Open Thread: Is Closure Real?

The Writers | April 18, 2016

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Not to sound all Carrie Bradshaw, but when a relationship ends, does it ever really close? More clearly and less Carrie Esoterically, is closure something you really need to get over someone? (Really as in — do you really need those shoes?) Are you stuck on that person forever until you get closure? Do they give it to you?

Or do you have to close the door yourself?

Team Man Repeller procrastinated their work midday to discuss as much in our third open thread. Here’s our group chat:

Yvonne: My thinking is that you close the door for yourself, cut them off completely, block them on all social media and do not ask mutual friends what they are up to. If you stop giving yourself opportunities to think about them, then eventually you actually will stop thinking about them.

Elizabeth/Deepak Chopra: Closure doesn’t exist until there’s a new opening.

Harling: Closure doesn’t exist until texting is no longer a thing.

Elizabeth: Social media prevents closure — it is the devil who haunts you and makes you continually hurt yourself just by looking.

Haley: I think closure is real in that you can seek it out and sometimes find it, but it’s a personal journey and not something you need another person to achieve. That we need closure is just the lie we tell ourselves, I think.

Harling: I feel like the meaning of the word “closure” has eroded. It no longer means what we think it means. Whenever someone says, “I just need closure” what they’re usually saying is, “I just want an excuse to see [that guy] or [that girl].”

It’s one of those buzzwords that’s used in pretty much every conversation or article about relationships because it sounds like such a nice thing in theory. But the idea of “closure” is a vicious cycle. If you have a nice moment of “closure” with your ex, it will probably make you want to get back together. But if you end on an ugly note, you’ll think to yourself, “I still need closure.” So where does it end?

Haley: Agreed. I think seeking closure (the real kind) requires mental discipline and some serious soul-searching. Moving on from something is a solo act, not a physical thing or literal words requiring someone else with a parallel agenda (AKA, coffee with an ex).

Amelia: We often talk about closure as “needing answers.” But maybe you don’t always NEED all questions answered. Maybe it feels like you need those things answered, but you don’t. Sometimes what you NEED is just to accept that it’s done. And to know that ~*~time heals all wounds ~*~

Haley/Deepak: Maybe closure is no longer needing the answers.

Amelia: Time plays a role. If you’re dating someone for 10 years and assume marriage is the next step, it’s not as clean of a break as if it were a three-month-long relationship. A break up after ten years is likely a lot harder to accept the fact that you’re not going to get back together than a two-month relationship. I’d legitimately need answers after ten years. I might not after two months.

Also, people confuse one another in their attempts to be nice during break ups. Saying, “I see us together, just not now…” to soften the blow makes it very hard for the person on the receiving end of that to close a chapter.

Leandra: Closure is 100% the construct of a weak mind, the same way that “period cravings” are. Closure tricks us into thinking that we are experiencing a justified experience that lets us temporarily suspend doing the emotional work we know we have to do. Like eating to put off homework or something. The thing is, eventually you have to do it, or it gets done for you, so why not elect to go out with your dignity?

Haley: Maybe a sense of closure isn’t something you can seek out, but rather something you naturally feel once you’ve done the mental work to move on. Which could mean different things to different people: independence, a sense of self-worth, a reason to get up in the morning, etc…

Which is a good place to leave off and turn to the readers: what do you guys think? Is closure real? Do you really need to meet with your ex for coffee with a side of answers? Do answers come in soy and almond variety? I’ll leave the fake sugar metaphors up to you.

SheBee ring on clamshell; photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • Andrea M

    After a breakup that came almost out of nowhere, I needed answers. I needed to understand what was that I did wrong. He never gave me those answers, and with time, I realized that maybe even he might not have known the reasons completely. Closure came with time, and with understanding that sometimes we don’t understand our own feelings completely. Coffee just means a chance to see him again, not closure. But love is a weird thing, and we try to mend our hearts the best we can.

  • Aimee

    I think closure can be a code word for “take me back” as well as a very valid feeling after you’ve been dumped out of nowhere. When a relationship is heading nowhere and it ends, you kind of expect it so there not a lot of need for closure, but if you feel that you could’ve done better or the relationship just ended abruptly there’s a lot of dust in the air. When the dust settles you probably won’t want that closure anyways because you’ve become more flexible with the grey areas in life.

  • Molly

    I definitely agree with Haley in closure being a solo act. For me, closure is reconciling my current self with my behavior at the end of a relationship.

