We can pinpoint some of the surprises, preplanning stresses, and engagement fall-outs that wreak havoc on love. Those to watch out for are sticky prenuptial agreements, reality’s magnifying glass, and villainous turncoats.

Prenup Disasters

Prenuptial agreements are hardly a new concept. The ketuba, a Hebrew wedding agreement that stated terms of marital responsibility in the event of a death or divorce, dates back to the first century. Instead of spelling out protective provisions for the bride, the complicated prenup in vogue these days has the potential to create doubt, disillusionment, disappointment, and disruption in wedding plans.

Until recently, prenup contracts were primarily an instrument used by older couples or those entering into a second marriage. Younger brides and grooms had usually not acquired enough wealth to make a formal agreement worthwhile. However, where family fortunes and businesses are involved, age does not seem to be a factor.

Prenups appear to cause disaster when:

They are unexpectedly sprung on a partner.

They try to control a partner through legal arrangements.

They are lop-sided in favor of either the bride or groom.

They are long, complicated, and cold-hearted.

They destroy trust and the integrity of the union.

wedding flowers

I interviewed a couple in their early 30s and witnessed first-hand the mutual excitement over their upcoming marriage. A new house was in the works, loving words were exchanged, and elaborate wedding plans were in place. The scene was idyllic until Fred handed Karen a stack of papers.

Karen was expecting the prenup and said she had no problem signing one because of Fred’s interest in the lucrative family business. But what Fred handed over to her was more than she bargained for. After reading the contract that stipulated she could not make any claim on the family business, would have to move out of her home, and relinquish residential custody of any children in the event of a divorce, she was anything like Fred but a lot like his family and their legal counsel.

Fred said he would have another draft drawn up. The second version was hardly an improvement. Karen realized Fred’s family, not Fred, was calling the shots. She issued an ultimatum: If he couldn’t stand up for her and treat her with the respect and consideration she deserved, even if that meant giving up the family fortune, the wedding was off.

Mom and Pop’s money proved too much of a temptation. Fred and Karen never made the walk down the aisle. She hasn’t spoken to him since.

Engagement Blues

The period of engagement can serve a worthwhile purpose, although its importance may be usurped by those couples who have been living together. Engagements allow for time to plan the wedding, save to pay for it, develop a marital mindset, and to make adjustments to each other’s family. Lengthy engagements may also forestall the wedding date indefinitely. Nonetheless, the average duration of engagements has lengthened since 1990 from 11 months to 13 months.

During those 13 months, premarital bliss may fizzle because of:

Issues that were previously swept under the rug that must now be addressed.

Discrepancies in the desire for children.

Differences in religion that come to the forefront because of the wedding ceremony or the discussion of childrearing.

A problematic division of financial and household responsibilities.

Impasses with the in-laws.

Problems with previous spouses and children.

If any of these premarital blues cause the bliss to fizzle, take time out to settle each and every one of these problems that could cause critical problems within the marriage relationship later. And if any of these critical problems seems irreconcilable, now is the time to make a preemptive strike. Break up and call it quits! Just because you are engaged doesn’t mean you have to take that final walk down the aisle. You can turn back anytime and feel confident you are making the right decisionas long as you have used all of the forethought due a serious relationship.

Take a look at Tina and Todd:

Todd and Tina were mature adults with very different backgrounds and outlooks who, nonetheless, fell in love. Tina was sociable; Todd was a loner. Tina was serious but fun-loving; Todd was somber. Tina practiced Judaism; Todd was antiorganized religion. Nonetheless, the five years they had spent together as serious and committed partners were satisfying. Neither had any compunction against maintaining independent social lives and lifestyles. When they decided to wed, began combining resources, making future plans, and trying to act like a Mr. and Mrs., inevitable disagreements erupted. The final gauntlet was thrown over pork tenderlointo be or not to be served at the wedding dinner. Todd and Tina stopped short of the aisle when neither would compromise their position.

married couple

Tina made the right decision. She knew the distance between she and Todd was too great to provide everlasting happiness and love. Her positive mindset and enthusiasm for life directed her right into the path of Timothy, who she married a few months later after a brief dating relationship. This time Tina could walk down the aisle without any reservations.

Villains in Princely Fashion

In our highly mobile society, we don’t always fall in love with someone we grew up with and whose family has known our family for generations. Anyone who falls blindly in love these days is subject to a very unfairy-tale-like ending.

You may not know anyone who got engaged to a villain or villainess camouflaged in fancy clothing, but it happens all the time. The plots thicken although the details vary. Fortuitous men and women break off the engagement before they incur too much damage. The less fortunate may be on their way to the cleaners.

