Closure After a Breakup

GoodTherapy | Closure After a Breakup Breakups and Closure 

Breakups are hard. It’s rare to come out of a relationship where either party feels great at the time of the breakup, let alone both parties. Even when you are the one doing the breaking up, there are often some difficult feelings involved, such as guilt, ambivalence, fear, sadness, anger, etc. When you are on the receiving end, it’s not uncommon for these feelings to be amplified, especially if you didn’t see the breakup coming. When we are struggling with a breakup, we just want the pain to go away.  We seek answers for what happened. We look for evidence of what went wrong or signs that things will change. We try to push ourselves to move on to the next person. We crave closure! 

What is Closure? 

It can be easy to confuse escaping the pain of a breakup with closure. Closure doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t feel sad or disappointed that the relationship ended. Rather, closure means that we know and accept that the relationship has ended, and we can leave it in the past and move on with our lives.  

The experience of closure may look different from person to person, and, in some ways, it is easier to explain what closure is not, rather than what closure is. Closure means that we are no longer preoccupied with thoughts of the relationship or breakup. We are not rehashing what went wrong, questioning what we could have done or said differently, wondering what the other person is doing, trying to reach out to our exes to get questions answered, etc. The relationship and breakup are not taking up more real estate in our brains than any other past relationship or breakup.   

Closure does not always mean that we are ready to go out and meet someone new. We can have closure and allow ourselves a period to be alone, if we are doing it for ourselves (i.e., without the hope of reconciliation), with the knowledge that we will want to love again and that we can and will find love again.  

Closure frees us from the emotional pain of the relationship, allows us to learn more about what we need in a future relationship, and brings us closer to finding the right person for us.  

Giving Closure When Ending a Relationship 

It is difficult to try to give someone else closure in a breakup because we can’t know how the other person will feel or take the breakup. They may still search for answers, blame you or themselves, or hold out hope. However, it is helpful for everyone to try to give some closure in a breakup, no matter the reason for the breakup. Whether you are conflicted about the relationship ending or can’t get out of the relationship fast enough, closure helps free you from the emotional entanglement of the relationship and ensures that you are both able to move in different directions.   

Ways to help bring someone else closer to closure at the time of the breakup. 

  • Be clear that the relationship is permanently over. Do not try to soften the blow by throwing in temporary time frames that leave the possibility of a future reconciliation.  
  • Provide a reason for the breakup but try to avoid blame in either direction. Blaming a partner leads to them asking questions about themselves and what they could have done differently. Blaming yourself can make it seem as if you or the relationship can be “fixed” leaving hope of a future reconciliation. Instead of blame, be clear that you just aren’t a good fit for one another, and it won’t work out. 
  • Do not ask or offer to remain friends. This isn’t fair to either party, especially if you weren’t friends before the relationship. Should you bump into each other one day down the road and decide to have a friendship, that is one thing, but it is important to sever contact in the immediate wake of a breakup. This includes following on social media.

Getting Closure 

We aren’t always given sufficient closure in relationships and often need to find it for ourselves. To do this, it is important to be clear about what it means. To have closure, we do not have to know, agree with, understand, or accept the reason why the relationship ended, we only must truly know, understand, and accept the fact that the relationship is permanently over and leave it in the past. Leaving the relationship in the past is often the part where we struggle when we are trying to find closure for ourselves. When we get caught up in trying to figure out answers, rehashing details, or believing that we won’t find closure until we feel good about the breakup, we are preventing ourselves from finding closure. These beliefs keep the relationship very active in our minds (instead of in the past) and keep us feeling stuck. 

Strategies for Finding Closure 

  • Cut ties with the ex- Do not remain friends. Do not meet up for any reason. Do not reach out for questions or to get answers. Unfollow on social media. 
  • Fill your time with things you love doing- make plans with friends, take up a new hobby, learn something new, and find some new TV shows to watch.  
  • Allow yourself some time to feel bad- accept that breakups are hard and give yourself the space to feel that rather than fighting it.  
  • Make your home as comfortable as possible- Since you may initially find yourself spending more time at home, treat it like a sanctuary. Get rid of reminders of your ex and bring in small things that make you smile and feel good about yourself. 
  • Get support. Reach out to friends and family when you need to share your feelings. Have them also hold you accountable for any self-sabotaging behaviors that prolong closure (e.g., ruminating, obsessing, seeking answers, initiating contact with your ex, etc.).    
  • Reflect, but don’t obsess. Think about what worked for you in the relationship and what didn’t. Make note of those things for the next relationship. 
  • Remind yourself that, ultimately, the relationship ended because this wasn’t the right person for you. Leaving the relationship allows you the opportunity to find a relationship that better meets your needs.   

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