Is Closure Real? A Relationship Expert Weighs In On Whether You Can Get It After A Breakup
When you're fresh from a breakup, closure can feel more like a relationship buzzword than an achievable goal. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how you can get it, but the more people talk about the concept of closure, the more abstract it feels. So, is closure real? Or is it just a word you use when you want to convince yourself you're over your ex?
I spoke to behavior and relationship expert Dr. Patrick Wanis, Ph.D., about whether you can actually get closure after a breakup, and how you can tell if you've completely moved on from your ex and are emotionally ready for a new relationship.
Dr. Wanis created a free online breakup test that helps determine whether you are over your ex. By answering a series of questions, you are given a score that divides you into one of four categories. Based on your result, you are then provided with customized advice, insight, and actions to take. The survey had close to 1,740 respondents as of July 2018, and almost 50 percent of men and 50 percent of women who took the test reported that there was no closure when they broke up with their partner.
Most people never get closure following a breakup, but it isn't impossible. Here's what you need to know about the myths and truths of finding closure after a breakup.
1. "Closure" is a vague term with many definitions.
Closure is a broad term, as it can be defined in a number of ways. According to Dr. Wanis, closure can be accurately summed up as complete communication. "Closure is when you've expressed all of your thoughts and feelings about the relationship, you've received all of the answers to your questions, and have an enlightened perspective on the relationship — that means you learned something about the relationship and you learned something about yourself," says Dr. Wanis.
While it can be very challenging for people to get the closure they need after a breakup, it is possible in some cases. Before you can achieve closure, though, you may need to reframe the way you define it.
2. You likely have misconceptions about what it means to get closure.
There are a few myths about what it means to get closure. One myth is that closure means you automatically feel no more pain and you're fully over the relationship. That's not always true. There are always going to be consequences associated with a breakup, whether that's the way your relationship with your ex's family changes, or having to move out of a shared apartment. Closure isn't going to resolve those issues.
"There's still going to be loss associated with the breakup of the relationship, and you might still go through the motions of grieving," says Dr. Wanis. "Closure does help you to speed up the healing process. Closure doesn't mean you'll be free of pain; it means you will ease your pain dramatically."
Another misconception about closure is that it includes your ex apologizing to you or forgiving you. That may not be the case. "You're not necessarily going to get the apology. One of the main reasons why closure is difficult to obtain is that some people just don't want to talk to you after the relationship is over," says Dr. Wanis. And even if your ex does agree to meet with you, they might not be able to give you all the answers that you want.
3. Having closure doesn't necessarily mean you're ready for a new relationship.
"Once you receive closure, you no longer have negative feelings toward your ex. You've forgiven your ex, you wish them the best. When you think about it, you're over the loss. You feel emotionally free with regards to that relationship," says Dr. Wanis. "But that doesn't guarantee that you're healthy enough to be in a new relationship or that you're in a better, healthier relationship. It just means you're closer to it."
Even if you're no longer angry at your ex and you feel like you're over the pain of the breakup, you may still need to take a little more time to get clear about what you want from future partners before you start dating again. You also need to change your own thoughts and behaviors so that you're psychologically free and open to being in another meaningful, fulfilling relationship — one that is better and healthier for you.
Closure has a variety of meanings and implications, which is one of the reasons why it can be so hard to achieve. Once you're clear on what it means to get closure and you've let go of your learned expectations surrounding it, you can finally begin to heal.
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