Why Closure Matters – Navigating the End of Relationships

— Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy.

No relationship is promised a lifetime of eternity.

People break up romances and end friendships for many reasons. And it’s always traumatic to face the end of a relationship we invested so much in.

The most pain comes from not knowing whether to wait or move on. A closure can ease that pain of uncertainty.

A closure after a relationship ends can be more than just saying goodbye for the last time. It can teach us to better handle our feelings if/when our next heartbreak happens.

Let’s understand it better.

What is closure in a broken relationship?

Closure is the emotional and mental process of finding a resolution and finality in a broken relationship. It conclusively answers the question about the future of the relationship and acknowledges the breakdown. It allows both to move on from the past love and prepare for future connections.

Closure is not just “closing the chapter” or “drawing the final line.” It’s an acceptance and commitment process that lets us find our peace and focus on our own well-being and growth.

The REAL Secret To Getting Closure (It's not what you think...) (Matthew Hussey, Get The Guy)

Psychologists prefer to use the term “need for closure” or “need for cognitive closure.”

It refers to the human desire for a firm answer to a question or doubt and the corresponding aversion to ambiguity or uncertainty.

The concept of closure is relevant in various domains of life, mostly involving interpersonal relationships, where the desire for closure or cognitive closure is associated with the need to find a resolution or understanding after the end of a relationship.

Closure = the process of letting go of an intimate relationship and gaining peace.

A closure declares that the emotional ties that once bonded us to another person do not exist anymore. And so, it’s time to move forward and tend to the grief we’re feeling because of the loss.

the process of closure in relationships
Closure In Relationship Cycle

Why is closure important in a relationship?

Closure is a human need when a relationship ends. It can teach us many things, like how to set healthy boundaries for future relationship bliss.

It eliminates any doubt about whether the people involved are willing to reconcile their differences and reunite, or accept that the relationship is over and continue with their individual lives.

Here’s why it’s important to achieve closure in a relationship:

  1. Processing of Difficult Emotions: Closure is an essential tool enabling us to sift through our feelings about the relationship, understand the reasons for its end, and deal with the aftermath of the breakup.
  2. Addressing Guilt and Other Feelings: Closure in a relationship helps partners confront guilt and other lingering emotions. It gives an opportunity to express feelings openly, enabling the resolution of any unresolved issues. This helps attain peace and reduces stress associated with the past relationship.
  3. Reducing Stagnation: Closure allows us to move past the feeling of being ‘stuck’ in a relationship that is bygone. It helps us break free from the repeating loop of re-living past emotions and scenarios.
  4. Lessons Learned from Breakups: Closure encourages reflection on lessons learned from the relationship, fostering growth and self-improvement. By understanding what went wrong and identifying areas for personal development, individuals become better equipped for healthier future relationships.
  5. Promoting Personal Growth: The process of seeking closure motivates us to introspect, so we can learn from our experiences. This self-understanding helps foster resilience and personal growth.
  6. Moving Forward after Closure: Achieving closure facilitates moving forward, letting go of the emotional baggage associated with past relationships. This sense of closure provides a fresh start for both partners, paving the way for new beginnings.
  7. Facilitating Forgiveness: As we seek closure, we are often led towards forgiving ourselves and our former partner. This forgiveness serves as an emotional release, setting us free from negative emotions like regret, resentment, revengefulness, and bitterness.
  8. Dealing with Unexpected Grief: Occasionally, feelings of grief may arise long after the relationship has ended. Closure offers a safe space to process such unexpected emotions, contributing to emotional well-being.
  9. Boosting Self-esteem: Achieving closure often requires acknowledging one’s worth and asserting the need for happiness and peace. This process can boost our self-esteem, reminding us that we deserve fulfilling and respectful relationships.
  10. Establishing Emotional Stability: Closure allows us to regain control over our emotions. It helps us move from a state of emotional turmoil to a more stable, balanced, and peaceful state of mind.
  11. Encouraging Acceptance: Seeking closure involves accepting the end of the relationship. This acceptance is critical as it helps us to embrace reality and let go of false hopes or illusions.
  12. Creating Room for New Relationships: When we achieve closure, we effectively free up emotional space that was previously occupied by unresolved feelings. This allows us to open ourselves to new relationships and experiences.
  13. Alleviating Anxiety: The uncertainty and unanswered questions that often follow a breakup can trigger anxiety. Closure helps by providing answers, or at least acceptance of the situation, thus reducing anxiety.
  14. Nurturing Hope: Finally, closure nurtures hope. It reminds us that there’s life beyond the ended relationship, fostering optimism for what the future holds.

