She had been dating this guy for a few months when things started getting weird.
Things seemed to be going amazingly, and then, all of the sudden, he stopped returning her texts and phone calls. A couple weeks later, he backed out of a few dates. She had a feeling something was up.
After stalking him on Facebook, she eventually found out that he had started seeing someone else behind her back.
Just like that, the relationship was over. No conversation. No official “breakup.” No explanation.
She was left with nothing but unanswered questions and a broken (or at least bruised) heart.
When she came to see me, it had been three months since this painful incident, but she couldn’t seem to get past it.
She had tried calling him and had left him multiple voice messages. She had even brought with her a letter she wrote, wondering whether I thought she should send it. She wanted answers.
Was something wrong with her? Why did he just leave?Had she done something to upset him?
She needed closure, she said. She just needed to know.
The Need for Closure
I totally sympathize with this young woman. Not just because I was her therapist, but more so, because I’ve been there myself.
Though not this exact situation, there have been many times in my life where I was left with unanswered questions from relationships gone wrong—or relationships that never actually got anywhere at all.
Maybe you, too, know what it’s like to live with the pain of unanswered questions, or to deal with that gnawing inside of you that just “needs to know.” Maybe you’re even dealing with that pain right now, and you’re wondering how to move on.
But what if getting closure had less to do with getting the answers to our questions and more to do with our response to those questions?
What if getting closure in a relationship had less to do with the other person and more to do with you? If you’re struggling to get closure in a relationship, here are three things to consider:
1. Realize Closure Cannot Be Dependent on Others.
Many times, we put the course of our lives in the hands of someone else—waiting for answers, looking for a response, coveting an apology or desiring a certain outcome that’s dependent solely on them.
By doing that, it’s almost like we hand them a pen and give them permission to write the story of our lives, because they get to determine how it will end.
That’s not how it’s supposed to work. No one can ever write our story better than we can. Well, in reality, God writes our story, but we have to take responsibility for our life and relationships.
No matter what situation you’ve gone through, realize that it is not up to the other party to give you what you need to “move on”—because you already have everything you need to do so: worth, courage and wisdom. Learn to “move on” with or without other people, or you could remain stuck for the rest of your life.
2. Make a Deliberate Choice to Close the Door.
Why on earth do we wait for someone to give us closure when we can “close the door” ourselves? Whether or not we were the ones to end the relationship, it ended for a reason. It’s important to think through all reasons God has us right here and right now.
For the young woman I mentioned above, a huge part of her healing meant grasping the reality that a guy who would lie and cheat is not a guy worth being in a relationship with. It didn’t matter who walked away first—because at the end of the day, it wasn’t a relationship worth keeping. For her to gain closure, she had to be the one to walk away once and for all, closing the door, moving forward and believing that she deserved better—even if she never got answers to all her questions.
Sometimes in life, we have to be the ones to close the door on what we know is wrong, for God to trust us with what He knows is right.
3. Determine to Leave it Closed.
When it comes to closure, I don’t think the hardest part is necessarily closing the door, but rather keeping it closed.
Most relationships that end “without closure” were relationships that ended for a very good reason. As time goes by, we tend to forget all the negative reasons and look back at our relationship through rose-colored lenses.
When you’re seeking closure in your life, I always recommend inviting a trusted friend into the process. Make a list of reasons you needed to walk away and stay away—and then talk through it with your friend or mentor. And when you start to forget, and get to the point where you start thinking about opening the door again (because you totally will), use your friend or mentor to snap you back to reality when you need it the most.
For me, I believe a huge part of living with unanswered questions comes down to trust.
Because sometimes, it’s in the biggest question marks of life where we learn to really trust God the most. Trusting that He is good, trusting that He really loves us and trusting that His plan for our lives (with the ups and the downs and twists and turns) is better than anything we could have planned for ourselves. With or without all the answers.
Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor, relationship expert, speaker and author of several books, including True Love Dates. Debra is also the creator of the popular relationship advice blog TrueLoveDates.com, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.