are "damaged" in some way. Healing takes time. Lots & lots of time. And, boundaries for a married couple are necessary & appropriate.

  40. Also... I'm not really sure, from reading your post, whether it's just the engagement that's off, or whether you and Harris have actually broken up.

    But it's very possible to meet the right person at the wrong time. It's entirely possible to be the right person at the wrong time.

    I posted a link above talking about my Supposed Former Wife. Well, I met my wife - my current wife, my actual wife, the Beautiful Woman - at around the same time that I was first dating my Supposed Former Wife. And we had great chemistry, and we drove each other crazy. But if we'd started dating back when we first met, it would have been a complete disaster - exciting, to be sure, but a disaster all the same. And I can tell you with considerable confidence that if we had dated then, we wouldn't have been able to have the marriage we have now. (Here's the story.) I am able to be a good husband to my wife now partly because of the colossal, apocalyptic NFBSK-ups I made when I was with my Supposed Former Wife.

    So it isn't just a matter of finding someone you love. That's how the story goes in movies, and books, and television shows, but in real life it's frequently more complicated than that. And if there's one thing that gives me hope that you will someday be a good partner in a great partnership, it's your ability to know and be clear about what's important to you, what you can and cannot compromise on, and what you need in order to be happy.

  41. Honey, I'll be honest with you about the whole parenting thing...everyone has doubts about whether or not they're going to land their kid in therapy with their parenting decisions. The old adage is true, kids don't come with instruction books.

    And I'll be honest that your upbringing will affect the way you parent, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. I too am estranged from my parents because I finally got tired of their controlling ways and inability to respect boundaries. So I find myself saying "What would my folks do" and do the opposite.

    I'll admit, sometimes that meant I was too easy on them. My father had quite a temper and I'll admit I do too sometimes so I found myself, for a long time, being too nice because I was so afraid of scaring them the way my dad scared me which made us distant.

    Instead it just made the boys walk all over me. It wasn't till my best friend came to visit last summer and helped me get them in line and taught me to be more assertive that I finally learned how to find that middle ground.

    They also say a daughter usually will marry a man like her father. Ha! I ended up with a man who is so different from my father that the only thing they have in common is blond hair and blue eyes and aside from that they look nothing alike. :)

    Ultimately the choice to marry and have kids is yours, hon, but we're all just letting you know that you're not doomed to repeat your past with your kids, if you have any. :)

  42. Hugs if you want them.

    I'm sorry. Break ups suck. Be sure to take care of yourself. If you need friends to come over and watch movies and eat your favorite foods with you? Do that. If you need to be alone and lose yourself in a good book? Do that. If you need one thing one day, and something else the next--do different things on different days. My boyfriend just broke up with me about a week ago--trust me.

    These things you're feeling, and these questions you're asking are totally normal. It's okay. Whatever it is you're feeling, it is okay to feel that. It's okay to feel damaged, too needy, too whatever. I empathize. I'm there with you.

    Take care of yourself--and don't forget, you're an amazing person who thinks and feels amazing things, and can, has, and will do amazing things.

    Don't be afraid to ask for the things you need from your friends. That is what friends are for--and you know what? It looks like you have a pretty awesome readership who will be here for you, too.

    Feel free to look me up on facebook, twitter, or even my blog, if you'd like to vent, or anything. Really.

    Take care.

  43. Having read your blog I admire your strength through all your difficulties. It is okay for you to state what your emotional needs are. You will survive this and grow. Time will help you mature and heal. Don't be so hard on yourself. And you are not damaged, you are human. We all have issues. You just know what most of yours are; the rest of us aren't as self aware.

  44. Ruth I am so sorry to hear your news. Please know you are not damaged and the break up is not your fault. It was a relationship that was not meant to be and as cliche as it sounds, it's better to find this out now. On a personal note, my daughter just broke up with the man she had thought she would marry also. I've told her the same as what I said to you. I'll keep you in my thoughts, 2012 will be a better year...just wait and see!

  45. It's been my experience that, in the immediate aftermath, these types of splits always seem quite final. It's also been my experience that they're not always as final as they initially seem. Maybe you and Harris are done for good, or maybe you're not--that's something only time will tell. Unless you're 100% sure you don't want to be with Harris, I'd suggest stepping back from the situation and giving both you and him a chance to shake off the initial pain and shock and reevaluate the situation. One or both of you may ultimately conclude that the break is indeed for the best, or both of you may decide that the relationship deserves a second chance, but neither of you will be in any position to make that decision until your emotions have settled/stabilized.

  46. I don't think I've ever commented on here, but I've read your whole story and I find your inner strenght inspiring.

    Don't think of yourself as damaged. Those are the life experiences that shape who we are right now. Without them we wouldn't be the person standing in this moment. You have a very strong inner core and what you did when you stood up to your family is something that millions cannot do.

    In-laws are only involved in your marriage as much as you want or let them be involved. Marriage is about you and the other person. Sure that other person comes with family and you sometimes have to put up with them, but they don't get to become a part of your "new" family. In my past experience with weddings, I've found that families and often us (the bride and groom) tend to lose focus on why we're getting married and just focus on that one day and what everyone wants...and everyone wants something different.

