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Dear Demetria:

I’m knee-deep in it and truly don’t know what to do. I am getting married on Saturday. I have been having my “what if” moments, more than I thought I would. “What if” led me to my ex, the man I initially thought I would be with forever. I told him my thoughts. We talked and ended up making love.

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Now I feel like a mess, like a loser. This is sooo not how I do things. I don’t know if I should call off the wedding or proceed. I don’t know if it is just the norm to feel so confused or what. A month ago I knew I wanted to be married to my fiance. Please help. I can’t even tell my friends this. What do I do? —Anonymous 

Call off the wedding. I know you and your families have spent a ton of money that you can’t get back. There will be loads of questions and lots of disappointment and embarrassment, but it’s better to deal with it now than to sign up for a marriage that your actions say you really don’t want to be in. 

The disappointment and the embarrassment will pass. The money is spent, but it will cost you more money when you’re facing a divorce in a couple of years, and it will cost you emotionally to be married to someone you’re not really sure about being with. Marriage is too serious a commitment to jump into under these precarious circumstances just to hope it works itself out.

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It’s completely normal to wonder “what if?” or to have second thoughts about getting married. I can tell you from reading and answering questions about relationships for nearly a decade that a surprising number of people reach out to their exes shortly before they get married. 

But having sex with the ex? That happens, too, and some people say nothing and go on and get married as if it never happened. That’s a horrible thing to do to yourself and to your partner, and a terrible lie to walk into a marriage with. It’s hard to have a healthy marriage with that level of deceit hanging between a couple. 

Based on your query, I’m going to guess that you moved on to your fiance shortly after you ended it with your ex and didn’t allow yourself time to get over him. Your fiance may have been a rebound that lasted longer than it was supposed to. I arrive at this conclusion because you didn’t “just” show up to see your ex, and you didn’t just have sex because you remember it being physically good. You call what happened “making love,” which means that there were a whole lot of emotions that you have yet to sort out. You don’t get married when you feel this strongly about someone else. 

Call your fiance and tell him that you’re very, very sorry, but you’re not ready to get married. For now, spare him the details of what you’ve done, because you don’t need to double-whammy him with calling off a wedding and telling him you’ve just cheated on him.

You also don’t want him to go blabbing to everyone about what you’ve done. You don’t need the extra embarrassment and judgment on top of what’s going to happen when it’s announced that the wedding is off. He is responsible for telling his parents and his guests that the wedding will not occur. Oh, and offer to give him the ring back. You don’t keep it under these circumstances. 

Then you tell your family. Surely, they will try to talk you back into the marriage, but stand firm without telling them about the ex. Tell them you talked to your fiance and you’ve both agreed that the wedding will not take place. Ask a family member or a close friend to tell the guests you invited that the wedding is off. This is not something you need to do personally. 

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Monday morning, you find a therapist and you spill all of your mess there on the couch, and not with your family and friends. You’ve got a lot of unresolved feelings, and you need to identify whatever’s going on with you that led you to accept another man’s proposal while clearly being in love with someone else, and what led you into your ex’s bed the week of your wedding. You also need help dealing with the shame you’re carrying about having done something that you say is not who you are. Work all that out on the therapist’s couch before you contact your ex again. 

Speaking of the ex: You need to know that just because you “made love” with him, and just because you’re calling off a wedding, does not mean that he wants to be in a relationship. If, in the long run, it works out with him, great. And if it doesn’t? You can find someone else who treats you well and makes you feel the same way he did or even better. You still have options. 

As for your fiance, if, after sufficient therapy, you decide that you want to work things out with him, you have to tell him the truth about what happened between you and your ex. He may not forgive you, but then again, he may. But you have to give him the truth and a choice. That’s an act of love.

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Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at askdemetria@theroot.com.

Previously in Ask Demetria: “Why Do Guys Feel the Need to Send Unsolicited Pictures of Their Junk?