That’s why hiring a private eye or running a police check isn’t all that bad of an idea. It’s done repeatedly in business and employment circles. And you aren’t only sitting across the desk from the gal or guy you meet, fall in love with, and propose to marry.

You may already be sharing the same bed and bath before you have any inkling that he/she is hiding out from an ex-spouse, avoiding child support payments, has a pattern of loving and leaving, is adept at conning you out of your savings, has wives in three other states, or falls back on abusive habits.

A situation that could make anyone’s hair curl was reported in the press. A 59-year-old woman became engaged to a wealthy, well educated, three-time divorced man who needed a kidney transplant within months. The kidney was provided by her brother, no less. Before he had a chance to recuperate outside the hospital, he postponed the wedding and soon thereafter broke it off altogether to marry someone younger.

It wouldn’t have taken an experienced private eye to tell this gal that his string of wives ought to tell her something about his character.

The Critical Temperature of Cold Feet.

A more practical exercise is to determine what naturally constitutes cold feet and is of little consequence as opposed to what establishes unnatural causes and indicates a wise, preemptive breakup.

why marriages fail

Natural causes of cold feet:

Concerns about assuming the role of a couple.

Trepidation over loss of freedom and independence.

Flashes of doubt about marital readiness.

Worry over financial responsibilities.

Fear of marking an entry into adulthood with the promise of a spouse and the potential burdens of mortgage and kids.

Unnatural causes of cold feet:

A doubt of feelings of love for one’s prospective mate

A loss of trust

Thoughts about the cost of an eventual divorce

Fear over spending a lifetime with this person

Suspicion of deceit

Excessive family control

Unexpected, last-minute, and troubling revelations about one’s past life, love, or debts A loss.

The Graceful Way Out

It is never too late to call off an engagement. One woman remembers with regret her father saying that up to the last minute she could and should cancel the wedding. What seemed like an insurmountable, awkward task at the time resulted in several unhappy years that cost her more in time, money, and pain later.

Two reports, one about a mother of the bride and another about the bride herself, demonstrate how graceful a way out can be. A quick thinking and very understanding mom took what could have been a financial and family fiasco and turned it around. There was no way to retrieve costly deposits on the caterer, band, or florist, so she sent out a note to her guests that the wedding was canceled but the party was still on.

The publicity surrounding a young woman left waiting at the altar while her groom went flying back home could have been full of pity. Instead it focused on the bride’s incredible show of fortitude. In typical show-biz fashion the reception went on, and this gal danced and partied at what was to be her posh wedding celebration.

Maintain an Enviable Decorum

Avoid public displays of self-pity, and don’t give your audience more negative fodder for later gossip. Disappointment alongside a show of courage and grace is equivalent to a royal’s behavior.

A trick to appear poised, charmed, and enviably in control is to concentrate on your groomsmen, bridesmaids, and anyone else who has been inconvenienced or incurred costs because of your change of plans. This exercise will momentarily take your mind off of your broken heart and help to maintain your composure until you are able to escape into the private corners of your home to grieve.

Wedding Breakup Planner

To help you undo all of the detailed plans you so carefully and meticulously made, follow this wedding breakup planner.

Wedding Breakup Planner Task

1. Notify bridesmaids; offer to pay for dresses.

2. Notify groomsmen; offer to pay deposit on tux.

3. Cancel clergy; write thank-you note for holding the date.

4. Cancel florist; negotiate cancellation policy; try to get credit for future event.

5. Cancel reception hall.

6. Cancel hotel for out-of-town guests.

7. Cancel all other items ordered.

8. Make ledger for credits due.

9. Notify guests; you do not owe them a full explanation as to why the wedding is off.

10. Return gifts without a personal inscription or monogram; include a thank-you note.

11. Cancel honeymoon plans, unless you want to take a friend.

12. Write thank-you notes for monogrammed or personalized gifts.

13. Return family heirlooms; the ring is not included in this if it was purchased for you. In this case the bride decides what to do  (My suggestion if you keep it is to reset it in a less-sentimental bracelet or necklace.)

save your marriage

Completing the tasks on your wedding breakup planner will keep you busy. Once those chores are checked off, here are a few tips on how to maintain the faith in future romance:

If you can’t return the dress, tuck it away for future use.

Develop a sense of humor.

Remember coupling is natural..

Learn from experience..

Chuck the embarrassment.

Give love another chance.

Now move forward. You have averted a major disaster. Marvel at your own ability to break up and begin the survival process.