You’ve been listening to Adele on repeat, crying into your (third) glass of wine and eating your feelings with Ben & Jerry. Any collegiette knows that these are the telltale signs of a recent breakup.
Although wallowing is an important part of grieving a relationship, there’s a point when you realize that you have to move on. The only problem? It’s easier said than done. And while you’ve heard of the term “closure,” you’re not quite sure what it means or even how to get it. Well, fortunately for you, HC has asked the experts on what closure is, how you can get it and why it’s so important to move on. So turn off the Adele and read on!
What is closure?
According to Jeffrey Sumber, a licensed professional clinical counselor, closure is, “a mutually agreed upon experience where both people leave with resolution or peace. Both parties can walk away with a sense of finality.”
In a breakup, closure is when you and your ex accept that your relationship is over and you both feel a sense of resolution. Even if you or your ex felt more strongly about ending your relationship, Sumber says that you can still gain closure. “It’s possible to end [a relationship] with understanding and kindness…You can walk away and not leave a door open,” he says. “It allows you to heal quicker.”
It’s important to note that closure doesn’t necessarily means that you’re ready to date again, but rather that you’ve closed the chapter on your past relationship and are ready to move forward. It’s an important part of getting over an ex and the breakup so you can feel confident starting a new relationship down the road.
How to get it
What worked for your friend might not necessarily work for you, mostly because you had different situations. Similarly, what worked for you in past relationships might not be as helpful now.
“If you don’t move on, you’re unlikely to be emotionally available for a happy and healthy relationship in the future,” says Jasbina Ahluwalia, dating coach and founder of Intersections Match by Jasbina. “View it as a growth and glean anything you learned about yourself and your needs in a relationship.”
Every breakup is different, and the time it takes for you to get closure greatly depends on how the relationship ended and if you’re still talking to your ex. You may need more or less time to heal.
When you’re on speaking terms with your ex
In this scenario, closure can come in the form of a conversation. However, consider taking some time after the breakup before having this type of conversation. “A bit of communication hiatus is recommended, [like a week or two],” says Jodi RR Smith, etiquette consultant and president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “It’s important to process the feelings and emotions [to avoid] a major scene at some later point.”
When you feel ready to have a conversation, contact your ex and decide on a meeting place. Your meeting place should be private enough that you can have an open conversation, yet still public enough that you’re not put in an uncomfortable position. For example, a coffee shop might be a good setting to speak about your relationship; just don’t choose the Starbucks that you know all your friends go to.
“Even consider a walking trail so you can walk and talk,” Smith suggests. “And it should be short; keep it to 45 minutes maximum. Otherwise the conversation could go south quickly and won’t be as productive.”
Sumber also encourages picking a neutral location and to start the conversation on a positive note. “I encourage people to start with by sharing positive feelings. [For example], share with an ex all of their greatest qualities,” he says. “Then, ask permission to speak what could have gone differently or better only if your ex is interested in hearing [and sharing] feedback about the relationship.”
The main goal of speaking with your ex shouldn’t be getting back together, and don’t expect to it automatically cure the post-breakup pain. Rather, the main point of the conversation is to gain perspective on your past relationship and gain some insight for your future ones.
“[To do this], some questions you might want to ask are what [your ex] appreciated about your relationship and what [he/she] felt detracted from your relationship,” Ahluwalia says. “Get their view on how you may have contributed to that detraction [or lack of connection].”
Once you feel like you’ve gained some perspective, end the conversation amicably, maybe give your ex a quick hug and then go your separate ways. “Keep it short and keep it neutral,” Smith says. “Then it’s up to you to take care of yourself and move on.”
By recognizing all the good things you had in your relationship while also identifying what could have gone better, it helps you learn and process the relationship. “We don’t engage in relationships just because they feel good,” Sumber says. “We engage in them to grow as individuals and closure allows us to drive home those learning opportunities.”
When you’re not talking to your ex
For one reason or another, you might not speaking to your ex. While most people think that closure has to include both partners, most experts say that’s not the case. “You cannot rely on an ex to provide closure,” Ahluwalia says. “It’s an inside job.”
The experts suggest doing something active to physically gain closure from a breakup. “Incorporate a tactile, closing ritual that you can’t get in person,” Sumber says. “For example, journal things you would normally say to an ex, or burn a present. You could even bury something… Just make it something tactile.”
You might find it helpful to write a letter to an ex expressing everything you want to say but can’t because of the circumstances and shred it (never mail it!). Or, you can start working out to physically “sweat out” and get rid of your past relationship.
Ahluwalia even suggests saying all the things you want to say aloud, either to an empty chair or to a friend or family member. “Imagine your ex sitting in an empty chair, and say what you didn’t have a chance to share,” she says. “Or speak to a family member [or a] friend, or consider counseling because counselors can provide objective feedback.”
Lastly, you might find it helpful to change your environment to help you start thinking differently about your breakup. “Changing your environment can help you change your state of mind,” Ahluwalia says. “It can take form in a vacation or even redecorating… Get physical and emotional distance from your ex.” Without constant reminders of them, you can start to focus on yourself and your own needs.
Whether you’re on speaking terms with your ex or not, you can gain closure from a relationship in a healthy way that helps you move on. Try one thing or a combination to find what works best for you!
What closure feels like
So you know what closure means and have taken all the right steps toward it, but how do you know when you’ve actually moved on? Most experts say that you will feel a sense of freedom and acceptance.
“[You] can feel like the weight of emotional baggage has been taken off your shoulders,” Ahluwalia says. “Or [you won’t] have strong feelings or attachment to your ex. It’s freeing.”
Similarly, Smith explains that an ex will always have a place in your heart, but you start to feel more normal again. “You won’t always be bursting into tears or falling to pieces when something reminds you [of your ex],” she says. “You’ll be having more fun and functioning normally. And one day you might wake up and realize that if an ex doesn’t see how fabulous you are, then [he or she] is not worth it.”
Of course, there will be times that you miss your ex and even get upset over your breakup in the weeks or months afterwards. But eventually those intense feelings fade and you start to feel happy again.
Moving on takes time. You might have some good days and some not-so-good ones – it’s all part of the process. “It’s important to allow yourself time to grieve,” Sumber says. “But then it’s important to move on, because you have to grow. Process the past as fertilizer for your future.”
By accepting that you and your ex did the best you could in the relationship and viewing it as a learning experience, you can move on fully and get rid of any emotional baggage before your next relationship.
“It’s important to move on, because you’re young and you have your whole life ahead of you,” Smith says. “It is possible to be alone without being lonely. Enjoy being by yourself, and you’ll know when you are ready to date again.”