    For example, last year I had been dating a guy for about a year but, as is so typical with millennial pseudo-relationships, our “status” was never clearly defined. Since we didn’t officially have a title, he never felt the need to break up with me and instead decided to just start dating someone else. I was obviously hurt and responded by getting VERY drunk and texting him a LOT. It was so frustrating for me that he had moved on so quickly without ever acknowledging my feelings or our history. It took time and meditation which is frustrating, but closure for me was accepting that I can’t take back the past and it won’t get me anywhere to dwell on it. It definitely requires making yourself a priority and recognizing your own importance.

    But it still sucks ass when he shows up on social media.

  • heather

    I have to agree that closure is something you have to find on your own. Whether it’s through meditation, reflection, or an actual journey. I have learned that after a relationships end its best to just close the doors and move on. You only end up hurting yourself looking for the superficial closure and this will never allow you to fully move on or heal.

    <3
    heather
    fashionistanygirl.com

  • Autumn

    This scene from Friends is all I can think about…

  • Beatrice

    Closure is something I think we can give ourselves–I really agree with Haley’s final comment. After a bad breakup in college, involving a cheating situation and a lot of messy mutual friend politics, I lamented the loss like the green 19 year old I was. I made stupid decisions, and didn’t feel like myself for a year. I wanted “closure,” yet didn’t really know what that would feel like or what it would take to get there. After blocking him on social media and LITERALLY leaving the country for a while, I guess I found that I didn’t need answers from the guy; I needed answers from myself, about what I wanted from a relationship (and life), my expectations for mutual respect, and the issues of my own that I projected onto other people. Only self-reflection, forgiveness, and reeeeaallly patient, excellent friends got me to a peaceful place and, eventually, a much happier relationship.

  • Zooey P

    thoughts on what type of “closure” one should seek in the following situation:

    You’re two months post-breakup. You are feeling pretty good and are bumble-ing like a champ. Then on one Sunday evening, you stumble upon pictures of you and your ex that somehow survived the dramatic post-break-up purge of yesteryear. You text him “I miss ya” in a casual, self-destructive stupor, and he texts you back “I still love you and I am happy about it. I was stupid to let you go”. (duh – *eye roll*)
    Flash forward two weeks and he has made no attempts to win me back (besides letting me know his fish has died and sending me a screen-shot
    of another adorable picture of us I forgot existed….), which would require little effort beyond coming to my apartment and kissing me the way I imagine in my dreams.
    I am confused and outraged. When I asked him if we could talk about this he said “Just stop being confused”. Helpful.

    It’s like he stole my closure and opened up a can of worms. Then left the worms all over the place and refuses to acknowledge that said worms probably should get cleaned up.
    In the spirit of this article, I guess I could stop making his proclamation of love my problem/excuse to leave worms all over the place.

    Whatever, I’m getting cheese fries.

    • Lisa B

      “Stole my closure” is such a good phrase Zooey. I got a birthday text from my ex the other day. First time I heard from him in 2 months. I got so angry at him, how dare he wish me a happy birthday! It felt like he took away my closure and was like “tadaaa! I’m still lurking in the background of your life”

  • Lebanese Blonde

    Ugh, reading my mind, MR. I think the only instances where I see closure as being really necessary are those where the break-up politics are really unclear or just situational. Reluctant break-ups are the worst, i.e. I was just broken up with by someone who essentially said “I love you, I’m a mess right now, but wait for me, I want to do this eventually.” I feel like I won’t really be able to move on until one or both of us makes it very clear that it’s **actually** over for the foreseeable future, and a closure-coffee-date might be helpful for that. For now, it’s Facebook blocks and no contact and lots of tears.

  • I think closure can come to you with time. When I think back to some of the guys I dated, when we ended things I really didn’t get it but now when I look at our relationships I see exactly why it didn’t work out (without coffee).

  • Yeah, I’m on board with Haley. I was broken up with once where he used the words, “I just don’t have feelings for you any more and I won’t want to be back together with you in the future.” It was like, the worst thing to say to me at the time (tiny, teenaged, in-love Lisa) but eventually I got that feeling of closure after we had really drifted apart and I was on solid ground with myself (this is such a weird iceberg metaphor??). It didn’t take going out to coffee for those answers. I don’t have that niggling what’s-he-up-to curiosity, but if he does pop up on like, social media, I’m pretty indifferent to what he’s up to and happy if he’s doing well.

    • My teenage boyfriend did the opposite, and I wasted two more years thinking we’d get back together. I focused on what I wanted to hear and ignored the fact that he jerked me around and said really shitty things to me. Maybe I had some closure when I finally told him that I didn’t deserve the way he treated me. Maybe it helped that he doesn’t use Facebook and he’s impossible to google. (Same name as a famous drummer.)

