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A Lesson in Relationship Closure

The right reasons could make it worth it

03.17.17
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It was summertime and Jonny chose the Manhattan-bound F train as the proper location to tell me that he “wasn’t feeling it anymore.” Our respective plus ones, whom we forced together to create a makeshift double date for a comedy show in Park Slope, sat across from us and politely pretended they found the opposite end of the train fascinating. To say I was thrown for a loop would be an understatement. Just the week before, we sat 25 floors above Madison Square Park, Jonny in his black Lululemon tee and me in my vintage Levi’s shorts, fingers interlaced as we made the mutual decision to give this a shot for real. The commitment floated sweetly in the air between us.

I begged him on the F train to tell me what I had done wrong. And then, in the cab to my StuyTown apartment. All Jonny did was shrug his shoulders and hum to a song playing on Z100. I spent the rest of the evening choking on Cheerios and Lactaid milk as my best friend wiped saltwater from my cheeks.

The first time I opened my laptop in front of Jonny, my background was a stock image of a grapefruit on the edge of an infinity pool. “You should come to my pool this summer,” he said. “I’ll get you as many grapefruits as you want and you can sit outside all afternoon.” I smiled uncomfortably at the way he dangled my very own ideal in front of me.

I didn’t love Jonny, but I thought I might be able to.

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It’s hard not to take being dumped personally. After spending a significant amount of time getting to know someone — holding their hand discreetly in dark cabs, squeezing into frames of inebriated selfies, pillow talking about the horrors of being severely lactose intolerant — your multidimensional relationship is edited down to a simple list of pros and cons. Risk factors, potential growth, cost-benefit, overall net worth of you as a person. You as their person.

I guess my cons outweighed my pros. I just couldn’t figure out the math that got him there.

In the days following the breakup, I remained numb until the moment I crawled into bed, at which point my mind would race. I’d press repeat again and again on random cringe-worthy things he said. A particular one that comes to mind: “I think the pool at my family’s summer home is the largest one in the area.” When I’d catch myself going out of my way to pass 24th and Madison Avenue, I’d press play: “I think the pool at my family’s summer home is the largest one in the area,” and walk the other way.

I eventually reached out to, “clear the air”/“flesh things out”/“get closure”/“see how he was doing.” I forget which exact cliché I walked right into. On the afternoon we planned to meet, I crossed and uncrossed my legs, too nervous to look anywhere but at my Nikes as I waited in the courtyard of his apartment building.

“Whatsup?” Jonny asked. He was walking towards me but was still too far away to hear a response, so I said nothing. He reached the chair next to me and sat down. He had a mustard stain on his shirt and a pimple, shimmering with oil and just beginning to break the surface of skin above his upper lip.

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I asked him point-blank what it was that broke the camel’s back. One day, it had struck me that all the sleepless nights and hopeless wondering didn’t have to be a dead end. Maybe, just maybe, all of it could be avoided by just asking him straight-out. Why?

He told me I was inconsistent. The word stung until I realized we were working with different definitions. He recalled specific occurrences where he felt like he was on an “emotional rollercoaster.” Like when I told him I wasn’t a smoker and then took a drag of a friend’s cigarette at a concert. When I broke up with him months before and then told him I wanted to try again. When I told him it was “that time of the month” but really only wanted to take things slower.

I smirked. Jonny’s forehead was greasy with sweat. “I feel like you’re always in the driver’s seat and I don’t like it,” he confessed. By revealing what was “wrong and un-date-able” about me, he revealed much more about his own character than mine. I laughed and reminded him that I didn’t even have a driver’s license. He looked at me, perplexed. A reaction I was used to as my sarcasm almost always breezed above his dark head of hair.

I’ll never not ask again.

Illustrations by Maria Jia Ling Pitt. 

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  • tequilamockingbird

    this is the most contemptuous thing i have ever read on this site in several years of lurking. :[

    • am4

      Yeah I feel like the message was slightly undermined by how supercilious the last paragraph was…

      • nicolacash

        Depends how you look at it. In the last paragraph I envisioned the author smirking as she realized the “strong women scare weak men” cliche was true in her situation.

    • BarbieBush

      Agree. This is such a weird piece..and not really optimistic..

      Talking shit on someone’s greasy hair and pimple? That seems like the literal opposite of closure. I am honestly surprised this would get published here..seems against MR ethos

      • tequilamockingbird

        yeah, i’m really curious why they decided to publish this. the junior high cattiness about the guy’s skin was really off-putting & seemed contrary to everything i love about mr. & the condescension about his intellect wasn’t a good look either. i’d be puzzled too if an ex harangued me about why i’d ended things & then, after i’d given them a direct & relatively kind answer–which no one in that scenario is obligated to do, you do not have to defend “no”–they’d responded w/ a not particularly clever sarcastic remark.

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  • Tasmia

    really relate to this article.

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  • Nat Ch

    I really liked the message and the narrative of this piece.

    I actually came to read it after a few times of seing the title while I scrolled MR but I thought I didn’t need the information. A friend of mine just asked me for advice about “closure”, I remembered this title and came looking for it. Thanks!

  • I don’t know if it’s always worth it to have that ‘closure’ talk… Sure, in this case it worked out great, but unless you’ve been with someone who you were truly intimate with, who was a real partner and not just a summer fling or a strong flame that died out after a couple of weeks, it might be in your best interest to close it for yourself. Whatever they may give as a reason might be a selfish reason, an easy way out and not even the full truth. You might end up obsessing over it more than if you had just walked away. (Here’s me hoping, having let someone go who chose not to be with me)

    • tmm16

      I agree and disagree. From one of my experiences, I closed it off for myself with a strong summer fling (and now friend of mine, friend in a lose term), and even though I tried to “close it off,” I still feel like I need closure. It’s too late now though because it’s been over a year and I don’t think I can ask him, “So… why didn’t you want to date me?” The chapter is closed, but lingering feelings are still here 🙁

      But in other circumstances I’ve had, I was able to take the sting, cut the ties, and be just fine, and close it for myself. I think it’s circumstantial and also you can be very intimate with someone even if they are just a strong fling! That’s actually what sucked me in.

  • Maybe some of what was intended here went over my ‘head of hair’ too, but it sounds like he broke up with the author for reasons that were legitimate and meaningful to him, and then was mature enough to explain those reasons in an un-confrontational way when requested? I think that says something (good) about his character, despite the author implying he was in some way lacking in that department. Idk, it sucks to be dumped but it sounds like this guy just wasn’t into it. It’s quite a ‘nice guys of OKCupid’ approach to see his reasons for dumping you as a reflection of a character flaw in him and nothing else. Maybe it’s not ‘much more about his character’ than the author’s, greasy forehead or not. Not that you should go and change anything as a result of what he said. This just comes over very biased.
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  • Devon Alexandra

    The closure talk doesn’t always leave you with closure. Resulting in more questions than answers. It’s easy when the closure talk leaves you hating the other person and you can walk away thinking, “eff, yeah, better off without them.” But sometimes, it just doesn’t.

  • tj

    I’m glad the author was able to turn that interaction into a nice little package of closure, but I feel the concept of ‘getting closure’ has become way too pervasive… especially if you are pursuing it in hopes your ex-significant other can and will provide you that clarity.

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