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This Is Me: A Musician Who Called Off Her Engagement

"Do we give the gifts back? Do I call every single person and tell them this story? I mean, it was disastrous."
Image by Ryan Weisser.

This Is Me is a new column in which we speak to Washingtonians who have a unique story to tell. Did you leave your job on the Hill to become a bartender? Did you manage to buy DC real estate on a $200,000 budget? Do you support yourself as a social influencer? We want to hear all of your stories—no matter what the subject or how kooky they may be. Email Mimi Montgomery at mmontgomery@washingtonian.com.

Name: Melanie Edwards, a musician and singer-songwriter
Age: 39
Lives in: Chinatown

On how they met:

“We were together for five-and-a-half years. We met in the New York City art scene. He was in a relationship at the time, and our connection was very platonic at first. We started keeping in touch, and then I invited him to one of my shows. He came to it and we started developing more of a relationship, and then six months later, it was a full-blown thing. Even though he was [still] in something—that should have been a clue.”

“I was in an easily conned place. I’m much more street smart now. I listened to a lot of things and bought into the sweet talk. I remember saying, ‘Well, I’m not going to pursue this, and you’re going to have to make a decision about whether you’re with her or not.’ And then a few weeks later, he said, ‘I figured it out. It’s completely over. I moved into my own place.’ So that was the very core beginning—the red flags of well, you’re in something and you don’t really have clear boundaries.”

On the proposal:

“We got engaged about four-and-a-half years in. We had talked about it, but it wasn’t a planned thing. There was no ring. He just spontaneously asked me to marry him one morning in Brooklyn, with no ring, nothing. It wasn’t something he had thought anything about or wrote a beautiful poem for or anything like that. Eventually, he really did go through with it and got a ring and we made it a whole thing. But it wasn’t anything big—it felt very out of the blue on that day. I mean, it was his birthday. It was the last thing that I thought was going to happen on his birthday.”

“I was excited and got caught up in the excitement of being like, wow. I’ve never been engaged before. I’ve never been married before. This is going to be awesome. But there was a part of me that was worried it felt impulsive. I didn’t feel like he had put much thought into it. But then again, he’s an artist, as am I, and sometimes artists are impulsive. And it’d already been four-and-a-half years, and I thought, well, this is probably the real thing.”

On the breakup:

“I don’t know how much I want to say because he lives here [in DC] and I want to be careful. There are two different stories, I’m sure, but I will say there were some things that were discovered, and I felt like there was not enough trust built for the long haul. And when I blatantly asked him ‘Well, do you want to continue with this? Do you even love me?,’ he answered, ‘I don’t know. I don’t think so.’ And I was like, well, I’m not marrying that. It was strange—it was like he just kind of dried up and withered away.”

“I felt a lot of pressure [to try to make it work]. There’s a lot of pressure when you go and jump in 100 percent from dating to engaged. We had gone through so many things together—everything was divorced when it was over. Not just the relationship, but our entire catalogue of work and our dreams and our travels and all this stuff. It was like a giant wound in the joining of our families. His family members—there are some of them that I adore. And it’s like, you don’t want to give that up.”

“People from the outside will be like, why are you staying in that? But it’s so hard when you’ve given so much energy and time and commitment to something. You think if you give up, maybe you’re the failure because you’re the one that gave up. You want to make sure you did everything you could to try.”

On canceling the wedding:

“Thank god we hadn’t put any money down yet. We hadn’t booked any venues yet, so I didn’t have to go figure out how to get the deposits back. But we did have three engagement parties, and I was in this weird predicament: Do we give the gifts back? Do I call every single person and tell them this story? I mean, it was disastrous. I didn’t even know how to begin or what the protocol was. I didn’t return any of the gifts—people were really nice about it. They were just so upset for me.”

“The thing is, you don’t have to give the ring back. That’s the rule. But I did because I just didn’t want that energy. I didn’t want to discuss the ring for 12 more years. I was just like, here, take it.”

“I didn’t return the wedding dress, but [after the breakup] I locked myself away for 12 days straight and wrote an entire music record. I wanted the album cover to be the shredding of the wedding dress. So [on the album], I’m standing in a field and my dress is all cut up and I’m throwing roses like, well, that’s done.”

“After we did the cover shoot, I donated the dress to an organization that makes stillborn gowns [for babies to be buried in]. I wanted to keep it forward, like hopefully something in my pain could bring some kind of delicacy or something pretty to a bad moment. It was like a beauty in the pain kind of thing.”

On what happened after:

“I didn’t know anyone. We’d moved our whole lives together here to DC [from New York], so that was a really, really heartbreaking time beyond the demise of our relationship because I didn’t have any networks. There was nobody to talk to. It was just paralyzing. To have somebody say, ‘I don’t think I love you’ after they put a ring on your finger—that’s a very hard thing for your mind to make peace with.”

“My friends and family were great. Every single weekend, someone from New York would come stay with me for the weekend just to make sure I was okay. I’d never realized how supportive and loving they were—people just jumped on a train and quit their whole week to come down.”  

“We had to deal with breaking a car lease. Oh my god, that was a nightmare. We both had to interview people to make sure he liked who was moving in to [our shared apartment] and taking my spot.”

“Now I’m engaged [again]—happily engaged. My current fiance lived in my new apartment, so it was almost like fate. We’ve been together for two years.”

On advice for those thinking about calling off an engagement:

“Have faith in something greater than yourself. Trust that stuff. Get quiet with yourself, meditate, get into a space where you can just listen to that inner voice, because that’s the sauce right there. That’s where you’re going to make the right decision. Society and people and family and friends—everybody’s going to tell you stuff, but you have to believe and listen to that inner voice.”

“If you’re not in something authentic or you feel like it’s not the right thing, it’s a disservice to both of you. They could be finding somebody else, too, and you have to set them free to find your paths.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She previously was the editorial assistant at Walter Magazine in Raleigh, North Carolina, and freelanced for PoPVille and DCist. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Adams Morgan.