Last week, while golfing in the pouring rain, a friend and I discussed what may be one of the greatest mysteries of the universe. I mean, of course, the inability of some people to give proper closure to a relationship.
A few months ago, this friend experienced a break up of a kind which is all too familiar to me. And unfortunately plenty of others out there. She’d been seeing this guy for a little under six months. They’d just decided to move in together when out of the blue she got an email from him – an email! – saying he needed space or some such nonsense.
Our topic of discussion was striking a rather sensitive emotional chord with me, but I tried not to let that distract me from her plight. Which absolutely makes my blood boil. For here is this beautiful, smart, truly remarkable woman pining away for this absolute jerk who didn’t even have the decency or respect to end things properly.
I suppose, for the one wishing to sever the ties of a relationship, this avoidance of an actual break up event is a way of softening the blow. I assure you, it’s not. Because by depriving your soon-to-be ex with any kind of formal closure, you’ve just setting them adrift, really. Condemning them to float aimlessly in a sea of confusion, self-doubt, false hope, agonizing speculation and, yes, denial.
I can see the attraction of taking the easy way out. I myself, long ago, chose to end a relationship with the incredibly clichéd explanation, “It’s not you; it’s me.”
To make it worse, I left it open ended, with a hint of “maybe someday” at the end. I had to go find myself or some such nonsense.
Even before those words left my lips, I could recognize them for what they were: a cop out. I didn’t have the guts to tell him the truth, that whatever I’d felt had fizzled. And I didn’t want to go through the motions anymore.
In retrospect it would have been kinder to be honest. He deserved better. And I think the universe felt so, too. Because I’m pretty sure I can trace all of my relationship woes back to that one point in time back in high school.
Cosmic justice is a bitch.
Now, having been on the receiving end, I can say with some authority, that just about any closure is better than none. Rip that Band-Aid off in one fell swoop, rather than inch by agonizing inch. Sure, it hurts like hell. But then you can get over it.
Some men I know, don’t get the whole “closure” thing. It’s a foreign concept to their linear minds. So let me clear it up. Closure is having all of your questions answered. Tying up those lose ends. Knowing the why, the when and the how of what went wrong. That’s when you can close the door and move on.
But when there are loose ends left waving in the wind, you may not even know if it’s really over or not.
It’s particularly counterproductive when the parting exchange involves phrases like, “I need space,” or “I need time.” Which really means the person on the delivering end needs to grow some ... well, you know.
Because, in this regard, honesty really is the best policy. No one wants to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with them. Just remember, you can be honest without being cruel.
It’s natural to have doubts about a relationship, especially when you’re getting ready to take a big step. Or if you’re nearing that point in a relationship timeline where other people think you should be taking a step. But the fact that you’re not at a point where you can discuss those doubts and insecurities is a sign. If you don’t trust the other person enough to share those feelings, or have the inclination to do so, maybe it is time to part ways.
If you voice your fears, the other person has the chance to weigh in as well. Maybe they’ll say: Hey, I feel the same way, but I wasn’t sure how to tell you. I’m not sure if we have enough in common to make this work, and I’m worried about getting hurt if we keep going on like this. Let’s call it quits.
Now that, my friend, is closure.
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