Once upon a time, the perfect man proposed to me with the perfect engagement ring and I planned the perfect wedding.
I met him in CEGEP when I was 19, and we got to know each other as friends. When we outgrew our respective long-term relationships, we went for our long-awaited first date. We hit it off.
We went to university, graduated and landed full-time jobs in our fields of study. We saved our money, started investing in RRSPs, furthered our education, vacationed together and spent lots of time with each other's family, friends and neighbours. We were the couple to beat. Our parents were proud of our achievements and our friends admired our commitment.
Four years into our relationship, I teased him about how long it had been since he had last wined and dined me. He decided to take me out to a five-star restaurant where we happily indulged ourselves in a four-course meal and many cocktails.
He "spontaneously" decided we should rent a nice hotel room for the night, as we were still living at our parents' homes to save money. To my surprise, he had been there earlier to light dozens of candles and spread rose petals on the floor. Balloons hung from a chair, a bouquet of flowers and Champagne waited on the table and he had baked a raspberry pie dessert, my favourite. We had been so caught up with work, school, sports, friends and family that a romantic night was long overdue.
He read a card he had written for me, telling me how much I meant to him. Thinking that I had the most thoughtful and romantic boyfriend in the world, and unaware that he had had this planned for the past month, I watched him bend down on one knee and open a small, velvet, black box. My lifelong dream came true and I said yes to his proposal through tears of joy.
Over the next two years, we announced our engagement to friends and relatives at a barbecue, threw an engagement party, bought a four-bedroom house in the suburbs that we would move into once married and planned a wedding for 150 guests. In those two years, he decided to take a three-year, full-time CFA and MBA program without giving up his full-time job. If all went as planned, his designations would undoubtedly set us up for financial stability.
No matter that I rarely saw him. I had a 1.13-carat diamond set in platinum on my 24-year-old hand, a house to renovate and a wedding to plan. My daily to-do lists were packed with reception hall arrangements and paint selections.
But in the last year of our relationship, something changed. The rare times we were together, we were no longer the perfect, happy couple. We weren't as affectionate as we once were and we didn't joke around or finish each other's sentences. We each felt resentment toward the other, and secretly packed away unhappy, angry feelings of isolation, abandonment and despair. Instead of addressing our issues, we put all our attention into our respective projects: school for him and our wedding and home for me.
Our relationship became plastic. A cheap imitation of how we used to be. Our friends noticed it, my family ignored it and his parents became concerned.
And so came the Intervention. Ten days before the wedding, my best friend and his mother sat us down to start an overdue conversation about our imminent marriage. This sparked a talk between the two of us that would forever change my life.
At first we were in denial - it's cold feet, we've just been busy, things will go back to the way they used to be. Then anger - why wasn't he home more to be with me and help me plan our wedding and future together? Why couldn't I understand that school trumps house and wedding? Some bargaining - maybe if we can just get through this rough patch, we can work on our relationship after the wedding. A lot of depression - how did we get here when everything was going so well, and where do we go from here? Then, finally, our joint acceptance - I'll tell my side of the family, you tell yours and we'll call the vendors together.
All the planning we had done over the past two years of our six-year relationship unravelled in a matter of weeks. I handed him back my engagement ring, moved my stuff out of our home and found an apartment downtown. I immersed myself in activities, made new friends and drank often.
Three years later, I still haven't seen him or spoken to him since we parted ways. I wonder all the time what he is thinking and doing and how he moved on. I still wonder what my life would have been like had we not had the Intervention. Would we have found the strength and courage to leave on our own? Would we have gotten over our rough patch and lived happily together? Could I have done more? Could I have been better? Whose fault was it?
But I will never have those answers and I have no regrets about our decision. I miss my best friend and I continue to mourn our relationship, but life goes on. The only thing I can do is look back with melancholy at all the happy times we shared that I will forever hold dear to my heart. And hope. I hope that one day, we will each have our happily ever after.
Melanie Reyes lives in Montreal.