Ask Isaac: He Won’t Give Me the Closure I Need

Isaac Hindin-Miller | October 28, 2015

Hi. I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through a rough time, and that you’re finding it difficult to get over your ex.

However: After you’ve broken up with somebody, it’s not their obligation to give you closure or to help make you feel better about the breakup; that’s all you, my friend.

Let’s say he agreed to meet up with you, or called you back every time you contacted him. What could he possibly say to make you feel better about the fact that the two of you are no longer an entity?

At the end of the phone call, you’re still broken up. When you’re paying the bill after coffee, you’ll still be walking out of the cafe a single gal. If you went to a bar, had a few drinks, went home together and did the deed, he’d still be leaving you and going traveling alone.

Your ex cutting contact isn’t cowardly or disrespectful; it’s emotionally mature. He’s doing what he needs to do to protect himself and move on, and the best thing you can do is follow suit.

In the meantime, stop stalking his social media channels, surround yourself with positive friends who care more about you than they do about him, throw yourself into healthy pursuits like work or the gym or learning a new language, and if you’re really struggling to get over it, go see a therapist. (Your friends will only be able to deal with you talking about your heartache for a short while — don’t become THAT GUY.)

And don’t forget: This too shall pass. That’s an Isaac Hindin-Miller guarantee.

Follow Isaac on Instagram here, Twitter here, and check out his website here.

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  • beaker

    Well, yeah, you can’t force him to give you closure. But you can give the closure. I’d write a civil, non-accusatory email to him expressing YOUR well-thought-out thoughts and feelings on your breakup and giving him a final good bye. That may feel freeing. You do this without expecting a response. You do this with no hope of rekindling. You can even say in it “I don’t expect a reply”.

    I disagree with Isaac:. If he is not even responding to her requests to talk something out, even if it’s just to say “I prefer not to have contact anymore”, he is being an emotional coward, not emotionally mature. She was his SO. If she has some remaining questions, the least he can do is acknowledge her existence. (Unless the person makes you feel unsafe.)

    Bottom line: you have a right to have a final say, and he has a right not to give one. But to completely ignore a person who was your SO, unless you feel unsafe, is cold and cowardly.

    • isaaclikes

      The way I see it, she got into the relationship with the full knowledge that he was leaving, she fell for him with the full knowledge that he was leaving, then they broke up because he was leaving (which, let’s keep in mind, she had full knowledge of from the get-go).

      What is talking going to do?

      Her: “Hey I feel really upset about us breaking up because you’re leaving.”

      Him: “Yeah I know. Sorry.”

      And thennnnnnnnn?

      • beaker

        People are more complex than you present here. There’s plenty of ways that convo could go. And it’s besides the point. If bf didn’t want to hash it out, at least acknowledge the person’s existence and say that.

        That said – I took it more to be a mutual breakup even though she started the sentence with “I broke up with”. I think some people say that even when there isn’t a clear dumper and dumpee, but that’s just semantics. Like “I broke up with” = “I experienced a breakup” vs “I dumped the guy”.

        • isaaclikes

          I agree that we have no way of knowing who broke up with whom.

          But we also have no way of knowing that he hasn’t already told her that he needs space. All we know is that “he won’t contact me back and has acted cowardly.”

          For all we know, her idea of him acting cowardly is him telling her he doesn’t want to talk right now. We don’t know that he hasn’t acknowledged her existence already. She never said he dumped her and disappeared, she said he doesn’t call her back. Haven’t you ever not called or texted an ex back because you knew that it was the right thing to do for you?

          He’s not disrespecting her at all, he’s doing his own thing.

          • beaker

            Well to say “he wont *contact* me back” made me think he was just leaving her requests for a conversation unanswered. If he communicated to her that he did not want to talk, then I’d agree with you.

            “Haven’t you ever not called or texted an ex back because you knew that it was the right thing to do for you?” — No. Not an ex boyfriend. In my view it’s disrespectful to ignore a communication from someone who was so important to you. I have told one not to contact me anymore because I couldnt handle it, but the point is, I acknowledged him. (luckily my exes havent been stalker/crazy types – I’d totally vouch for ignoring one of those).

            I may have ghosted a guy or two a couple dates in, but I’ve reformed my ways there because I hate how it feels to be ghosted. I’d much prefer to be acknowledged if Ive asked a person a question, even if the answer isn’t exactly what I want to hear.

          • Cecile Pham

            Conversely beaker, we have no idea if he already told her he needs space to get over this but she’s actually disrespecting him by continually contacting him? It’s a very muddy situation. Ultimately when a relationship ends, the responsibility to make yourself feel better is on your own responsibility. Not someone else’s.

          • beaker

            I had interpreted it as him not saying anything at all. Too bad we don’t have further writer clarification.