    Not being ready to have kids for a few years after getting married is perfectly normal. Most people don't start having kids right away as they want to spend some time together before adding a baby to the mix.

    Overall, give yourself a break. I think you've made a lot of progress, but know that every major life decisions (engagement, marriage, kids, career change)will usually bring with them a lot of anxiety or stress... and that's totally normal.

  47. Ruth, I just want to give you a big hug. It sounds like this latest chapter with Harris has been an incredibly painful one. Like others have said, different people have different desires and need and expectations about marriage. It is important to be on the same page with those things. Just because you and Harris are not now, does not mean that you never will be, or that you won't find someone that is a better match for you and your desires or marriage. It is SO much better to be unhappily single than to be unhappily married.

    For what it is worth, everyone has fears and doubts about becoming a parent. It is an awesome responsibility that should be taken seriously. I think that you will be an amazing mother someday, when you are ready. Thinking of you today.

  48. Ruth? I'm not called MAMA Junebug for nothing. I'm not even going to read the other comments because I simply want to give you mine:

    ALL of us are damaged, and NONE of us are beyond repair! That includes YOU, my dear woman!

    Some years ago, you escaped a family that told you what you would really want if you were just good enough.

    You have just escaped a family that told you what you would really want if you were just ready enough.

    Ruth, you are even stronger than you first appeared!

    Don't give up, dear girl! Look to those of the 48 comments that are uplifting you and encouraging you, and Trust God and Believe in Yourself!!!!

    You are fine and you are GOING to be fine!

    Wishing I could hug you and buy you a big cup of coffee with a side of gingerbread and tell you all this in person as often as you need to hear it,

    with God's love,

  49. Wow, Ruth. I'm so sorry you have to go through this pain, but more than anything I admire your strength for being true to yourself. I hope you have friends near you who can hand you Kleenexes as you process this upheaval. For all the potential loneliness, being alone is far better than wishing you were alone.

  50. Ruth. I hate to say it, but family is the bane of every relationship no matter where you come from. It's puts undo stress on all relationships. I too have an inability to commit fully to another person's family (due to bad experiences in a previous marriage)... And I dont think I should have to. My boyfriend and I don't fight often, but the few fights we have had have involved discussion of family interference or spending time with family. I think you can have a relationship where you can see the family as you chose... and they don't interfere so much... with the right guy... Some people are more involved with their families than others. It's just my take on it. But, still, unfortunately, no matter what you do, you end up marrying the family as well as the spouse... It's a real struggle, I'll tell you.

    I'm so sorry about your break up... Take care of yourself.

    - A girl from Mars

  51. I would agree with everything everyone said.

    I believe that you have good perception. You are not damaged. I would not believe that because you could not work on this lop sided wedding it was your fault.

    Clearly your flags were up reguarding the wedding details and you know what? That was a good thing. You sensed an unfair balance of the decision process and you did not concede.

    That was looking out for your best interest. Clearly if it was that big of an issue for them to have a big wedding and not give weight to your side, it may have been that way for alot of things down the road.

    You had your spidey senses working and I would say it did you good. To say you were damaged is rediculous.

    I had one of the most horrid childhoods ever imagined. I married at 21. I married a person who loved control. Just exactly what I came from.........I married what I tried to get out of. ( not to the same degree at all)

    I did not have my spidy senses on good. I did not even know I had the ability to use them.

    After 24 years of marriage I can say, even though the control issue for my better half has been a huge major issue, that we are still working on is way way better and he can see his own issues and has been working on them........what a waste of time, what a hard life I gave myself. I mean I love him and always have but , I have always wondered what it would have been like to marry someone with no control issues, and how my life would have been so much better without having to deal with it. Always, fighting for my rights, my judgement, myself. I feel like I wished I could have seen then what I do/ did a few years after my marriage began. For years I dreamed of having a different man, one who did not have such a hard time dealing with me and my own upbringing. One who could look at the damage his control and denial was bringing to the table.

    We all bring in baggage from our past.....even your Harris. I believe you made a wise decision.
    Turning away from that big gigantic red light just probably saved you from a wreck.

    It was not just their wedding! It was yours. I watch wedding shows on TV all the time and am completely astounded that "everybody" has a damn opinion. I feel like screaming at the TV. Especially the mothers....they make me so angry. They had their wedding. Let it be the daughters turn to have her own wedding how she wants. Pisses me off.

    About being a mother.

    I faced horrific child abuse. My parents should have been jailed for life.

    I have 4 kids 23 21 19 17. They are great. They were not abused. They are happy, healthy functioning members of society.

    When my eldest was 6, I caught myself dishing out some weird, manipulative, self damaging for the child, repetitive punishment. It was not physical, just some mental games.

    I realised that it was something straight from my mothers lips. Right then and there I made the decision that I would NEVER pull that again. I learned to recognise the weird manipulative ways I was brought up and never do it. That was harder, because obviously, physical or sexual abuse it easier to see.

    My tendancy to raise my kids like I was raised was never an issue because I recongnised it at the begining. I read about proper child rearing, and watched all the good child rearing people and did like wise.

