What Is Closure in a Relationship?

How to get — and give — closure after a relationship ends
By Paired
on June 12, 2023
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

Closure in a relationship is the feeling of acceptance that allows you to move on when a relationship ends. However, knowing how to get over a relationship is different for everyone and doesn’t always come easily. 

Here, we look at how to get closure in a relationship, how to give closure to an ex-partner, and why a sense of closure is good for your well-being and future relationships.

What does it mean to get closure in a relationship?

“Closure” is a term you hear a lot in the context of relationships, but not everyone has the same need for closure. The type of relationship you had with your ex-partner, how it ended, and your personality and previous experiences all play a role. 

Uncertainty and lack of understanding can make a sense of closure difficult to achieve. Unanswered questions can be one of the hardest parts of being on the receiving end of a breakup. 

In the case of ghosting, this is even worse. Perhaps your ex-partner blindsided you with the end of the relationship and refused to discuss it further. Maybe they simply stopped replying to messages or phone calls and blocked you on social media. If you had no idea your former partner was planning to end things, it’s natural to have questions about their reasons or to want to explain your point of view.

On the other hand, a drawn-out breakup can keep us trapped in negative emotions and unable to start the healing process. Even if the end of your relationship wasn’t a complete surprise, it may still feel hard to let go. If you find yourself struggling to move on without answers from your former partner, this could be a sign you need to get closure.

If you need closure, it may feel like the only solution is to get these answers from your ex or to tell them how you feel. In some cases, it will be possible to have a healthy discussion with your former partner about what went wrong. In others, you might have to find your closure by yourself.

How to get closure in a relationship

There’s nothing wrong with reaching out to an ex-partner and asking to talk, especially in the case of ghosting or an abrupt end of the relationship. However, think about what you want out of this conversation first. Are you hoping to get back together? Do you know the conversation won’t be constructive, but you’re trying to maintain your emotional attachment at all costs? Be honest with yourself before you try and re-open communication. Some difficult or painful conversations can set back the healing process.

Maybe you want to get closure by expressing your feelings to your former partner, rather than needing answers from them. You may feel they got to express themselves but robbed you of your chance to do the same, by ghosting or ending communication. Instead of helping you let go, this type of conversation can also fuel negative emotions and make it harder to move on by keeping you fixated on the past relationship.

It may be helpful to vent your feelings to friends or family members, or by journaling, before contacting your ex. If there are things you can only say to your former partner, consider drafting a letter or email and promising yourself you won’t send it until you’ve had three months of no contact. If you still feel the need to speak to them, “I feel” statements and other communication tools can help keep the conversation constructive.

Getting your closure

Even if you have the best intentions, your ex may not be willing or able to resolve your unanswered questions. They might not respond at all or, if they do, you might not get the answers you wanted or needed. The only way to guarantee getting closure is to work on it yourself.

Talking things through with friends and family members can help you understand the end of the relationship and work through your feelings about it. Journaling and spending time on other hobbies and interests will also help you move on once a relationship ends. Consider a period of no contact with your partner and hide them from your social media. You can still be friends in the future if you both want to, but you need to get your own closure first.

Focusing on your own wellness and mental health instead of grudges or uncertainty related to a broken relationship is key to moving on. As well as loved ones, it may help to talk to a therapist to gain insight.

“Sometimes it's hard to come to terms with the end of a relationship, even if you have a lot of information and spend a lot of time talking about it with your ex-partner. You may never agree with their perspective and struggle to find closure,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Relationship Expert at Paired.

"Radical acceptance can be helpful in allowing your body to move forward without all the puzzle pieces fitting together. It may be difficult, but accepting that you may never fully understand the situation can help you stop obsessively searching for more information. If you struggle with closure or find yourself stuck in the past, this can be a helpful technique to try."

How to give closure in a relationship

Perhaps you were the partner to end things, and want to give closure to your ex. Of course, if your relationship was toxic, controlling, or abusive, you’re not obligated to give them closure. If your relationship was healthy, you might be thinking about how to help your ex-partner move on.

Avoiding difficult conversations can be tempting because you don’t want to hurt your former partner, but ghosting can cause even more negative emotions in the long run. Even if it’s hard, communication is just as important when ending healthy relationships as maintaining them. Consider scheduling a conversation with your ex following the end of the relationship, so you can both begin the healing process.

When and how to talk to your partner will depend on your relationship and how you both cope with the breakup. A coffee, phone call, or spending time writing emails or longer messages might be the best way to resolve unanswered questions. Remember, even if you want to give your ex closure, you’re still entitled to setting boundaries. Just because you agree to a phone call doesn’t mean you have to be constantly available for follow-up communication. A period of distance and no contact on social media following your final conversation may be the healthiest way to let go, even if you become friends in the future.

What are the benefits of getting closure?

Research suggests that getting closure can have a positive impact on well-being and future relationships. Getting your own closure following the end of a relationship is beneficial to your mental health and your future emotional attachments.

Whether you get closure from communication with your former partner or working on it yourself, it’s important not to rush the healing process. Truly moving on from a romantic relationship can take time and may involve painful negative emotions. The benefits will be clear when you form a healthy new relationship or enjoy single life free from grudges and uncertainty.

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