Last week, Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson’s whiplash romance came to a crashing halt when they called off their engagement. The breakup was confusing for many fans because, on the outside at least, it seemed like Grande and Davidson were living a fairytale. There was the $16 million apartment filled with bean bags, the pet pig, the tattoos…what went wrong?
Of course, the only people who know the real truth about their relationship—and subsequent breakup—are Grande and Davidson themselves. But those who have been through a similar experience can attest that there are thousands of reasons why an engagement might end. So, Glamour.com talked to several women about what it’s really like to call it off before a wedding—the thought process behind the decision, the aftermath, and how it’s changed their lives. Below are their stories.
Christa, 26, engaged for 2 years
I dated my high school sweetheart since I was 16. We did the long-distance thing while I was away at college, and I didn’t consider dating anyone else. By my sophomore year, we had been together for nearly five years. I was anxious to get engaged, but he was not feeling so urgent. We argued a lot, and in the end he proposed because I gave him an ultimatum. We were engaged for nearly two years while I finished undergrad, and we planned our wedding for the summer after I graduated.
During my final semester, I made a couple of guy friends. I knew both of them had feelings for me, but I ignored them because I was about to get married. However, one morning, one of the boys brought me a smoothie for no reason and said, “You know it doesn’t have to end at smoothies, right? Most men I know would do anything for a girl like you.” That’s when I realized that I was about to settle for a boy I had to beg to propose to me.
When I moved back to where my fiancé lived, everything was different. I couldn’t be around him without wondering if marrying him was the right choice. I felt like I had just woken up from a long sleep, and I wanted to get out and explore more before getting married. Breaking up with him wasn’t the difficult part, but terminating the wedding was. I wasn’t in love with wedding planning in the first place—the whole event stressed me out—but I couldn’t stop thinking that everyone would be disappointed in me, that I was throwing away all the money and work that had gone into it so far. About eight weeks before the wedding, I told him I didn’t want to get married anymore. He took the breakup very hard and cut me out of his life. Now, almost five years later, I’m in a fulfilling open marriage with a lovely man who adores me. I often think about the very different life I could be leading today, and I shudder.
I just wasn’t happy, and that’s enough of a reason.
Iris, 25, engaged for 11 months
There were a lot of small problems that snowballed over the course of several months before [I ended it]. He would lie about little things, which eroded trust. I would tell him that something he did hurt me, and he would blow it off. He wouldn’t take responsibility for his actions, and I saw a really angry and petty side of him that he had kept hidden before. We honestly shouldn’t have gotten engaged in the first place, but we’re both in the army. There was this pressure to get married so we could be stationed at the same place.
I tried to ignore our incompatibility issues for much longer than I should have. I would justify stuff he did by saying, “Well, this isn’t too bad” or “All relationships have these bumps.” But as we got closer to the wedding, I felt physically sick over it. I couldn’t imagine a future with him, and I comforted myself by saying, “We could always get divorced.” That’s not the mindset you should have going into a marriage. I feel embarrassed sometimes because he didn’t treat me poorly. We didn’t break up because he was cheating on me or because he was abusive. I just wasn’t happy, and that’s enough of a reason.
Jessica, 36, engaged for 10 months
I ended it because something was not right. Anytime I questioned something [he did], he would either get sheepish or start shouting that I didn’t trust him. I started feeling like I was dumb. Then an issue came up after my family’s accounts were audited, and I realized that he had “borrowed” money he had no way of paying back. He was always in need of money urgently, and I [later] found out from his mother that he lied about the money he had received from my family. I plan to never speak with him again.
Nicole, 27, engaged for 7 months
It was by far the scariest decision I’ve ever had to make. I felt comfortable with [my fiancé], we were building a life together, but something didn’t click like it used to. My venue, photographer, and DJ were booked, the save the dates were sent out, I even bought the perfect dress…but something didn’t feel right. I realized that I had fallen out of love with the guy I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
I read horror stories online of girls going through with their weddings, crying on the actual day, and I knew I couldn’t be one of them. There was just something so wrong about forcing yourself to love the person you were going to spend forever with. So I broke up with him. People were shocked, but I had enough people on my side to be OK. My ex and I still talk to this day, and we both came to the conclusion that romantically it was just never going to work for us. I’m happy I had the courage to end something that could have been so permanent. I’m confident I’ll still get my happy ending someday.
Once we had broken up, I felt such relief. I obviously felt heartbroken and guilty, but the relief overpowered everything else.
Monica, 42, engaged for 7 months
I got engaged because it was what [I thought] I was supposed to do to make my parents happy. Several months in, I realized I didn’t really love him; I loved someone else. [My ex-fiancé] was also emotionally and sometimes physically abusive. I was worried my parents would be disappointed in me and not understand my choice. I ended it because I wanted more in my life than to be treated poorly. We haven’t spoken since a few months after the breakup; he tried to contact me for a few years, but I completely cut him out. It was the best decision of my life.
Crystal, 26, engaged for 2 years
I had been having doubts for a few months, and then one day I woke up and knew in my soul that I had to break it off. Nothing was necessarily wrong, which is the crazy part. Our relationship was mediocre; we had our ups and downs, but he just didn’t make me feel over-the-moon happy anymore. Because of that, little problems turned into big problems, like his family, lack of effort, lack of communication.
I didn’t feel like I had my fairytale, which I wanted to hold out for. It sounds ridiculous, but I knew in my heart that if I wanted to be truly happy, I had to do it. I wanted to choose happiness. I tried to tell myself that we could work it out, that all relationships have small issues, that I would learn how to be happy again, that we could go to therapy. But at the end of the day, no matter how many times I told myself all of that, it wasn’t enough. Once we had broken up, I felt such relief. I obviously felt heartbroken and guilty, but the relief overpowered everything else.
Holly, 22, engaged for 9 months
I ended the engagement for various reasons. I got into a relationship with him knowing he was an alcoholic and drug addict; he had been clean for about a year when we met. He was very controlling and made me unfollow every male on my social media. I dropped out of college because he was too jealous that I would have classes with men, and he’d be pissed if I wore any makeup because [to him] that meant I was trying to “impress a man.”
The last time I saw him, he accused me of cheating on him because I didn’t want to have sex when he came home at midnight because I had work the next morning. I locked myself in the house while he cursed at me and called me names; he eventually got in his car and drove away. I didn’t contact authorities, and I wish I did, but I did contact his mother. She acted as if it was normal for him to be that way. That was when I realized this wasn’t what I wanted my life to be like. I rationalized in my brain that somehow I deserved this kind of treatment. Once I pulled my head out of the sand, I realized how amazing my life was without him in it, despite the good times we had together. The good doesn’t always outweigh the bad.
Some participants requested their names be changed. These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.