    No fear. You have good senses, and as long as you use them you will be alright.

    You know when a girl is sexually abused, and she walks right into an abusive relationship, she is not seein the correlation. You saw a correlation between your upbringing and your relationship issues with harris and his family.

    You saw the warning, and took it does not make you damaged.

    You might have issues, but we all do. You are just doing your best not to step back into the hole you just crawled out of, and I commend you.

  52. I am so sorry, but I can't help thinking that it's for the best. It always seemed to me that part of your attraction to Harris was his family. Yes, they are a loving, happy, and close-knit family, but as you've discovered, just as controlling in their own way as your family of origin. Hang in there and don't rule out future relationships. It took me until I was in my 30's to feel ready for that level of intimacy and trust.

  53. I just want to say that if Harris could not leave to cleave his family, and be on your side with the reasons you was not going to work now or down the road. He was trying to please his family, and putting himself first by not putting your wishes on the table as a priority.

    It is just a wedding. Just one day. Just a few hours.
    It is so clear to me. It was your wedding.

    Not his parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends.

    I know you hurt. This will pass,and you will find the good in it eventually. And you will learn. Here are the lyrics to Alanis Morrisettes song.....You learn.

    I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone
    I recommend walking around naked in your living room
    Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)
    It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)
    Wait until the dust settles

    You live you learn
    You love you learn
    You cry you learn
    You lose you learn
    You bleed you learn
    You scream you learn

    I recommend biting off more then you can chew to anyone
    I certainly do
    I recommend sticking your foot in your mouth at any time
    Feel free
    Throw it down (the caution blocks you from the wind)
    Hold it up (to the rays)
    You wait and see when the smoke clears

    You live you learn
    You love you learn
    You cry you learn
    You lose you learn
    You bleed you learn
    You scream you learn

    Wear it out (the way a three-year-old would do)
    Melt it down (you're gonna have to eventually anyway)
    The fire trucks are coming up around the bend

    You live you learn
    You love you learn
    You cry you learn
    You lose you learn
    You bleed you learn
    You scream you learn

    You grieve you learn
    You choke you learn
    You laugh you learn
    You choose you learn
    You pray you learn
    You ask you learn
    You live you learn

    This March I will be married 25 long hard has been hard because I did not see the red light. I married to get out of a bad situation. I did think it was right at the time. I was in love. I was blind.

    So much hurt and pain. From my childhood, from my marriage. But, I fought, and won. I am still married. I still love my husband. I am hoping the stupidness of our past is worked out so now I can enjoy the next 25 years. I can use all of that pain as knowledge, I will not let it go to waste. It has made me strong, sensetive, courageous, wise, vocal, caustious, etc. That is all me and I would not change who I am now. Instead of seeing how hard and painful it was, I dwell on the peson I have became because of it. And I really like who I see now. I am so much stronger and better than the 21 year old I used to be..........although of course, I wish I did not have to go through all that. But I like the outcome.

    I have had my fair share of abuse. Even by the deacons and pastor of our church....lets just say the mother used me, to get what she wanted. So I share in all sorts of spiritual abuse thrown at me too. Just saying I can relate ont he God spectrum.

  54. I know I have posted lots. I reread your post. I don't do family well. It's long and drawn out but, I just don't do it. I don't have the framework, or experience. Not one good experience with family. Adopted or origin birth or foster family.It creeps me out, makes me uncomfortable, and scared. I don't really do much in the way of my hubby's family cuz they belong to bad.

    BUT, what I do well is MY FAMILY....the one with hubby and kids.....and it's OK....

  55. Oh, honey. If you were here, I would put a movie in for the kidlets and sit down with you over a cup of hot cocoa. You aren't damaged. YOU. ARE. NOT. DAMAGED. Rootbound, certainly, but you're already growing out of that. Damaged? Heck no.

    Something I've been mulling over recently: Fundamentalist Christianity assumes a villain. If it isn't the Satanic conspiracy behind the latest media trend, it's the sin in the camp or what have you. So whenever things don't go as planned, there has to be a bad guy.

    Out here in the real world, there very often is no bad guy. Most of the time there are just ordinary, fallible people doing the best they can and messing up sometimes. So you don't have to be the bad guy and neither does Harris.

    Now, about the end of the engagement: I do not think that Harris was ready to be married. If you and his mother were expressing conflicting wishes and he was saying Yes to both of you, that's a sign that he is not ready to stand up and make a difficult decision that might upset somebody. Some marriages founded on such a basis go on to flourish, after a difficult period of adjustment, but frankly the last thing you need right now is a very young man without the ability to tell his mother to have her own wedding if she wants to plan one so badly. However, Harris will probably grow up to be an excellent husband for somebody. Just not you.

    Speaking of being husband and wives: You were raised to view marriage as the ultimate goal of womanhood, were you not? Bat puckey and flapdoodle. The ultimate goal of all Christians is to stand in the presence of God. Not somebody who is taking the place of God in our lives.

    Consider this a reprieve. You have the chance to breathe, regroup, and grapple with the other big issues in your life without piling a new marriage and your husband's own issues on top of yours. Take your time. Maybe you'll get married to somebody else this time next year. Or maybe in five years. Or ten. Or never. And that's okay.

