Last year, I broke off an engagement because I would never have been able to pursue my dreams if I married my ex. I work in three very challenging industries (film, theatre and photography) all of which require a lot of strength, determination and support. My partner needs to be behind me one hundred percent, support my dreams and have a desire to grow with me. And most importantly – not manipulate or kill my spirit. I could never have thrived or grown by staying in a relationship that was blocking me from achieving my God-given purpose.
In the early days I was only able to work a few hours a week due to a spinal surgery, and many of the costs of our dates were footed by him. Fast forward to three years later, I had started to build a career in theatre and now owned a photography business which was contributing a significant amount towards our wedding. My ex turned from being supportive to controlling, jealous and emotionally abusive. It was obvious that he did not want an ambitious wife, but rather a housewife, and his way of stopping me from accomplishing my dreams was to try to break me down mentally and stop me from spending time with my family and friends.
I found it easy to break off the engagement because whilst I knew the decision would come with a lot of embarrassment and judgement, the long-term benefit far outweighed the fear. Besides my own personal care, I made a conscious decision from a young age to be mindful of the type of father I would give my children. I do not want them to grow up being fearful, unable to talk freely or to lose confidence because of the words that were spoken to them or their mother.
Being Nigerian added difficulty to the break up. I had experienced a lot of drama from my ex-fiancé’s family during the planning, so to call everything off after so many battles caused some annoyance. My Mum however, has been extremely supportive of my decision and I cannot thank her enough. When I told relatives (in small detail) what had led to the break up, I received amazing encouragement and support from some of my Aunties. One of my Aunties in Nigeria sent me a text saying, ‘well done for doing what this Aunty should have done 30 years ago.’ On the flip side, I have received comments from some family and friends suggesting it was my fault, they have been quick to comment without knowing the full story. Some of the things have been hurtful and I sensed some people were even laughing behind my back. I have taken the experience as an eye opener for the future.
Calling off the marriage felt public because I work in the wedding industry as a photographer. I was anxious of the fact that I would become the talk of the Afro-Caribbean wedding industry and I considered avoiding networking events for a while. However, I knew that the best way to deal with the situation would be to show my face and walk proudly in my decision. The saying ‘you are your own worst enemy’ soon became true and I would attend events with real paranoia, saying phrases like, “you may have heard I broke off my wedding”, only to realise the person never even knew I was getting married in the first place. I had built up a pre-defence mechanism to help myself out of what I thought, would be awkward scenarios. I was not completely wrong as it took six months for the questions about my wedding to stop but I was not the talk of the industry I had feared.
Breaking off my engagement also showed me that I should stop communicating with people who I knew were draining me or did not wish me well, and I am so much happier as a result. Knowing your worth, guarding your heart and protecting your dreams is so important. My decision also empowered others and two friends also came out of relationships that were not good for them, within a month of my breakup. We are only given one lifetime and you do not want to be living in regret in the future. Do not allow pride or fear to stop you from making the best decision for yourself.