For our purposes, think of "relationship closure"
like this: a person has achieved relationship closure when,
the ending of a romantic relationship or friendship, she
feels that all of the final emotional "loose ends"
have been tied up to her satisfaction, and there is no remaining
"unfinished emotional business" that she needs to
take care of before moving on with her life.
Achieving relationship closure is not always an easy task.
In fact, I would venture to guess that, for a variety of reasons,
far more relationships end without proper closure than end
For example, some romantic relationships end without proper
emotional closure simply because one of the partners refuses
to engage in one last "loose-end-tying-up" conversation.
Perhaps the idea of having such a soul-searching conversation
is too daunting at the emotional level, and the person simply
does not want to "go there," maybe for fear of opening
old emotional wounds.
Just as we are always asking our politicians to hold themselves
"accountable" for their decisions and actions, it
is also a good idea to hold our dating partners and ourselves
"accountable" for our own decisions and behavior
in our relationships. This is one big reason that working
to achieve healthy closure at the end of dating relationships
(and friendships, too), is so important for the emotional
health of everyone involved.
An effective closure conversation enables both partners
to say goodbye and move forward.
In this helpful Dating
Tips advice column published on OnlineDatingMagazine.com,
the column author, who is simply referred to as "The
Dating Tipster", offers the following useful anecdote
to describe a great example of healthy relationship closure:
"I once dated a wonderful woman, and we had an absolutely
great connection. However ... there were things within
the relationship that prevented it from moving to the next
level. The breakup was very hard on both of us.
"Nearly two years after the relationship had ended,
I received a phone call from this person. She wanted to
see me. I agreed. We met and had a good conversation, but
that was it. She had just been proposed to and needed to
see me one last time in order to bring closure to our past
together. At the end of our meeting she gave me a strong
hug that lasted for over a minute. That's all she needed
to say her final goodbye and move on to a new chapter of
"If you feel you need closure then go ahead and request
a meeting in order to bring that closure you need and to
say your final goodbye. When you're done, move on with your
life. Yes, you'll still think of him because deep down there
is still something there. That is normal. But the closure
may help you move on."
What I particularly like about the above anecdote from OnlineDatingMagazine.com's
"Dating Tipster", is that both parties were so open
to the idea of meeting one final time to say their last goodbyes.
In agreeing to have such a meeting, they were both acknowledging
several important fundamental truths about human relationships,
including the following:
- The relationship that the two of them had shared had
mattered a great deal to both of them. They had once been
very much in love with each other, and while this was no
longer the case, by agreeing to meet for one last time,
they were each acknowledging the important places that
they had once held in each other's lives.
This mutual acknowledgment of the intrinsic value of
their shared history constitutes a deeply reverential,
humane, compassionate and caring act. Agreeing to have
a conversation about closure tells the other person that
while the romance has cooled, you still respect them and
care about them as a human being and wish them nothing
but the best in the future.
Officially saying goodbye can feel downright liberating.
In agreeing to formally say goodbye to that particular
shared chapter of their lives, they can now feel free
to start the next portion of their lives with a clean
slate, free from any "chains to the past" that
might otherwise hold them back from allowing their next
romantic relationships to reach their full potential.
There is an inherent value in rituals of all kinds.
We have rituals for weddings and graduations and funerals,
and all kinds of other life milestones. Indeed, human
beings have long enjoyed and benefited from the public
acknowledgment of the most important moments in our lives.
And I believe that this innate desire for ritual, or for
the official marking of an important occasion, which many,
if not most, human beings share, is one of the reasons
that so many of us crave a sense of closure when our relationships
come to an end.
How to Have A Healthy "Closure"
A respectful, compassionate closure conversation can
be sad but also liberating.
Here are four important components that should be present
in any type of conversation about relationship closure:
- First, it's actually good idea to state out loud that
the two of you are about to have a "closure conversation,"
and that this is a sad and difficult task, but it is also
necessary and useful.
When the two people involved actually acknowledge that
this is a conversation specifically about closure it can
help both individuals to set healthy parameters about
what it is appropriate or inappropriate to discuss. Also,
it allows both partners to think of the conversation as
an official goodbye talk, which is intended to
enable them both to move forward as soon as the conversation
One or both partners may want to reminisce a bit about
some specific good memories in the relationships, and
it is usually a good idea for both parties to honor this
desire, because it is a tacit way of communicating that:
"We may not feel exactly as we once did about each
other, but we sure have had some fun together in the past."
One or both partners may want to talk about what the
other person has meant to them, and they may even want
to state out loud exactly what each other's best qualities
During a closure conversation, there may be a temptation
on the part of one or both partners to talk about the
other person's negative qualities, or to discuss all of
the things that went wrong with the relationship, but
this is generally not a great idea because it can lead
to a fight, which is not at all conducive to achieving
genuine relationship closure.
Four Possible Obstacles to Having An
Effective "Relationship Closure Conversation"
If one partner is still holding out the hope that the
relationship could potentially resume.
If, for some reason, one partner refuses to meet with
the other to have a closure conversation.
If one partner does not return phone calls or emails
from the other to arrange a closure meeting.
If both partners do agree to meet, but one of them only
wants to use the time to fight and rehash old issues,
rather than using the opportunity to work toward achieving
genuine relationship closure by tying up any emotional
loose ends in a rational, compassionate manner.
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