    Jenny Islander

  56. I haven't been able to get through all the comments yet but I just wanted to say that you are not damaged and this is not your fault. It's no one's fault. The situation just wasn't right and that is perfectly okay.

    For what it's worth, I'm very proud that you had the strength to realize the relationship wasn't what it should be and to nip it in the bud before you got even more entangled. That takes a kind of courage that many young women, even those raised in regular families, don't have.

  57. "I had this idiotic idea that we could be a couple and have his family be this thing that we'd see when we wanted and invite in just as much as we wanted. That's not how marriage works, I guess."

    I come from a very close-knit family that has no idea what boundaries are. Everyone has an opinion about everything. My mother is mentally ill and she was very abusive towards us growing up. My relationship with her now is more like that of an acquaintance. Low contact is another term. I never thought I'd marry or have kids because I too felt 'damaged' too. Then I met someone wonderful and we carved out a relationship that made sense for US. We eloped and had a big family gathering to celebrate when we got back. We see family (mine and his) when we want. We have strong boundaries and live our lives the way we want to, not the way others would like us to. We made the difficult decision not to have children for many reasons but feel this is the best for us. So such a marriage can and does exist. It's about fighting the right partner for you who has the same outlook, wants and desires. That's not to say there isn't compromise and adjustments because there are but at the core we have made a commitment of respect and kindness. Hang in there Ruth. In time the breakup will sting less. Perhaps you will remain friends or perhaps you will move on. Like so many others have said, there's no bad guy in this situation just unfortunate timing.

  58. correction: "It's about *finding* the right partner for you who has the same outlook, wants and desires." Finding, not fighting. Fighting is what happens when you find the wrong partner :-)

  59. "So why am I so unable to give up any control to that family that I came to love?"

    Because you are yourself and no one has any right to control you, whether you love them or they "love" you.

    It is NOT you, it's them. His family is way too involved and controlling, and Harris seemed very insensitive to your wants and needs. This might seem insensitive itself, but it's a very good thing you're not marrying him. You dodged a bullet, it would not have ended well. So quit thinking badly of yourself. You deserve better.

  60. Ruth- I'm so sorry you are hurting. I'm going to second everyone else's statements; you are NOT damaged. You have every right to want a relationship that's a good fit for YOU. If that's not with Harris then it's not meant to be. I know it hurts right now but don't blame yourself! ((((hugs)))

  61. Just had to add a comment:
    --When people love you, you don't have to give them control over your life and let them make decisions for you. The two don't have to go hand-in-hand.

    --Be careful of assuming that all your feelings stem from being "damaged." It's okay to have strong preferences, it's part of discovering who you are, and no one should say that your choices are "wrong" and "damaged" because of your background. I really hate that everyone automatically assumed your discomfort with a large wedding was a "bad" thing and made you feel like everything you want is wrong, and what they wanted was right.

  62. Ruth, there are so many things I want to tell you but I'll make it as short as I can: please don't think of yourself as damaged. I think that recognizing something isn't right for you and being able to vocalize that is huge. You're an amazing, strong woman and while I know that it hurts like crazy right now, you WILL be ok. Promise!

    Take some time for you right now. Take some deep breaths, have some girls'll take some time but you're going to come out just fine! We're all rooting for you!

  63. You may have some battlescars, Ruth, but you aren't damaged goods - not by a mile. You're a beautiful person, and a beautiful young woman.

    Take all the time you need to breathe and heal from this.

  64. You're smart, not damaged. You realized that this was not a good idea, at least not right now, and you acted to stop a disaster. I have more than my share of friends who didn't act (or who didn't ask questions at all, worse) and now, despite being in their mid-twenties, are getting divorced. It turned out that "the plan" where you marry the "right one" at the "right time" and have the "right wedding" and live in the "right house" didn't work for them. I'm not sure it works for most people-- many, sure, but most? The most successful relationships I have seen in my life have all been a little offbeat. I am sure this is because the people involved were thinking critically and putting their needs before their image. Society would have us believe that's wrong and messed up, but who would listen to someone telling them not to be happy?

    I know this feels bad, but you're not alone. Most people don't marry the first person they think they will marry. We have all been there and, happily, we all came out of it stronger and smarter-- and more capable of being good people and good partners. If you find yourself feeling weird or broken, stop, and remember that everyone you know has been through first-love pains. People will understand and they will be kind to you because they know what it's like. You're connected to everyone around you, even in the midst of all this pain.

    Just try to take care of yourself, okay? Let your feelings out, get enough rest, and don't retreat from other people too much (You'll want to be alone and you should do that, just make sure it's not an all-the-time thing; being around people who love you for you is important). It'll be hard, but one day you'll realize you don't feel sad anymore.

  65. Ruth- just wanted to let you know that you're not alone with calling off an engagement. I did and felt stigmatized about it, it made me feel damaged for a bit. However, I think some people who should call it off don't. Even when they see the problems they are too worried about appearances to do what is best to take care of themselves. Kudos to you for knowing what you want (a more distant family relationship). Knowing yourself is a sign of maturity and growth! And kudos to you for taking care of yourself and your needs even when it's difficult.

