Here’s what relationship closure is and why it’s so important, plus tips for healing and moving on after an unexpected breakup.
On one of my articles about breaking up, a reader asked about letting go of an ex when there isn’t relationship closure. Here, I describe what relationship closure is and offer suggestions for letting go of an ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, or spouse — and stop obsessing about lost love.
If you feel abandoned (which often happens when relationship closure isn’t part of a breakup), read The Journey From Abandonment to Healing: Turn the End of a Relationship into the Beginning of a New Life by Susan Anderson. Most people lose a piece of their heart when say goodbye to someone they love. But, life after a breakup (even without relationship closure) can still be meaningful, happy, and exciting – and there is love and laughter after breaking up! It just takes time to heal. Susan Anderson’s book will take you through the stages of grieving over a lost relationship, and help you heal without saying good-bye directly to the person you lost.
One of the most important things to remember about closure is that it often involves physical and emotional distance. You can’t heal and move on if you’re still seeing your ex. Or, worse, sleeping with him.
What is Relationship Closure?
Relationship closure is when you – whether you’re a married partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, disgruntled colleague, or unhappy family member – don’t discuss why your love relationship ended. Relationship closure involves honest, healthy, open-minded, nonjudgmental communication.
In my article about letting go of someone you love, a reader said she doesn’t feel she has closure. Her fiancé of nine years wasn’t honest about why their relationship ended.
Closure can teach you why your relationship didn’t work out, which helps with letting go of an ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, or spouse. Closure can help you learn from the mistakes you made. Relationship closure helps you heal by setting your mind at ease about how your love relationship unfolded. Even if you made mistakes and were part of the reason your love relationship failed, closure can make you stronger by preparing you for future love relationships.
Denying an ex closure when you’re breaking up is worse than unhealthy: it’s damaging and destructive. Healing comes faster and easier when you’ve had a chance to say goodbye.
If you have no relationship closure, read What to Do After a Break Up.
Relationship Closure is Difficult Because…
When you’re the one who wants to let go, you may find it easier to avoid talking about it! It’s natural for people to want to avoid pain. Relationship closure is difficult because it’s painful to talk about weaknesses and faults. Closure can involve more pain than just letting someone go without explanation…which is, I think, what my reader’s fiancé was doing when he ended the relationship. He was trying to avoid causing her — and himself — more pain.
It’s unfortunate that we’re not taught how to break up with people we love!
How to Heal Without Relationship Closure
This idea of surviving a break up is more fully developed in Letting Go of Someone You Love. Here are just a few brief suggestions about letting go.
To let go of an ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, or spouse without closure:
- Write a letter to your ex, expressing yourself fully. Don’t send the letter right away (if ever). The letter can be as long as you need; you can add to it for days or weeks.
- Change your environment. If your ex moved out of the house, you might consider finding a new place to live. You might even consider moving to a different state or province.
- Explore a different lifestyle. My reader mentioned that she worked hard on her career; after the breakup, she might carve out more free time to explore her hobbies, travel, or take classes.
- Make new friends. You don’t need to abandon your old friends to find relationship closure. However, you may find it refreshing to build new friendships with people who don’t know you from your relationship days.
- Get counseling. I’m a huge fan of counseling because therapists help you see yourself and your love relationships objectively. A counselor can help you see why you’re having trouble letting go of an ex, and help you learn to find closure on your own. My reader mentioned that she was pregnant but lost the baby; this can seriously complicate the whole process of letting go without relationship closure.
- Recognize that you are responsible for your feelings. Nobody can “make you feel anything.” When you feel any emotion, you can choose whether to let that feeling sweep you away or derail it and put a more positive emotion in place. Those feelings of worthlessness or being unlovable are emotions you have control over – you do not have to feel that way.
One way to heal after a breakup without closure is to focus on the benefits of being single.
Remember that letting go of someone you love isn’t something you do once – and poof! You’re free, healed, and happy! Rather, letting go is a journey peppered with steps forward and steps backward, good days and bad days, peaks and valleys.
If you want your partner back, read Should You Try to Get Your Ex Back? 16 Questions to Ask Yourself.
“It takes a couple seconds to say Hello, but forever to say Goodbye.” ~ Anonymous.
And if you have any thoughts on relationship closure, please comment below. I can’t offer relationship advice or counseling, but I can listen! Expressing your feelings on not having relationship closure might help you heal and move forward.
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.