What Is Closure and Why Do We Need It After Relationship Breakup

What Is Closure and Why Do We Need It after Relationship Breakup - final copy
February 17, 2021

According to closure psychology, some people struggle with ambiguous ends to relationships. It is understandable – it’s devastating when someone you love leaves with no clear explanation. You feel hurt, rejected, and confused. You want answers that justify the abrupt breakup. You hope that the answers will help you to make peace with the occurrence.

What is the need for closure? It is a psychological term that describes the desire for firm answers to questions and an aversion to uncertainty. In the relationship sense, it is the need to understand why a breakup occurred suddenly, with no explanation. This concept was introduced by researcher Arie Kruglanski in 1990.

Why Do We Need Closure From Broken Relationships?

People often seek closure from broken relationships because they valued the connection to their significant other. They want to understand what went wrong and which role they played in it. They believe that getting answers will help them to move forward.

The person who has been broken up with cannot psychologically reconcile a decision made without their consent. They do not understand the reasons behind it, so they are unable to navigate the aftermath. On the other hand, the person who made the decision has a clear picture of the situation. They know the reasons for the breakup so they can move on.

The Need for Closure Scale – Why Closure Is Important To Some More than Others

Following up on Kruglanski’s work, psychologists Donna Webster and Adena Klem established the need for a closure scale. It is a standardized way of measuring the variation in the human need for closure.  It has 42 questions and a 6 point rating for answers (1=strongly agree, 6=strongly disagree).

On the high end of the NFC scale are people who feel uncomfortable with ambiguity and prefer straightforward stories with simple morals. On the lower end of the scale are people who have an easier time with ambiguous endings and do not always seek explanations. They accept that sometimes things are the way they are.

How to Get Closure from a Broken Relationship

It is okay to want to meet your ex and ask all the questions on your mind. If your ex agrees to it, there might be a peaceful resolution that helps you move on. Do these three things to get closure after a broken relationship.

Reach Out to Your Ex

Open the communication channels so that you can request a meeting. Be polite yet firm in your request for their time. However, you must respect their boundaries. If your ex says no, accept it because you cannot force them to meet you. If your ex agrees to it, schedule a meeting.

Be Prepared to Hear Things You Might Not Like

Do not go into the meeting with preconceived notions of how it should go. Be open-minded, knowing that you might not hear good things. Whether the reason for the breakup was meeting someone new, or something you did wrong, allow your ex to speak. Accept their truth as is, and use that information to get the closure you need.

Use the Speaker-Listener Technique

The “speaker-listener” technique is a great way to have a meaningful conversation. Remain calm, listen, and think about what your ex is saying. Try to see things from their point of view instead of getting defensive. This is not to say that everything your ex is true. However, your meeting is for you to get answers and understand the reason behind the breakup. Once your ex is done speaking, you can express your point of view.

How to Get Closure on Your Own

When you get closure, you can re-structure the past, present, and future healthily. You understand what went wrong and use it as a stepping stone to future healthy relationships. However, when you are refused closure by an ex, the confusion can be overwhelming. You are left to wonder what you did wrong and why you were betrayed.

Without clear answers as to why a relationship ended, it is hard to move on. Not getting closure can be traumatic. It is why you need healthy coping mechanisms that help you move on without getting answers. You will realize that closure can come from within.

Journal/ Write a Letter

Writing down your emotions after a traumatic breakup is helpful. If you choose to write a letter, you do not have to send it. End your letter with a firm goodbye that signifies the end of that chapter of your life. Journaling is an effective tool, and you can do it as many times as you need to.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Constantly checking in on your ex and keeping track of them on social media will not let you heal. It is akin to peeling scabs on a wound and stopping it from healing. Cut your ex off completely. However, if you are co-parenting it might not be possible. Instead, set healthy boundaries that stop you from hoping for more from them.

Get Active

Fill your life with constructive activities that keep your mind off your ex. Go to the gym, start a project, learn a new craft, or get a new hobby. Improving yourself is one of the best ways to boost your self-esteem after a brutal breakup. It allows you to focus on loving yourself and putting all your energy into feeling better.

Embrace the Emotions

Emotions should be felt. Some days might be harder than others and you will try to stop the tide of emotions. Allow yourself to feel everything without reacting or reaching out to your ex hoping to feel better. Grieving a relationship is a process that only gets easier with time.

When to Seek Professional Counseling

Are you finding it too hard to move on after a sudden breakup? Have you tried to cope with your emotions unsuccessfully? Professional counseling can be helpful if you need closure after a breakup. Seek out a licensed counselor and learn how to move on from the loss of a loved one.

Kate Skurat

Kate Skurat

Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Washington, United States

Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach. Read more.

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