Rory McIlroy may have taken the bravest way out
Breaking an engagement is hard, but if you have to question your reasons for getting married, then this may be the right time to walk away.
The wedding invitations had just gone out, as we have heard repeatedly since the shock announcement of the ending of Rory McIlroy's engagement to Caroline Wozniacki. Athough Rory made a strong statement of responsibility, saying "the problem is mine", the perception of Caroline as a bride left close to (if not actually at) the altar must add another layer of pain onto what is an already traumatic experience.
But instead of painting the 25-year-old pro golfer as heartless or cruel, and pitying the poor jilted bride, should we instead be recognising McIlroy's honesty and courage in making an incredibly difficult decision, one that might save both himself and Ms Wozniacki greater pain in the years to come?
One relationship counsellor, who has worked with couples for over 20 years, believes that McIlroy should be given credit for showing "great courage and maturity".
"It is an incredibly hard decision to make, given the expectations of friends and family, the pressure to be the happy couple and to have that perfect day," says Tony Moore of Dublin-based counselling group Relationships Ireland.
"And when you consider, and add to that, how much Rory and Caroline are in the public eye, I would say it is a brave and courageous thing to do.
"It takes a lot, to honestly face up to your doubts and fears, and to ask yourself if this is really the right thing to do for yourself and the other person.
"It's a very difficult process, and you need to show courage and honesty."
Tony Moore believes that in lots of cases, it would be easier for people who find themselves with grave, pre-wedding doubts to just let themselves be carried along with the momentum of events and hope everything works out.
The relationship counsellor says that going ahead with a wedding, despite having fundamental doubts, can be a disastrous and, in some ways, dishonest and selfish course to follow.
"It is not just the person who has the doubts, it's not just their life. Or in this case Rory's life. It is also the other person's life which will be greatly affected if you do go ahead, despite knowing that it is not the right thing to do. It is disingenuous at the very least, you are effectively lying to the other person."
Moore believes that if a marriage starts on the basis of a kind of deception, with one person unable to be honest, to themselves or their partner, it may be a recipe for worse heartbreak to come.
"Neither person can really hope to be happy in a marriage where one individual knows that they have done the wrong thing, that they have simply gone ahead because they do not want to let people down, or they cannot find the courage to stop it."
He regards it as similar, in some ways, to couples who decide to have a child, where one or both of them are hoping that this will somehow bring them happiness.
Moore says it is not unusual for people to have doubts. When the marriage is suddenly imminent – or the notion of it becomes real, as when the invitations are sent out – it is not uncommon for a "sort of panic" to set in.
"It's important to ask why somebody is actually getting married. Most people do not get married just because they are in love, they do it for lots of reasons.
"When the time is close, a lot of people will ask themselves, often seriously and for the first time: 'Am I getting married for the right reasons?'
"They will try and convince themselves that they are, but, in some cases, they will know in their heart of hearts that they are not. The weeks or days before a marriage are when these issues are often thrown into very sharp focus.
"There can be a sort of panic and that is when you have the crisis moment. It's already a very turbulent and stressful time, in some cases it's the moment when people decide they cannot do it."
One of the major reasons why some people refuse to honestly talk about their fears is the pressure from family and friends, who are often themselves unable to deal with the real concerns of those about to tie the knot.
"They will hear that they shouldn't worry, this is going to be great, it's going to be perfect, when even those people, if they are married or have been married themselves, know that that is not necessarily the case," says Moore.
"It is so hard for people to get an objective, neutral hearing of their doubts. It is very hard to go against the tide of opinion. And many people I have seen over the years would be in a terrible state. And that is when counselling can become so valuable.
"It can provide that neutral voice, somebody who will listen to those concerns, talk them through without having an agenda or a view on what should happen."
Apart from pressure from family and friends, with the average Irish wedding now costing in the range of €23,000, financial pressures also come into play (although possibly not for Rory and Caroline, who are worth millions of euro).
"It is a very confusing, stressful and conflicted time," he says.
"Irish weddings in particular are very expensive, people worry that if they cancel, they will take a very big hit and some of their guests, including those flying in from all over the world, will be out for thousands of euro. And that is a big pressure factor, you know you could be making a lot of people angry, disappointed and out of pocket."
As well as causing sleepless nights before the wedding, pre-wedding jitters may also be a significant factor in whether marriages survive and thrive.
A recent study carried out by the University of California looked at whether doubts about getting married had a correlation in divorce statistics.
The study looked at 232 newlywed couples in Los Angeles. They were initially questioned just after their wedding and then every six months for the next four years.
Among the women who had expressed doubts about getting married, 19 per cent underwent divorce within four years of marriage, while of the women who did not express doubts or hesitancy, only eight per cent went on to be divorced after four years.
In the male respondents, 14 per cent of pre-wedding doubters were divorced four years later, compared with nine per cent of the husbands who said they did not have doubts.
Women who have doubts about their impending marriage are two-and-a-half times more likely to be divorced within four years than those women who do not suffer from the same pre-wedding jitters.
The study concluded that most people, even if they are dealing with major doubts, will still go ahead with the wedding.
It is only two, three or four years later that they may have to finally face up to the problems that were there all along.