Is Closure Really a Thing?

Learn whether being in the pursuit of closure for past relationships is truly fulfilling your needs.
Melancholy girl struggles with long distance relationship

Is seeking closure worth the trouble? Really. I’m asking.

My whole life, I’ve been on this legendary quest for closure for my former romantic relationships, friendships, and even professional relationships. And I can honestly count on a few fingers how many times I’ve actually gotten it.

I’m not even sure what my expectations of what closure would bring to my life and my sense of wellbeing were. 

There are very few things that can rock your world like a bad breakup. The emptiness that comes along with an abrupt change in your relationship status without warning can be devastating and hurt you to the core. In times of uncertainty and loss, it’s common to desire closure. When the bottom falls out and you’re left navigating your grieving process alone, it’s typical to want to make sense of your new reality and regain a sense of control over your circumstances. But it’s important to understand that some things just don’t fit into a neat little box, no matter how hard you try to cram them in there. 

One of the best gifts you can ever give yourself while seeking closure is this: 

Stop. Having. Expectations.

As much as we like to think so, our ex doesn’t owe us a damn thing. So please don’t expect any type of explanation from them other than what they’re giving you. And for the love of all things holy, Sis, please don’t demand it. 

How I learned this lesson for myself.

CLOSURE FAIL EXHIBIT A

When I say karma is a low-down dirty bitch, I mean it. I’ve previously mentioned that I’ve had my share of unsatisfying relationships. In fact, I was in a toxic relationship for over seven years. What I didn’t mention was that I waltzed out of said relationship like I was leaving for a Sunday morning stroll. I simply told homeboy it was over and dipped. I gave him no warning, we had no discussion about it, and I avoided having any further contact with him by jumping into a rebound relationship shortly afterward. 

CLOSURE FAIL EXHIBIT B

For a few months, things were going as well as anyone can expect a rebound relationship to go… until he cheated on me a few months in. Well, if I’m being honest, he didn’t cheat because we were “taking a break.” He just moved on a hell of a lot quicker than I thought he would – meaning the very next night.

Of course, I had the nerve to be mad about it, standing outside of rebound dude’s house, yelling up at the window while he entertained his next conquest.

Admittedly, it wasn’t one of my finer moments. 

Fully immersed in my feelings, I demanded that he come outside and face me. I demanded an explanation. I demanded to be heard, seen, and acknowledged. I was demanding closure from rebound guy when I didn’t have the decency to give it to my long-term partner. 

I realized at that moment that even though my ex hadn’t been a model boyfriend, he at least deserved my respect and a proper explanation for why I was ending our relationship.

CLOSURE FAIL EXHIBIT C

I decided to meet up with a former best friend who’d dumped me not once, but twice over what I considered petty disagreements over the course of a nearly 20-year friendship. I had strong suspicions (and proof) that someone who was jealous of our sistership was constantly in her ear, saying negative things about me. But what I really wanted was to hear her take accountability for letting that person come between us.

So, after nearly two years of not speaking, I invited her out for drinks. She showed up, smiling and kiki-ing like nothing had ever happened. In fact, she began to catch me up on who else she’d fallen out with since we’d stopped speaking. When the time came for me to ask her why she’d chosen to cut me off so abruptly, she shrugged and said, “Girl, I don’t really know why.”

Sis, hurt wasn’t even the word. I was crushed. She didn’t even have the respect to tell me why she’d turned her back on our relationship or what I’d done that was so terrible (forgetting about our plans to link up for drinks and still being able to make it, but just an hour later) that she’d chosen to end it all. I guess I just wasn’t worth the effort of extending the grace she would have given a total stranger.

Closure definitely wasn’t received from her that night. In fact, I only ended up even more hurt than I was before walking into that meeting because I had…you guessed it!

Expectations.

I expected this grandiose earth-moving explanation, and she just didn’t deliver. So, not only was I no better than when I started, but I was even worse off. For a minute.

Then I let that BS roll off my back like lukewarm water and promptly moved on.

On to you, Sis. If you absolutely feel the need to gain a sense of closure for a relationship that’s ended on undesirable terms, here’s my advice to you:

BEFORE THE ENCOUNTER

  • Question your true motive for wanting closure. Get clear on what you’re looking for and why it’s important to you at this point in time. If your motivation is anything other than to gain proper perspective for your overall healing and ability to move on from the situation, I recommend that you reconsider reaching out to them.
  • Go into the encounter with few to no expectations. This means, do this only for you. Do not believe that you’re owed anything from that person. Also, don’t expect satisfaction in any form from the explanation offered.



DURING THE ENCOUNTER

  • Carefully read into their actions. Watch them closely to see if their demeanor or attitude have changed at all since the relationship ended. Does the energy between the two of you feel any different? How does seeing them make you feel? Do you detect any growth or genuine remorse on their part?
  • Know that forgiveness on your end is not an open door for continuing a relationship. Choosing not to provide them with access to your life does not mean you haven’t forgiven them. Forgiveness is for your own peace of mind, so you shouldn’t feel the need to prove it to them in any way.
  • Don’t build a dependence on their words or promises. Words require no effort to speak. Realize that they may not be able to put a satisfying response into words when you question them about their choices and feelings. It may be because they haven’t thought about it or they’re still figuring out how they feel about what transpired between the two of you.
  • Remember that you’re not there to impress them or prove anything to them. Please don’t feel the need to front like you’re doing much better now that they’re no longer in your life. Even if you are, the proof is in the pudding. They’ll be able to see that glow and know it has nothing to do with them. If you start bragging, they’ll feel like you’re trying too hard to prove it, and it will seem like they matter much more to you than they actually do. Not a good look.

So, there it is, Sis. Over the course of my adult life, I’ve learned all too well what it feels like to seek out closure in past failed relationships. Sometimes I’ve received closure, and sometimes I haven’t. But each time, I’ve gotten it from myself. I’ve committed to doing the work necessary to become confident in knowing that I’m whole and part of an entire movement. Anyone else’s involvement in my life is an added bonus.

And that knowledge is more powerful than anything anyone else can ever give you.

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