  66. Ruth, please do not think you are damaged. Relationships sometimes just do not work out. Things may seem grim right now but they WILL get better. Please take care of yourself. (((hugs)))

  67. Hi Ruth,

    I'm alarmed by your sense of worthlessness and think you should give yourself daily affirmations that you ARE worth it, you ARE normal (in the sense that any of us is normal) and you ARE doing what's right for yourself. Your decision is very admirable, and shows that you are NOT damaged, because a truly damaged woman might just stay in the relationship and let herself be sublimated by the wants of others...for the rest of her life.
    I could reiterate the many good points commenters came up with above, but mostly I want you to trust yourself and know that no one of us two-footed primates ever stops growing and learning. I (we all) want you to live your life to the fullest because if there is a god, that is how s/he'd be best honored (I'm athiest but appreciate and admire the comfort faith brings to the faithful - those that live and let live, that is, unlike your father).

  68. Oh, and one more thing--keep blogging, and keep talking to people. Breakups are always hard, but the act of writing/talking/doing things that keep you occupied helps IMMENSELY. Take care to be kind to yourself, and you never know what the future holds. All periods of one's life--the downs as well as the ups--are precious at the end of it all.

  69. Marriage is whatever you and your partner want it to be. And it is a partnership, meaning both parties will have to make compromises and sacrifices. You are not damaged, messed up or wrong for wanting what you want. And that is something the two of you will have to work out together.

    You can mother when you feel you are comfortable, if you ever feel that you are. Deciding to have kids just another decision that must be made collaboratively. If Harris really wants to be with you, he will wait to have children until you are ready. Because bringing a child into a family where the mother feels she is undready is not a good situation for anyone.

    I think that these big issues like kids and weddings can seem overwhelming for young couples. You and Harris have been together so long, over a year right? Like two years? And you guys haven't broken up at all. Thats not something most couples can say. I think long term couples need to go through at least on break up or separation because, no matter how cliche it sounds, it will make you a stronger couple. And I think you'll know what I mean when you and Harris get back together or even if you don't. In retrospect, you will see that this was the right thing for now. And if you really feel like it's not, Harris is just a phone call away.

    -Someone who understands

  70. Ruth,
    This is hard. It sucks -- a lot. I'm sorry.

    I hope that, if your relationship with Harris is salvageable (or something you both want, for the same reasons), it will work out. If not? You're not a failure. You're not hopelessly damaged. One relationship that doesn't go as planned, one broken-off engagement--it's part of life, but so is everything else.

    Take it easy for the next few days, watch movies (personally, I'd avoid the mushy/tear-jerker types -- they just make it worse), eat as much or as little as you want. And keep going.

    Nothing in life is final, Ruth. Nothing will keep you down any longer than you allow it. Let yourself express emotions, but don't focus on just those emotions. Maybe a new hobby can take your mind off of things (I like wheel-based pottery, especially on a kick rather than motorized wheel, because I can work out my anxiety/frustration/other emotions without directing them towards someone).

  71. Ruth, you are not damaged. It's such a loaded word. You don't need to tell yourself these things. You're human. Like all humans you were shaped by your upbringing- but you are overcoming the negative. You have tremendous strength. Harris should be understanding of your desires.
    You didn't mention if he wanted kids right away but given your upbringing it's understandable that you don't and he should respect that damnit!
    You'll be strong and you'll be fine. Don't be afraid to ask your readers for support.

  72. Hi, Ruth,

    I have been following your blog for a long time, albeit as a lurker.

    I wanted to express my support to you in this hard moment and give you a hug if you wish to accept it.

    Things *can* function the way you want re. married people and their family, you're not abnormal or damaged for wanting it so. Please don't think that. It is a very important matter and a couple should be on the same page regarding that, in order to avoid big problems and a lot of hard feelings down the way.

    I agree with previous commenters who said you need time to find out who *you* are, *your* way of seeing the world and life and all that. Do take time for yourself to do so. Learn to be happy and feel complete on your own (no easy feat, of course, I don't want to sound like I think it's easy), that's the best premise for a happy couple dynamics.

    You are in my thoughts.


  73. Merry Christmas, Ruth!
    Wherever you may be, and whomever you may be spending it with, I hope you have a lovely day. May it be filled with laughter and friendship and delicious food!
    You are in my thoughts today.

  74. After 30 years of being ever so lovingly slapped around by my MIL...I can safely guarantee you that YOU are not the problem, Ruth.

  75. That may be what marriage to Harris would be, my dear, but it's not necessarily what marriage is.

    I'm sorry that both of you discovered that marriage was going to mean more compromises than you were willing to make; because that's what it is, it's not being damaged, it's who you are and who Harris is and what you're each willing to give up and to accept. When those things are at an impasse...

    I had the worst fights with my husband during the process of wedding planning, because while he and I felt similarly about things, his family had other ideas, and my husband was caught wanting to please both me and his family. When we were fighting over something his mother wanted and I absolutely didn't, he said, "Why can't you just let her have what she wants and make her happy?" I shot back, right or wrong, "If this wedding is for your mother, I guess you don't need me there. If it's for us, you and I can talk about what we want to do, and if it makes someone else happy or unhappy, that's incidental." I put it to him that the wedding was symbolic of our relationship and marriage, and he saw my point.

