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An attention-phobe’s guide to breaking the news of a broken engagement

Carolyn Hax
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Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

Over the past week, I’ve discovered I have a pretty bad problem to have, followed by a very good problem to have. My fiance and partner of seven years told me on Monday that he didn’t think marriage (or me!) was for him, and moved out — two months before our wedding.

My question is: How do I tell my family and friends? The few I’ve told have been suuuper supportive, but I’m embarrassed by this unwanted streak of high drama in my orderly life. I’m already dreading being “oh honey”-ed over while I want to focus on getting catering deposits returned, selling our house, and not deep-diving into self-pity.

I know I’ll need the support (and the Kleenex) when the crisis part of this is over, but for now, I feel like a kid who’s fallen out of a tree: My first instinct is to scream “I’M FINE I’M FINE I’M FINE” because attention paid to the injury will just make it hurt worse.

Is there a script for this?

— I’m Fine; This Is Fine

Well, if experience is any measure of what you can expect, you will radiate a please-don’t-oh-honey-me-ahhhhhhh aura that people with social sensors will be able to read on you pretty quickly. So there’s a chance you won’t be as fussed-over as you fear.

One way to pre-empt some of the unwanted attention by the un-socially-sensored is to deputize the people you’ve already told to spread your news for you. That way you won’t have to process everyone’s initial reaction, a nice thing to cross off your list.

I’m sorry. It does sound like you’re fine you’re fine you’re fine, though, or soon will be, even through the Kleenex phase.

Re: Broken Engagement:

Rather than saying, “I’M FINE,” which people may not believe, why not try, “I’m sad but this will pass,” or even, “I’m not the first person this has happened to; I’ll recover,” which is closer to the truth.

— Anonymous

Dear Carolyn:

There have been many lovely things about being an only child: a close relationship with my parents, opportunities to do many “grown-up” things from a young age and the accompanying maturity, etc.

However, I am single and when my parents age and pass away, there’s only me to handle it all. Only me to care for them and bear the emotional and physical burden of doing so, only me to sort through their things, and most of all: only me to remember how they were as parents. Some people can only have one child (like my parents) or only want one, but if you’re on the fence about it … give your child someone to share his or her burdens with.

— Only

Thank you. Sibs can help you understand your parents, too, not just remember them.

But each advantage can be a potential disadvantage, too: Many people have siblings who just refuse to help with aging parents, for example. So they’re alone in the burden and resentful on top of that.

And, a sibling can be a friend for life and sharer of memories … or a source of torment from your earliest memories to the very end.

It’s a wonder we ever get off fences on anything, ever.

Email Carolyn at [email protected], follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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