Thank You, Next: Why People Break Marriage Engagements and the Helpful, Unhelpful, and Mixed Social Support They Receive Afterward



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Each year more than an estimated 250,000 couples end their marriage engagement. This may result in lost productivity at work, mental health challenges, and widespread emotions. Furthermore, a person receiving unhelpful social support after relationship dissolution can result in additional stress and delayed healing. This study’s objective was to learn more about the lived experiences of people with a broken marriage engagement. Specifically, this study examined the reasons marriage engagements end and what types of helpful and unhelpful social support people received after their engagement ended. This was a qualitative, exploratory study that used a demographics survey and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 43 individuals who experienced a total of 47 broken engagements. Each interview lasted an average of 66 minutes. Open and axial coding were used for a thematic analysis. Nine primary reasons were found for breaking an engagement including: personal identity, getting engaged for the wrong reasons, a change of heart, cheating, mental health challenges, divergent values, an insurmountable occurrence, abuse/addiction, and the future mother-in-law/family. Six secondary reasons were also found including: lacking a healthy marriage example/relationship education, poor communication, sexual issues, fighting, distance, and not planning the wedding. Additionally, in examining support received after the broken engagement, this study found six types of helpful support messengers, including: the listener, sage, friend on standby, doer, stalwart friend, and battle-scarred. Six types of unhelpful support messengers were found, including: the pusher, pity partier, judger, bungler, and Pollyanna. Finally, four messenger types of mixed support were found, including: the jokester, Monday morning quarterback, apologizer, and prayer. This study details the distinctive characteristics of why engagements break compared to dating breakups and divorce, as well as specific types of messages that offer helpful support to these individuals.



Breakup reasons, Broken engagement, Communication, In-depth interviews, Relationship dissolution, Social support