    Our commitment to each other is foremost, and others have to accept that or simply be unhappy. It works for us.

    I will add that perhaps, in some way, Harris wanted to give you his family. To show you the love and acceptance he has felt and is accustomed to and to say, "here, come, be part of us, we will all of us give you the love we think you deserve." There's nothing wrong with that, except that it's not a marriage. It is love, but it's a different kind of love.

    I think we all create our own families, and you still need to find yours. And I've got to imagine that's going to be hard for you, because you've had family narrowly and specifically defined. Don't be burdened by definition; you're not replacing your parents, your siblings. You're just finding your people, whoever they are. Maybe they're just a bunch of strangers on the Internet who care enough about you to offer advice when you look like you're hurting.

  76. Enough time has passed that maybe I can ask this now...

    Is Darth Daddy being a super dueshe bag about this? I can totally see him being all "you left my hedge of protection and now you will always be unhappy until you repent your ungodly ways." Have you heard from your family about the break up?

    And I'm sorry I'm so nosey.

  77. Oh Ruth,
    I'm so sorry. I broke off my first engagement and I know the heartache you are feeling regardless of this decision being the best choice you made for yourself! I am proud of you.
    Would love to give you a hug and sit on the couch and visit together.
    I am now happily married going on 8 years. I look back and think were would I be if I hadn't broken off my engagement. I am excited to see the growth you will experience from this trial.
    Your are loved,

  78. Ruth, if the wedding is more important than THE BRIDE, then you have probably made a good decision by breaking it off. I don't see you as being the bridezilla type which is why I say this. If you feel uncomfortable, then take some time. Feelings of discomfort are indicative of a problem and now is the time to figure it all out.

    And there is NOTHING wrong with you other than your crazy upbringing which is not your fault. You are still so very young and have your entire life ahead of you. Live a little. Get out there and take some time to enjoy everything that life has to offer. Travel! Be an international nanny! See the world. There are so many options for a smart girl like you. Seek them out!

  79. You know, it was going to be your wedding too. There's no point in having a ceremony if one of you is miserable during it. And it's not his parents' wedding at all! It's better to have a small, cheap wedding you pay for yourself than a huge one foisted on you by bossy in-laws. If they want a big ceremony full of pageantry and pomp then they can go get married a second time. =P

    A lot of what you write makes me think that you did the right thing by leaving, but the wrong thing by blaming yourself. The truth is that marriage works differently for different people, and I'm not hearing anything from him on a willingness to compromise or (SHOCK!) make concessions out of respect and love for you. I come from a very controlling, pushy family, and let me tell you something: you really have to watch people like us! We've been trained since birth to try to force everything to be our way all the time, and even when we realize how messed-up that is it's a hard habit to break. I'm not sure your ex even realized how pushy and controlling his side was being, and that is scary stuff. Especially for someone like you who's suffered enough already!

    I'm sorry because this sounds like a trying time for you, but I can tell you as someone who's been in his fair share of messy breakups that it does get better. If I could give you any advice, it would be to learn to love and accept (or at least tolerate) yourself first. There's no shame in being single, and no great honor in being married. Don't listen to anyone who says otherwise!

    One more thing: kudos to you for being smart enough to realize you're not ready for kids! Think of all the terrible, horrible parents out there, having way too many kids when they're ill-equipped to handle even one. You should be so proud of your self-knowledge and courage in standing up to the insane idea that every single person ought to procreate as soon as possible. If you love kids but don't feel up to being a parent, always keep in mind that there are so many opportunities for you to spend quality time with kids - teaching, day care, Big Sister-type programs, foster care, etc. - without being their legal guardian. We're struggling to take care of the kids we have now, and I think a kind-hearted person like yourself could do a lot of good by focusing your attention where it's needed most. I would wait until you were a bit more emotionally stable though - it's challenging work, and you really need to have your own affairs in order. But whatever you decide I wish you the best.

  80. I wish that there were magic words to take pain away, especially for you who have experienced far too much. To echo everyone else: you are not too damaged. Every relationship has problems, and sometimes there is no easy way to fix them. This doesn't automatically mean that either party is damaged or wrong. sometimes, two people are just not right for each other, no matter how much they love one another. I personally believe that very often we try to place blame where there isn't any, frequently there are just differences of opinion and we cannot force others to see through our eyes. If that means that we must part ways, so be it. In the words of Oasis "don't look back in anger." Work hard to be the best you, and love WILL find you.

  81. It's natural to see yourself as damaged after what you went through; there's nothing wrong with feeling that. In time I think you will find that hard work is over, though flashbacks occur periodically, and that feeling healthy is so common to your every day experience that it's taken for granite -- almost. (I've been there.) But I think that many people would feel uncomfortable with the situation you describe. Your needs and wishes are every bit as important as Harris' are. If he can't see that, it's a warning sign. Maybe a subtle warning sign but still a warning sign. I wish I had heeded my own warning signs before my miserable six-year marriage to a controlling man. Not that Harris is like that, but when in love, it's easy to ignore red flags.