      I’m not resentful – this was over ten years ago. I’m not even sure which grade we finally stopped talking. I felt nothing when I saw that he was in a relationship with an elementary school teacher. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to see he gained weight and went bald when I came across his Instagram.

  • People have always wanted closure, but I think we crave it more now that we break up over text

  • Victoria Krawiec

    I pronounced I needed closure recently from a relationship that ended 2 years ago. Because I began questioning, hmmm why haven’t all this dating I have done since then materialized into anything steady… but this closure business is a total cover up for I want to reconnect with me ex, because I really miss the connection we had, because no one has measured up to his sense of humor (which is very important to me). I also think things would be different too because I have a better sense of self and I have grown alot since… Do I risk reaching out to him or just let sleeping dogs lie?… Closure would be my bait move, but maybe I should just blurt it out, like hey I want you back? Do u feel the same?

  • Lindsay D

    Wanting closure is a mental state of mind. I used closure as an excuse to talk to my ex. He told me it was over and I did not want to believe him. I needed explanations (there were none). Took a lot to realize I had to change the way I thought of my future, then I felt like I had closure.

  • HermioneGrangerisbae

    I personally think closure if fruitless, because it relies on the other person, and it relies on the other person to 1.know what they think 2.tell the truth about what they think and 3. communicate it correctly so that you understand. And at any point they can change their mind. What happens when, as some people below have said, they send a drunken text that goes completely against that they told you they wanted, or contradicts the story? I’m not so bothered about closure, I just wanna be upset and start to moving on process straight away.

    • I really like those 3 points you made. I think that’s why it’s so hard to get what we feel is actual closure. The other person will rarely express things the way we want to/can hear them.

  • Wulan

    At the end of the day, with or without closure you will have to move on. If you feel like you need to have the closure talk, go ahead. But that doesn’t guarantee any kind of peace you expected. Peace comes from within. Moving on is more of an independent process and is not something that comes from closure.

  • Emmanuelle

    I didn’t even know the word and concept of closure until I read someone here on Isaac’s column saying her ex wasn’t giving her the closure she wanted and I was like when you break up and still have feelings for this boy or that girl WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? As a French girl, I feel in my country we consider a relationship ends or not. If you want what you call a closure, it means you simply don’t want to break up since you’re looking for that person. So it may be clear for the other it is the end but not for you hence the need of a so-called closure/answers to your question.
    I broke up a few months ago, and it was not my decision. I cried a river, I was given reasons and even if some made more sense than others I just said what I needed to say, was given the shittiest answers ever so I just decided to take my distance from him. The “closure” would have ended up in conversations that leaded nowhere or if so just me hanging on a hope that is not there. So for me closure just doens’t exist, what exists though is time, healing and moving on.

    Em,

  • Ciccollina

    I love that Leandra is just like “closure is bullshit” because I agree, but I 100% do not agree the period cravings aren’t a real physiological thing. I cannot and will not accept this, ever.

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  • Claudia Tetreault-Percy

    I’ve recently been broken up with after a pretty serious relationship, and I can say that even if the real answers hurt, closure by talking to each other and understanding the situation does help to move on. If you’re constantly asking questions in your head and going over it, it’s very difficult to get on with it. You think about it all the time and wonder what if. Closure is something you sort of have to “accept” once it’s done, though. It then becomes a process that you go through on your own, without needing the other person with you to validate everything that has happened. But I do agree that closure is when you no longer text/insta stalk/facebook chat the person. It’s stupid and hard, but c’est la vie.

  • Jolie

    After my last big breakup, I used closure as an excuse to spend time with my ex as friends, and he was all for it. He even took more initiative in hanging out than he had when we were together! Obviously, I thought I would secretly get him to fall back in love with me, but what happened was that we ended up basically reenacting our entire relationship — going out for meals, hitting up our favorite places again, rehashing all those old “talks” about us — and every thing we did just started feeling like the last time. I would think “this could be the last time we go to Central Park together” or “this could be our last time drunk together” and the whole thing took on a sense of panic and anxiety that had never been there during our relationship.

    Long story short, I ended up getting into a very happy new relationship and, as Haley so wisely mentioned, I no longer “needed the answers.” No more long lunches listening to my ex talk about cruising for girls at bars. Last time I saw him, he asked if something about him hooking up with a new girl made me “jealous” and I realized my closure had come, because all I could do was laugh.

  • Rose Keen

    Perhaps it isn’t closure so much, but I think meeting with an ex after the hurting has stopped can help change the way you remember the relationship. Rather than focusing on its death throes and the pain of that, to remember all the good stuff and how the experience has contributed to the people you both are today. Helps you remember things don’t have to be forever to have value.

  • smillipede

    period cravings are real tho?