Closure allows you to disengage from old emotional bonds and open up for future relationships. It helps you focus on your own well-being and growth.

Without closure, you could be stuck with unresolved negative feelings and take longer than necessary to get back to your usual self and be ready to make new connections.

“After closure, the partners decide not to linger on unresolved conflicts and emotional turmoil. They’re not denying the hurt, but choosing not to carry it forward.”

– Dr. Sandip Roy
Why-is-closure-important-when-relationships-break

Is it okay to reach out for closure?

Yes, it’s okay to reach out for closure. It removes the painful doubt about the future of the relationship.

It can also give insight into the dynamics of the relationship and help accept its finality, fostering a focus on personal growth.

However, the closure process must be approached with respect and consideration for the other person’s feelings and boundaries.

We must also understand that closure comes from within and not always from the responses or actions of the other person.

So while reaching out for closure might help, it’s equally important to turn the focus on self-healing and self-compassion, which are key components of attaining closure.

Why do broken relationships need closure?

We need to achieve closure so we can move on from the broken relationship and start new, healthier ones.

A closure acts as a compass, directing us toward acceptance and emotional recovery.

In a way, it also acts as a notice board that lays out what we can and cannot expect from the relationship in the future.

A closure allows us to understand what led to the relationship’s breakdown. It smoothens the raw edges of the emotional aftermath of a relationship’s end.

It helps to let go of past ties, driving personal evolution and post-traumatic growth.

Do we need closure to forgive?

There are a few reasons why people might need closure in order to forgive. First, closure can help provide answers to questions about the relationship.

For example, they might want to know why the relationship ended, what behaviors were unacceptable or disliked, and what they could have done more or differently.

Closure can also provide a sense of finality, which often comes with forgiveness for past mistakes, which can make it easier for the person to move on.

However, closure is not always necessary for forgiveness. Some people are able to forgive without ever receiving closure.

In these cases, the person may simply decide that they are no longer willing to hold onto anger or resentment. They realize that forgiveness is not about the other person, but about their own personal healing.

Ultimately, the decision to forgive is a personal one. There is no right or wrong answer, but what can help one decide is to understand what forgiveness means and what it does not expect one must do.

A struggle to forgive someone can be resolved by seeing forgiveness as a move to banish the other person from your mental space and fill up that space with positive thoughts and emotions.

What is closure in psychology?

In psychology, closure is formally referred to as the “need for closure” or “need for cognitive closure.”

The term “need for (cognitive) closure” was coined by social psychologist Arie Kruglanski in the 1990s. He defined it as “a desire for a definitive answer to a question, even if the answer is negative.”

“Need for closure” can be high in some people, who have intense feelings of anxiety and distress after the unexpected loss or end of emotional attachment.

  • People with a high need for closure may desperately need to understand why a relationship ended, even if it is painful to do so.
  • They may expect a negative evaluation from their partner (“You were someone who always expected gifts but never gave any”), but still, they need it.
  • They also tend to experience more negative emotions, like anxiety and anger, when they cannot get closure.
  • They are also more likely to make impulsive decisions, such as getting back together with an ex-partner or lashing out at someone (such as an ex-partner) who has wronged them.

However, there are also some benefits to having a high need for closure. Such people are more likely to make plans for the future and take decisive action. They are more likely to learn from their mistakes and successfully move forward in their lives.

