I was good at coming up with excuses.
I must send him another email (even though he didn’t respond to the first two) so that he knows the impact of what he’s done and it might prompt him to apologize.
I have to contact the police about his bigamy because it is a crime and he should face the legal consequences.
I need to look at his other wife’s blog so that I have an idea if he’s going to show up to court.
I read through scores of emails and stared at countless images of his face, all in the name of finding closure.
Yet with every message I sent his way, every piece of evidence collected for the court case, every glance at the other wife’s blog and every peak at his face or his words, what I was really doing was reopening the wound. Delaying healing all in the name of closure.
The concept of closure is a malleable one. Generally, people use the term to signify that they have harvested any lessons from the situation, found acceptance and are ready to move on. In that sense, closure is a respectable and desirable goal. The problem arises when the pursuit of closure is used as justification for detrimental behaviors.
Using Closure as an Excuse to Maintain Contact
It’s rarely easy limiting contact with your ex during a divorce. For some, they miss the companionship and reach out under the guise of “talking things out” in order to maintain the familiar friendship. Others bombard their ex with questions, convinced that they need these answers in order to understand the demise of the relationship. (Hint: You don’t actually need to understand in order to move on.) And then there are those like me that maintain “virtual” contact by following the ex’s actions online, with the pretense that the other person’s actions are somehow important to your own happiness (Spoiler alert – they’re not.).
There’s a reason that “no contact” with the ex is recommended whenever possible (and it’s possible in pretty much every case without children and can often be limited even when kids are in the picture). Whenever you have exposure to your ex during the healing process, the scab is ripped off and the wound reopened. Go back and look at the ultimate goals of closure – learning, acceptance and moving on. You’re not going to find any of those by seeing your ex smiling alongside some new hottie on their Instagram.
You’re Wanting Things to Be Different
Sometimes, closure really means, “I’m not happy with the reality and I’m going to keep poking at it until it matches my vision.” You can become convinced that if you ask the right questions or just dig deeply enough, you’ll discover that things aren’t as they appear.
In my case, I wanted evidence that he was remorseful for his actions. I convinced myself that I needed an apology (I didn’t) or at least some scrap of information that would demonstrate that he did love me and that he was heartbroken over the consequences of his choices.
This type of closure is in opposition to acceptance. Whenever you’re dictating what you want to find, you’re trying to make reality match your wishes. And that’s a losing battle.
When What You’re Looking for Doesn’t Exist
In seeking closure, many of us are looking for the neat and clean ending that wraps up most fictional stories. We want the lessons presented in an easy-to-understand format. We want the protagonist to find happiness and we want to see karma bite any bad guys in the tale. All of this makes for a great movie ending, but it doesn’t exist in the real world.
Life is messy. Any lessons that you can learn from your divorce won’t be found in a distilled moral to the story. Your happiness will be variable and karma may be stuck in traffic. Closure doesn’t mean that you will never again feel the pain and it doesn’t mean that you will forget. Closure simply means that you’re willing to let the past go.
And if you’re using closure as an excuse, maybe it’s time to let that go too.
And if you’re looking for healthy ways to create your own closure (that don’t require the participation of your ex), read this!