Sometimes, the Best Closure Involves Leaving the Door Open

Door left open in dark room leads to bright sunlight outsideI recently worked with someone who had his heart crushed by an individual who led him on for months, asked for his help with various tasks, accepted an invitation to go on an official date, and then ultimately, on the “date,” said she doesn’t date.

Knowing the timeline and details, I had been confident this relationship was headed in a positive direction and wound up feeling disappointed at how it had crumbled to pieces, leaving us both stunned and confused. This happened to somebody who has done so much work in terms of gaining self-confidence and developing interpersonal relationship skills. Having an important relationship dissolve in an instant was devastating.

We processed the experience and the many questions that arose in our next session: Where did he go wrong? Why did she agree to the date in the first place? Did she not date in general or did she just not want to date him? Did her rejection not confirm his feelings of unworthiness?

As much as we could speculate, analyze the chain of text messages, and try to make sense of what transpired in the relationship, the frustrating truth was there was no logical justification for what happened or why this person treated him the way she did. At least not one he was ever going to be privy to.

He reached out for some clarification, but her responses were arrogant, passive-aggressive, defensive, and left no explanation for how he could have possibly misread her signals. Further, they changed his view of who she was and left it nearly impossible to continue their friendship. He grieved the loss, missing the person he thought she was.

We spent a good amount of time discussing what he should do next. He wanted answers that made sense, but instead he was being ignored. A part of him wanted to contact her, lashing out with his anger, to let her know exactly what he now thought of her. A part of me wanted to support him in doing that. I was appalled by her callousness. I was angry for him.

He wanted closure. At the same time, we both knew it likely wouldn’t accomplish anything. She wouldn’t change, her responses wouldn’t become any more enlightening or helpful, and there was probably no realistic scenario that would lessen his hurt.

The knowledge you were the better or stronger person, or you were mature enough not to burn a bridge, doesn’t feel like much of a win amid the pain and anger. But resisting the temptation to lash out or search for answers you may never get forces you to face the pain head-on.

When this kind of thing happens—when a relationship ends in hurt and anger, when we feel like the rug has been pulled out from under us, or when life doesn’t go the way we were hoping—we want an immediate sense of closure or justification. The desire for closure might be the temporary satisfaction of telling off the person who hurt us, gaining an apology, having the person change their mind, or getting some type of definitive ending that seems clean and makes sense to us.

But the reality is these things generally don’t make us feel better in the long run. Typically, they simply never happen. So the search for closure is often futile and results in wasted energy, more frustration, and a delayed ability to begin healing and moving on.

It takes a lot of strength to be the “bigger person,” to walk away with your head held high, and to resist the urge to give someone who has hurt you a piece of your mind.

The knowledge you were the better or stronger person, that you were mature enough not to burn a bridge, doesn’t feel like much of a win amid the pain and anger. But resisting the temptation to lash out or search for answers you may never get forces you to face the pain head-on. While highly uncomfortable, the sooner you acknowledge and accept the disappointment and hurt, the sooner you can begin to move forward. It may involve coming to terms with the fact sometimes things aren’t logical or fair.

Having the strength to walk away from a negative experience with a sense of grace and your dignity intact will likely help you to feel good about yourself in the long run. With time and some distance, you may discover the experience taught you a valuable lesson or helped you grow in a way only the most challenging of experiences could.

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Megan MacCutcheon, LPC, therapist in Vienna, Virginia

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Leighton

    January 25th, 2017 at 7:06 AM

    Some people are so confusing and no matter what you ever do to try to understand them, they can lead you astray in an instant. I feel bad for the person that you worked with because I know tat the actions of that girl were very hurtful to him. I can, however, see something positive when you can come to the understanding that this is not because of something that you do, they are just wired like that, and the best thing to do is leave that person behind. It doesn’t mean that you have to slam that door shut, true, but do it in a way where the invitation is definitely over.

  • meggie

    January 25th, 2017 at 10:22 AM

    Oh heck no when I’m done I am through
    leave no room to wiggle back in

  • Nancy Jo

    January 25th, 2017 at 2:09 PM

    You do have to mindful sometimes not to burn bridges because you never know when you might need something from someone in the future. It is best when possible to leave as much of the relationship intact as you can.
    That doesn’t mean that you have to continue to talk to this person all the time or even be super friendly. But they will remember how you handled a difficult situation and believe me, they will use that information in the future either to your benefit or your detriment.
    I would much rather it be for my benefit.

  • Jerry

    January 26th, 2017 at 6:32 AM

    We have all at one time or another been in that position where we felt like we needed some closure but there is nothing like just being able to say that you don’t give a rip about something anymore that will bring you the best closure in the world.

  • agnes

    January 26th, 2017 at 1:44 PM

    I don’t believe in revenge or burning bridges all the time, there are definitely times when you have to leave a door open for reconciliation. But you don’t have to be foolish about it.
    Number one you to have to remain a priority to yourself, because if you aren’t then someone is always going to step right in and take all of the energy right out of you. There are some things and some people that it is for the best to leave in the past and be finished with them.

  • Ryann

    January 27th, 2017 at 7:54 AM

    We miss who we think that this person is, not who they actually are. Because if we focused on the true self of that person we would likely be pretty grateful that they were no longer in our lives.

  • cameron

    January 28th, 2017 at 7:26 AM

    Having once lost every ounce of self esteem that I possessed by begging a man to take me back who really never deserved me in the first place
    Having climbed my way back up from the very depths of misery
    I will never allow anyone to take advantage of me and make me feel so hopeless as he did again
    I have learned, I have grown, I have matured, and I am better than that now.

  • Terrell

    January 29th, 2017 at 9:46 AM

    It can be a tough step to be the bigger person, but it is always the best choice to make.

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