Various factors may influence closure, including attachment styles, social comparison, personal beliefs, residual limerence, and spirituality.

  • Studies indicate understanding a relationship’s narrative can lead to successful closure by making sense of feelings and experiences.
  • Attachment styles also impact how people handle breakups and seek closure. Those with secure attachments usually cope better, while those with avoidant or anxious styles may struggle.
  • Social comparison can influence closure as people might compare their healing processes to others. This can hinder authentic healing.
  • An individual’s mood is also crucial as it can affect their ability to move past a relationship’s end. Psychological support is often beneficial in these situations.
  • Finally, personal beliefs and spirituality can offer comfort and aid in closure. Especially when facing a loved one’s death, spiritual beliefs can provide a framework for coping with loss and attaining peace.

Further Reading

  • Fletcher, G. J. O., & Simpson, J. A. (2000). Ideal Standards in Close Relationships: Their Structure and Functions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9(3), 102–105. doi.org/10.1111/1467-8721.00070
  • Butler, E. A., & Randall, A. K. (2013). Emotional Coregulation in Close Relationships. Emotion Review, 5(2), 202–210. doi.org/10.1177/1754073912451630
  • Righetti, F., & Impett, E. (2017). Sacrifice in close relationships: Motives, emotions, and relationship outcomes. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 11(10), e12342. doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12342
  • James G. Barnes (1994) Close to the customer: But is it really a relationship?, Journal of Marketing Management, 10:7, 561-570, DOI: 10.1080/0267257X.1994.9964304

FAQs

  1. Why is closure essential for moving on?

    Closure is essential for moving on because it helps individuals process the end of a relationship and understand the reasons behind its conclusion. Achieving closure allows people to let go of lingering feelings, accept the situation, and ultimately move forward in a healthy manner. Without closure, individuals may find it difficult to emotionally detach from their past relationships, potentially hindering their ability to form new connections.

  2. How does one achieve closure in a relationship?

    Achieving closure in a relationship often involves open communication, self-reflection, and acceptance. It may be necessary to discuss unresolved issues with the partner or to seek professional help, such as therapy. Understanding the reasons for the relationship’s end and learning from the experience can lead to a sense of closure.

  3. What role does closure play in emotional well-being?

    Closure plays a significant role in emotional well-being as it provides a sense of resolution after the end of a relationship. It allows individuals to process their emotions, learn from past experiences, and build resilience. By attaining closure, people can move forward without the burden of unresolved feelings and focus on their emotional growth.

  4. How can you get closure from a toxic relationship?

    Getting closure from a toxic relationship may require establishing boundaries and limiting contact with the person. This could involve ending communication altogether, seeking professional support, and focusing on self-care. Reflecting on the relationship’s harmful aspects can help individuals recognize patterns and make healthier choices in future connections.

  5. Is it necessary to have closure in every relationship?

    While closure may not be necessary for every relationship, it is generally beneficial for moving on and maintaining emotional well-being. However, the process of achieving closure varies for each individual and relationship. Some may find closure through reflection and acceptance, while others may need to have conversations or seek professional help.

  6. What are some ways to seek closure from a partner?

    Seeking closure from a partner typically involves open dialogue, honest communication, and the sharing of feelings and perspectives. It may be helpful to ask questions, clarify misunderstandings, and express emotions in a respectful manner. For some, closure may be achieved through a mutual decision to end the relationship, while others may require ongoing dialogue or professional support.

Final Words

A closure closes a chapter of life, signaling we need to move on and heal. It also lets people know why a relationship failed.

It can help give structure to our thoughts and emotions after a breakup and resolve our unexpressed issues.

Key Takeaways

  • Closure helps individuals move on from past relationships and emotional ties
  • Achieving closure is necessary for mental and emotional well-being after a breakup
  • Understanding the importance of closure leads to healthier boundaries and personal growth in future relationships

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