We all know that it’s important to get closure after a breakup. But what does that even really mean?
Most of us haven’t had terrific models for healthy relationships, let alone healthy breakups. So how can we know what to do post breakup in order to move forward in a healthy way?
What Is Closure?
Closure is such a popular word. We all know it. Most of us say it. But what is closure?
The idea of closure in psychology might not be as old as you might think. Social psychologist Arie Kruglanski created the term “need for closure” in the 1990s.
This gave a name to a psychological need that people have – although we all have it to varying degrees. What Kruglanski referred to was this impulse our human brains have to make sense out of a situation.
We go through a process of mentally rehearsing all of the things that happened leading up to an event, such as a breakup. The feeling that we are more or less satisfied with our understanding of what happened … well, that’s closure.
Why Closure After a Breakup is So Important
Breakups cause us pain. They hurt. It’s tempting to just try to push through the hurt and get to the other side. However, doing so is a mistake. We need to process those feelings in order to move forward in a healthy way.
Our brains need resolution. We need to puzzle through the many things that happened in a relationship and how it ended up in a breakup.
In other words, our brains need to answer the question “WHY?”
Of course, you might not ever know the exact objective reason why things didn’t work out the way that you had hoped. But working through your thoughts and feelings allows you to come to a satisfying-enough conclusion. That is closure.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, you need closure after a breakup even if you’re the one who initiated the end of the relationship.
Closure is important after a breakup because:
- Your brain needs an authentic narrative to make sense of what happened.
- Without closure you might keep going back to a relationship that wasn’t working.
- You could be doomed to repeat the same relationship patterns the next time around without closure.
- Getting closure allows you to be your best self – and a better future partner in a healthier relationship when the time for that is right.
Why Staying Friends is a Bad Idea
Staying friends with someone you loved sounds like a wonderful idea. In fact, if you were friends before you started dating, it might seem obvious that it would be nice to go back to being “just friends.” But that’s not how relationships work. You can’t just suddenly shift modes like that and be okay.
Can you be friends with this person someday? Sure, maybe, if enough time has passed and you both feel like it’s the right, healthy thing for you. But it can’t happen until you’ve had a (long) break in contact. In other words, both of you need to get closure first.
Closure happens on your own. It happens by processing your feelings through journaling, talking with people who love you, or working with a therapist. (Or occasionally in a very structured conversation with your ex, usually mediated through a therapist.)
No Contact and No Creeping on Social Media
In today’s world, social media provides one of the biggest blocks to getting closure. At any given moment, you can pick up your phone, tap a button and there’s your ex. Immediately, the questions and confusion and feelings begin to swirl. This all interrupts the process of getting closure.
Therefore, if you want to know how to get closure after a breakup, the number one thing that you can do right now is block all contact with your ex. Don’t allow any connection through any social media channel. Put yourself on a social media break for awhile if you have to.
And put a plan in place for what you’re going to do or who you’re going to call when you get that sudden urge to stalk their social media account. Brainstorm a list of things to do instead. Go for a run, put on your favorite music, take a hot shower, write down all of the things you loved/hated about your ex, watch your favorite tv show … make a long list. Then when the urge strikes, turn to your list.
Learn to Forgive (Yourself)
You’ll go through many different feelings as you process a breakup. Anger, sadness, frustration, overwhelm, loneliness, restlessness, and fear are just a few of the things that might come up. And you might be surprised to discover that you have some forgiveness work to do.
Yes, you might need to forgive your ex for some things. But closure also means forgiving yourself.
We beat ourselves up a lot when things don’t go the way that we expected. You can probably very quickly come up with a list of things you did “wrong” in the relationship. The “what ifs” and the “if onlys” and “oh, there was that one time.”
You might also go the route of simply feeling like you’re not good enough. You’re “too much” or “not lovable” or “broken” or any number of other things that simply aren’t true but feel true in the moment. You are exactly right the way that you are for the stage that you are in your life.
And by seeking closure, you’re making the right choice to move forward with your life in a healthy way. Therefore, you’re already making yourself a better person – and partner – for the future. So, acknowledge where you might have done better then let it go. Forgive yourself.
Get Help When Seeking Closure
Sometimes people feel silly about having trouble after a breakup. After all, everyone goes through this right? But that doesn’t mean it’s trivial. Breakups are heartbreaking. They’re hard. And you might need some help with the healing process.
Individual therapy with a relationship expert can assist you in figuring out how to get closure after a breakup in the way that is right for you.
(And a tip: if you’re in a relationship that you think is about to end, sometimes couples counseling can provide each of you with a way to get closure through the breakup process.)
We want to help and support you during this challenging part of your journey. So, contact us today for a free therapy consultation about gaining closure after a break up.