If you’ve ever spent an entire night tossing and turning, analyzing your past relationships and wondering why they fell apart why your relationship fell apart, I’m willing to bet you never got closure from your ex. Did they fall out of love? Could I have done something differently? Will one of us ever apologize? If one or all of your breakups left you with these kinds of questions replaying in your head, you’re probably struggling to fully move on.
"People have a hard time getting over someone because the questions of ‘how’ and ‘why’ are often unanswered," Dr. Marianna Strongin, a clinical psychologist and founder of Strong In Therapy, tells Bustle. Dr. Strongin explains that it can also be difficult to cope with rejection because it leaves the mind mulling over countless possibilities and explanations.
If the breakup didn’t happen face-to-face or seemingly occurred out of the blue, you’re even more likely to find yourself searching for closure. "People often end relationships through text, over the phone, or even worse, by ghosting," Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle.
One way to attempt to resolve any anger, confusion, or hurt you may be experiencing is by contacting your ex and attempting to have a "closure talk." However, whether you haven’t spoken or seen each other in five months or five years, figuring out what to say and how to reach out to your ex can feel as painful as sitting through Cats.
But experts say your best bet is to start by sending a simple text: "hey."
"We began making small talk about how the other has been," Kiedra, 34, explains. The conversation evolved naturally from there. "I asked what I did wrong, [and] what was wrong with the relationship. They told me I did nothing wrong. They just weren’t in the space to understand what they really needed from a relationship."
According to Bennett, diving in with everyday chit-chat can allow you both to feel more comfortable, which might organically build into bigger conversation topics. If you jump right in and ask about the end of your relationship right off the bat, Bennett says your ex might freeze up and get out of the pool.
Alternatively, you might consider calling or messaging your ex, then begin by thanking them for the positive elements of your past relationship — just like Tali, 47. "I reached out to an ex and told her how grateful I was for the relationship we had, how much she taught me," she says. "I wanted her to know I would always care about her and be there for her." If you and your ex didn’t necessarily end things on bad terms, or you don’t harbor resentment toward one another, expressing gratitude can create a safe space for further dialogue. For Tali, hearing those sentiments returned to her back to her was key to her closure. "We both were able to move on, knowing our feelings were genuine."
If you open up the communication waves with your ex, and they don’t respond in a positive way (or at all), know that their behavior isn’t a reflection of you or your relationship. According to Bennett, there’s no way to predict how your ex will feel post-breakup, so it’s best to prepare yourself for an underwhelming reaction. For Alicia, 37, that meant asking for remorse that her ex wasn’t able to provide. "I once reached out to a guy six months after he ghosted me," she says. "We went out for coffee, and he asked if we could be friends. I told him before I would consider it, I’d need an apology from him. I never got that apology."
But even if having a conversation doesn’t lead to any further understanding, or you feel reaching out would be triggering (which is totally fair), there are still ways to seek out closure after a breakup. Dr. Strongin suggests opening up to trusted friends and family or talking to a mental health professional. You could also try journaling, meditation apps, putting together a breakup playlist, or any combination of all of the above.
Closure looks, sounds, and feels different to everyone, and if you decide that contacting an ex and having "the talk" is the best way forward, then you know what’s best for you. But remember this: No ex is worth your beauty sleep.
Dr. Marianna Strongin, clinical psychologist and founder of Strong In Therapy
Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert at Double Trust Dating
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