            True, that responsibility is there. But people do breakups differently. Some like “closure”. It’s ok to want it. It’s not ok to demand it. But it’s also not ok to ignore someone (unless they’re harassing you).

            Anyway, my answer varies based on the interpretation of the q. She should definitely leave him alone if he expressed that’s what he wants.

          • Cecile Pham

            you sound like a very thoughtful person beaker

          • beaker

            My years of therapy probably contributed to that :). Thanks.

  • Magical Unicorn

    Closure comes from you accepting that it is over. YOU have to decide to close that door. Nobody else can do it for you.

    • isaaclikes

      WORD.

  • Dreamy

    Hmm. I disagree with Isaac on a couple of points here. I think he might be missing the understanding that to ignore someone who trusted and loved (or still trusts and loves) you IS an un-empathetic/ selfish/ cruel thing to do. And while it may have made life easier for him; his behaviour seems, unsurprisingly, to have added unnecessarily and undeserved pain on top of the break-up grief.

    You ask what he could have said to make her feel better even if he did answer her calls. Well, he could have told her the truth: that he needs to avoid contact for [insert reason here] and he’s sorry but he can’t be there for her anymore. That would surely be the respectful/ emotionally mature/ non-cowardly thing to do.

    • isaaclikes

      But that’s the thing — relationships don’t end because everyone is happy and treating each other amazingly well and acting in entirely unselfish ways. They generally end for the opposite reasons.

      After the breakup it’s not his duty to hold her hand or give her a shoulder to cry on. It’s his duty to do whatever he needs to do to make his life easier (so long as he’s not hurting anyone else), and if that means ignoring his ex, then that means ignoring his ex. There’s nothing immature or cowardly or cruel about that.

      Judging from what she said, she’s looking for him to make her feel better about the fact that they’ve broken up. He’s the last person in the world who can make her feel better about it.

      • dreamy

        @isaaclikes:disqus and @disqus_i0xRwvbaNz:disqus yep, you make valid points, but I think we just have different opinions on when it’s ok to ignore someone (assuming he has completely ignored her, which I what I inferred).

        E.g. When I couldn’t handle the emotion of talking to one ex anymore, I let him know as much. It only took a few minutes – I’d say it was the least I could do for someone I had been in a meaningful relationship with! Even though he had caused me pain, it didn’t mean he forwent his right to be treated with respect and compassion. I’ve experienced how horrible it is to be ignored by a loved one, and I wouldn’t inflict that kind of disdain on someone I cared about unless they had done something evil or toxic to deserve it. I’m surprised and kinda gutted that people here think it’s ok. But I do realise I’m in the minority (though I think @disqus_x1oqbr7N4L:disqus has eloquently described my feelings, above).

        Anyway, it’s likely we are all interpreting the story coloured by our different life experiences, and this is only a snippet of a stranger’s story.

    • Okay, can you just stop for a minute and think about that poor guy in the picture? He’s been broken up with, expected to be the guru providing closure in some magic way like “hi, I’m giving you closure, it’s that easy”, nagged with phone calls from the one that broke up with him who obviously is unable to understand that he’s probably having a hard time, too, and at the end, is to be called names like coward and immature. Please! This is ridiculous, and I feel genuinly sorry for him to get stuck with such a sticky, attention-seeking ex, and I’m a girl. He doesn’t owe her anything. She broke up with him, he finds it difficult to communicate with her because it obviously hits a sore spot, so he doesn’t, and he’s not to be blamed about it.

  • Cecile Pham

    I completely agree with Isaac. Let’s look at this sentence “I broke up with my ex.” She broke it off with him. It was her choice because he’s planning to travel alone. A plan she explicitly said he made before they even dated. She comes off as a very young and, quite honestly, a self involved person that would begrudge a great experience of someone she supposedly loved.

    By 1) being a little selfish and 2) being the person that broke off the relationship, she effectively relinquishes any rights to consolation. She’s not the victim here but the instigator. If she wasn’t ok with her own decisions, it is still her sole responsibility to self sooth and make peace with it.

    The ex had this situation inflicted on him and shouldn’t be held accountable at this point as it would seem she was the one that did all the hurting. He is in no way a coward or emotionally stunted for severing ties with someone that rejected him. The trust and love ended when she decided his trip warranted a breakup.

    • I agree 100%. This question boils down to “I broke up with my boyfriend. Why isn’t he giving me attention?”

      The answer is in the first part of that statement.

  • possibilitygirl

    This is great advice. I’m generally of the opinion that if you’re the one who does the breaking up, you don’t really get to ask the other person to help you unpack the emotional baggage.

  • Greer

    like like like

    • Greer

      greer likes isaaclikes

  • starryhye

    Solid advice!

