Thursday, January 23, 2014

Seeking Closure

One thing I learned about relationships from television when I was growing up was that whenever something ended, you needed closure. It was everywhere, even though I was only vaguely aware of what it meant. Everyone was talking about needing to find closure--and not just regarding romantic relationships. Any ending is the beginning of our quest for closure.

Television taught me that closure was something you have to seek out. It's not just handed to you. You are Carrie Bradshaw, chain smoking in expensive shoes as you write this week's column. You are Rachel, with perfect hair despite the roller coaster that is your relationship with Ross. (Ok, that's a lot of female perspective. This behavior is not limited to ladies, though! High Fidelity--both the movie and the book, although I'd rank the book slightly higher if I'm being honest--is the story of a dumped man looking to figure out his relationship failures and seeking out closure from his worst breakups of all time.) You need to know why your relationship is over. You will go and claim the closure you are due!

So...what is closure, then? Right, if we're talking dictionary definition, it's a conclusion or the bringing to an end. got dumped. (Or you did the dumping, or you got fired, or a friend cut ties, or your shampoo was discontinued..) So there's definitely been an end. Closure is more than that. Closure is you accepting that it's over, whatever it is, and moving on with your life.

If you follow the Sex and the City Guide to Life (don't), then seeking closure means calling your ex or showing up at his apartment and demanding answers. (Sometimes it means sleeping with your ex one last time. That's a blog for another day.) But really, how will that conversation benefit you? This is something I was struggling with in the aftermath of my last relationship. Before it was Officially Over, Twin asked me, "Is there anything he could say that would make you forgive him?" Nope. The answer jumped out of my mouth quite easily. The damage was done. So when I was trying to make sense of the wreckage, I thought about talking to him again. What would I say? Well naturally I would ask why. (Plus or minus some choice words, depending on my mood.) What could he say that would make me feel better?

Well, I was an enormous dick and forgot how to act like an adult. In my pathetic attempts to juggle everything going on, I let you fall to the floor and forgot I was in a relationship. Did I mention I acted like a dick? Because I did. You deserved better than that. You didn't do anything wrong and nothing you could have done would change my actions. I'll always regret the way I treated you. Please accept this million dollar check as my apology. 

Yeah...that would probably make me feel better. But will he ever say that? Not likely. We experienced the end of our relationship separately--and differently. The truth is, I wouldn't like anything he said to me.

Here's what I think--I think closure comes from you. When I composed my ex's explanation, I decided that was the truth. To hear it from him, I would predict three possible outcomes: 1. His explanation sucks and I hate it and guess who is still angry? 2. His explanation is so beyond weird that I never could have come up with it and will probably have a hard time believing it. 3. I'm dead-on and my imagined explanation is exactly what happened. In that case I don't need to hear it. Maybe I'm altering history a little bit, but it helps me sleep at night so I don't really care. A university in the Netherlands did a study on apologies. Following an exercise, part of the group received an apology from their partner. The other part were told to imagine their partner apologizing. Those who imagined it were more satisfied with their apology than those who actually received one. Basically, those who imagined it heard exactly what they wanted to hear--and it turns out that we value that more than the reality of knowing the other person is sorry. 

Thanks for trying, 90s television, but I'm not asking for closure. I'm creating it and moving on.

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