    As women we are conditioned to see ourselves in terms of relationships. Men aren't. What's wrong with being by youself, at least for awhile, taking time to figure out who you are and what it is you want out of life? That's a gift that not too many women ever have in the Christian culture. And those women who do just that are generally pitied or looked down upon. I can tell you, however, that once you are alone you learn that you are strong and can fully take care of yourself. It's freeing. Then coming back into a relationship/marriage you have even more to give and receive as equals.

    I'm Word Gazer's sister, and came to your story through her writings to help women escape the Quiverfull cult, and I do believe it's a cult. What a remarkable story you have! I think your future is bright no matter what you decide. Warm wishes to you.


  82. So many people had such encouraging and wise words for you.
    I just want to echo, ditto, repeat all of that.

    You are not a failure.
    You are not broken.
    You are so much ahead of others of your age and experience. You have learned to
    LISTEN to your own voice and not ignore it. So many people have not figured that out yet....some never do.

    Just a word about big families. I belong to a big family too, actually, my mother was one of 11 and I have bukus of cousins, aunts and uncles.

    We are a loud, noisy, fun-loving bunch. We like to think all the joking around and openess that exists, makes us healthy
    and better than "other" families.
    We are also really overwhelming for many people who have had occasion to come across our posse.

    I wonder if Harris and his family don't kind of hold the same ideal. He's
    not ATI or QF, so therefore, he's got healthier pickens and how could you
    POSSIBLY be threatened by that? /little sarcasm off

    God Bless Harris, I think he meant well, but he and his family just aren't getting it. Their family can't heal your hurt, as much as they might like to and as much as YOU would have liked them to, too.

    I can easily see this as being an issue for some of the ones who might have come into our fold and politely declined, or prefer to move
    to other states, grateful we're at a healthy distance.

    Just to give a bit of perspective on that.

    And, I am sure, knowing your family wouldn't be there, to be part of the noisy ruckus, hurts too much for you right now. Because there is much of you that WANTS your family to accept you right where you are and because they can't/won't do that there's a big hole that even Harris and his family can't fill for you right now. I think that's what much of this is about. And really, if Harris and his
    parents were to totally back off and accept how you want things, it wouldn't be fixed. It a square peg, round hole kind of thing.

    Someday, you will be a mother **if you want to.** If you don't want to, for whatever reason, that's fine too. Kids aren't
    for everyone. Perhaps there's a part of you that has not given yourself permission to not have any and yet there's a part of you that
    longs for them. A conundrum that only you can work out with time. You have time

    I wish I knew you in person. I would hug you, hold your hand,lend you my ear and shoulder and be friends with you. I'd make you chicken soup and tuck you into big covers while you watch sad, old movies. I would invite you into our family. I would add you to my 11 kids
    (between me and my hubby...married 6 years ago, he had 3, I had 5 and we had 3 more together) and not expect you take care of my babies ;-) (of which there will be no more, I'm 44 years old for godsakes and these
    last two are kicking my ass!)

    Anyway, I'm rambling, but one more thing, Ruth. You are part of an enormous family of people who love you. You may not be our blood, but we are with you in spirit. For all of us, I think it's safe to say we could count you as our it in Christ or just as
    part of the human family. We are many, Fundies, Atheists, conservatives, liberals. You have shared you with us. What an incredible gift you have given. You
    really have no idea what you mean to so many
    of your readers.

    Keep moving forward. Keep seeking answers.
    Be true to you first and foremost. We're here with you.

  83. I have not read all the comments, but you are still finding out who you are apart from your family. This is going to be a process for you, as you have many issues to work out. You are not damaged, but normal. Not many people your age have the where-with-all to ask the questions of themselves that you do.You will get there.

    Also, not all families are as close as Harris's family, and that's ok. I love my inlaws, and they live a mile from me, but we do not see each other everyday. You have to set healthy boundries for all involved. Some people like the closeness of being with extended family all the time. For me and my husband, we like our space. You kind of need to be on the same page with your spouse on things like this, or at least have your spouse know and respect your feeling on the issue so thee can be compromise.

    Keep putting yourself first Ruth! Just because it did not work out with Harris does not mean this is the end of the road for you. This was your first "real" relationship with a man, and according to the odds, it was not going to work. You will get there.

  84. You are not damaged Ruth. Despite your background, you are so self aware to break your engagement. Yes, this hurts now but if you had buried all this and gotten married, would you have stayed married ? Would you have had children knowing you may not be the best possible parent ? You have my utmost respect and admiration for breaking off a situation despite it being a good thing at one point for you.
    A man leaves his family and cleaves unto his wife, it says in the Bible. Nothing wrong in wanting your family unit first. You are one of the strongest people I know. Please take care. You are worth it.