  • Caro

    I’m with Isaac on this one. I think closure is elusive, possibly an imaginary thing we tell our selves will make us feel better…but never does…if the event for it to happen actually happens. We have to write the closure story ourselves- and that work is tough stuff. Who the eff wants to go through the pain of believing it’s over when you can imagine such a possible scenario where you could…xyz? But writing that closure yourself is worth it (and it’s work) but it’s so good for your heart.
    Also: if he’s into you, you’ll know.

  • Rach

    You broke up with him: you should be providing that closure for yourself. It was your choice to leave, only you can tell yourself why.

  • Emmy

    I agree with Isaac. It’s no longer the ex’s responsibility to give closure. From the very beginning they have had a looming use-by date on their relationship, and to hope without reason that the ex should suddenly change his plans was a self-inflicted wound.
    I also disagree with the concept of “closure”, as feelings from any relationship (whether finished by break-up, betrayal, or death) are always going to linger long after that relationship has ended. No matter how many films may say otherwise, you don’t move on all at once, but in little steps.

    The best way to see the city skyline is to leave the city – the only way you’ll be able to view your finished relationship with love and appreciation is by putting some distance between you and it. Isaac is correct: surround yourself with friends who love you, unfollow your ex on social media, and take care of yourself for a while. I always think the best way to move on from a break up is to set a self-love goal for yourself to work toward. It gives you something to say when people ask “how are you doing”, and it’s a good way to mentally (and verbally) position yourself as two separate people. He’s travelling alone, and you are finding a new job that’s closer to your dream job. He’s travelling alone and you are planning a trip to Rome. He’s travelling alone and you’re taking a new degree. It’ll happen. It’s just not up to him.

  • Vicki D.

    oof. going thru a similar situation here but my ex is actually a coward who ran off and got married to a girl he was cheating on me with AND wouldn’t give me an honest explanation. (i found out via instagram, lol) i decided all the closure i needed was that he obviously was not right for me. you should do the same! “closure” is bullshit and is something we feel we need to make us feel better – but time heals all.

  • Rafaela Garcia

    As someone who has recently ended my longest relationship to date, I completely agree with Isacc. I ended my relationship on relatively good terms but he has repetitively contacted me for closure and everytime I comply we dig up old shit that at this point doesn’t change anything and having one chat is never enough for him he still wants to contact me and talk about it some more. I keeps me from moving on. I miss him a lot but I ended it for what I think was a great reason. I finally had to ignore his texts and really do me. And yes this too shall pass!

  • Adardame

    One day at a time. Acknowledge that asking for closure isn’t asking for closure. You already know it’s closed. What you want to know is if it will ever be reopened.

  • Tamarrow RoseblackQueen Evans

    I am going through same thing was seeing this guy and he dumped me….no closure at all. I contacted him and he only says take care….i explain to him the hurt he has inflicted on me…he does not care i asked to talk for him to give me answers and closure his respond was Gn via text

  • Tamarrow RoseblackQueen Evans

    I believe closure is a huge stepping stone to healing just sincere communication can make all the diffeeence

  • Mara Hernandez

    My friend and her husband (they were together 6 years and married for 2) broke up over two weeks ago and he has refused all contact. Because it was commonlaw marriage and he owned another residence, there’s no reason for them to ever cross paths again. Because she would never have imagined him to treat her this way (if nothing else, out of respect for what they shared once), she now feels she never knew him and wonders who she gave the last 6 years of her life to. She might be falling apart right now, but I can totally understand her perspective on that. Are you saying even a husband doesn’t owe the wife that he promised to love for the rest of his life, the decency of an explanation or perhaps at least remain on amicable/civil terms? Instead he unfriends her and all her family from Facebook and has his friend unfriend her, and acts like she never existed. But that isn’t cowardly or petty? Traumatizing someone you swore to love the rest of your life, just to “take care of yourself” and avoid the nasty experience and feelings IS what makes it cowardly. That isn’t “emotionally mature” at all. Emotional maturity has empathy, respect, and consideration, not blatant disregard and avoidance. Maybe the reason you want to call that “emotional mature” is because this is your standard breakup tactic/MO, but it’s quite far from mature. For those still looking for some help with this: http://thoughtcatalog.com/rodlyn-mae-banting/2016/06/why-cowards-cant-give-you-closure/

    • aniira

      Thank you. Your post and article were a lot more helpful and realistic than this page.

      I wasnt as far as married but tried gently prodding and trying to understand the issue for 6 months, he just spent less and less time with me as it went along. There was only one obvious choice to leave and I feel like I deserve and need some kind of answer. I dont care how brutal it may be and im not looking for an apology or to fix things with him. id settle just to hear him say ‘no its over youre crazy, ok?’

      No one should be left there to rot

  • NeedCoffee

    I cannot agree that it’s emotional mature. A emotional mature person tells the other person why he need to cut contact and what he expect in the future, before they disappear. Withdraw without explaination is irresponsible and inconsiderate. (But yeah this kind of person do do not deserve your love