  85. Most of the great things have been said already, Ruth. Just want you to know that even as a stranger I feel sad for you...but I also think your desire for autonomy when it comes to marriage is completely legit. You were raised to have NO boundaries, and your courage to express (and even break up with a guy you loved) because you could not live with the violation of the boundaries you need is very healthy. I'm so sorry it hurts!!! As good a guy as Harris was, he wasn't willing to wait for you, or to make the family situation something you would be okay with. His loss. Keep being true to yourself and you will find a guy who honors your needs instead of making you choose between having him and having your boundaries. First heartbreaks are terrible. Later you'll look back and see everything it taught you. :( YOU STILL HAVE TOMORROW.

  86. Ruth, we are all damaged and imperfect in our own ways, but that doesn't mean that you are unworthy of love, a relationship, a marriage or a family.

    It's okay to not want children right away, but I will say that I've been told a number of times by various people that if they had waited until they were "ready" for kids, they would never have had any. Basically, your life doesn't have to be perfect - scratch that - life will never be perfect, so waiting until it's just so usually doesn't work.

    That's not to say that if you don't believe you're ready, that you shouldn't feel pressured. Just understand that there are plenty of wonderful parents who have baggage. The fact that you got yourself out of that awful environment speaks volumes.

    Anyway, I hope that you can find peace in knowing that you gave your best in your relationship. You never know what life will bring. Keep putting good things out there, living truthfully, kindly and generously, and the like will find it's way back to you.

    I wish you all the luck in the world in all of your endeavors!

  87. Ruth,

    I'm rather late to read this. I want to say first off that I am so sorry to hear about this. Honestly, I think Harris is being a bit of a dick by breaking things off because you aren't ready to get married to him. You only recently got to know what his family is like and I don't think that it's wrong to want some time to figure things out.

    Harris's family seems VERY involved. His family reminds me of a close friend's parents, and most of our circle of friends raises eyebrows at how involved her family is with her marriage. We wonder if her husband will grow some, so to speak, and tell them to get out of his marriage. He hasn't, so I guess it's ok with him. If my husband's family was so involved, I'd be telling him that he had to choose between them and me. So maybe you're more like me. That's ok.

    Take some time to heal and then figure out what you want. Once you know yourself, you can stand up for yourself and any good long term boyfriend (never mind fiance or husband) will want to know what you think. If you don't both agree on something, you will work together to find a compromise that you can both live with, even if that means him telling his family to give you space. You should be important enough that he wants to change. He should be important enough you want to change. Not like, change your whole personality. The best example I can think of right now is that I was doing a lot of late night studying with friends when I was in school. My husband disliked not knowing where I was or when I would come home. I felt like he wanted to keep me on a leash. I explained that my end point would vary because I studied with friends until we were exhausted and that time could vary widely. I gave him updates when we changed study locations so he knew where I was and I marked my exams on his calendar so he would know that I'd be out late the night before. He didn't push the issue and texted me instead of calling if he wanted to touch base with me.

    As far as not wanting kids right now, that's no big deal. I've been with my husband for 5 years and we've been married for a year. I'm 28 and kids are still at least 3 years away. Neither of us is ready. The important thing is that we have talked about it and understand and respect each other's viewpoints and opinions. And you know what? My little sister knows that she will never want kids. That's ok too, since her boyfriend knows and agrees.

    I'm staying anonymous just because most of my accounts are associated with my real name, which I try to keep somewhat private. I'm a random bystander who wishes you the best and is sending virtual hugs.

  88. Sorry to hear of your pain. ((hugs)) Just glad that you followed your heart and stood up for your own feelings.
    As I have read some of the comments (lots of really great thoughts/support), a couple of things stood out:
    Nothing takes away the pain right now of feeling rejected/not accepted AS YOU ARE. (Perhaps the best of intentions on his family's part, but whatever) BTW, I think that you are great JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!!
    What you have gained by experiencing this, NO ONE gave you and NO ONE can take away - its YOURS (You can't learn it in a book, can't learn it by being a SAH daughter) Good for you! Life is a journey - sometimes it sucks; sometimes its grand, but thanks again for sharing it with us.
    What you are right now (not ready for the big wedding or the big involved family; not ready for children right now) is "dynamic" as all are relationships. Things change with time, with the *right* person. I'm happy that you have the courage to say that it just doesn't work right now FOR YOU in THIS way. You shouldn't feel pressured especially after how we were raised.
    My compliments to YOU!! I'm for one am proud of YOU!

    X-ATI pilot daughter

  89. sorry to hear of your breakup. I have been a long time reader of your blog. Please don't think of yourself as broken but just learning and growing from what your life experiences. You will meet someone who is accepting of you and loves you just the way you are. It took three times for me but he is absolutely my soul mate.

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  91. I wonder if you might benefit from doing some reading on attachment theory. I've just become aware of it, and thus cannot give you book recommendations yet, although I do plan to study it, but do a google search if you're interested. I think the information could help you explore how you were emotionally damaged by your parents, and how you can potentially recover.

  92. Ruth, you're not damaged, but you've had a very different upbringing than most. you just need a chance to be yourself.

  93. "I had this idiotic idea that we could be a couple and have his family be this thing that we'd see when we wanted and invite in just as much as we wanted. That's not how marriage works, I guess. "

    This varies widely from family to family and I am sure you can find someone in the future whose family is more comfortable with the amount of contact you would prefer, or open to adjusting to your comfort level.


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