You Need Help: Closure Is Your Friend

Welcome to You Need Help! Where you seek advice and we try our very best to give it.

This has traditionally been done by way of individual Formspring accounts, Autostraddle’s Tumblr and a Formspring Friday column, which has all been very fun and insightful. But, because Formspring has a character limit and we’re wildly optimistic w/r/t our time-management skills, we thought we’d go one further and let you use our ASS private messaging to share advice-related feelings, too.

For more info on sending in questions, see the bottom of this post. Now let’s get down to bossing people around on the internet! Today we’re gonna talk about breaking your bones, your shitty ex-friend, and me, duh.

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Q:
A long-term friend outed me/cut contact/said she hated me w/o even telling me why. Now she’s back in my life and monopolizing my best friends. I’m not comfortable around her, but I feel like I have to choose between enduring it and being alone. Advice?

A:
You shouldn’t have to choose between enduring it and being alone, and you really don’t have to. Even though she was the jerk, how that makes you feel is ultimately your burden to bear. Your misery means nothing to her and it can’t be abated by your friends. This is good news, because if the problem is yours, then it’s also yours to solve. You can let it go or let it drive nails through your skull — it’s totally up to you!

I’m going to assume that Myrtle — we’re gonna call her Myrtle, because that was my penname in elementary school — isn’t still putting a concerted effort into making your life miserable, because it sounds more like you’re just avoiding her in general, which is also resulting in avoiding your friends. However, if Myrtle is actively being a goober, you should probably go ahead and let your friends know that you won’t be around as often, citing your overwhelming pull towards sanity and positivity and happiness. This will include looking for other ways to entertain yourself or finding support/validation somewhere beyond your current group of friends. Your very best friends will a) understand and b) work with you to figure out how you can still spend time together.

But honestly I’m leaning more toward my second option: closure.

Closure is a neat little thing with the potential to change lives and set everyone super free! However, the funny thing about closure is that no one involved really wants to go through the process — it’s mostly agonizing and terrible, kinda like re-breaking a bone that didn’t heal properly the first time. Actually yeah, closure is exactly like re-breaking a bone. But the fun part is that it’s generally worth it.

So if it seems like Myrtle isn’t going away anytime soon, you might want to think about just coming to terms with the fucked up things she did to you and letting them go. And if even the word ‘forgiveness’ makes you cringe, look at this more as the internalization of honesty (both yours and Myrtle’s), the acceptance of reality and the learning of a valuable lesson. For me, the lesson is usually that people can be real assholes, which sounds cynical and a little sad, but once I accepted this as truth, things were so much easier. Seriously. Instead of hoping or expecting someone — even the greatest friends! — to consistently be the good versions of themselves, I go ahead and carve out a place for them to be total assholes, so that when it happens — and it will — I can say “Ah yes, I anticipated this assholery. Here, I even made you an asshole room. You can stay here for a while, in your asshole room, asshole.” So the rest of my life can go on relatively unaltered, because I think the most shattering part of people being assholes is really just the shock of it all.

But enough about me! So you basically have two options: direct closure (via talking to dear Myrtle) and indirect closure (via talking to a different friend/therapist, etc). Either way, start by making a short list of things that feel unresolved so you can stay focused on the healing portion of this exercise, instead of getting caught up in the emotional time machine roller coaster. Also lists are just a good idea in general. Always make a list.

If you decide to go with direct closure, be prepared for Myrtle to be uncooperative and defensive. She’s under no obligation to explain herself to you or admit any wrongdoings on her part, so there’s a solid chance she won’t. You may never get the full story re: why she was so terrible to you, but it could be cathartic just to tell her what the world looked like from your side. I wouldn’t typically recommend going with the direct route, because it’s really the most painful and combative of the two, but since she insists on hanging around, this seems like the logical choice. Judging by her past behavior, I guess there’s reason to believe she won’t even agree to a conversation, in which case I suggest writing it all down on paper, followed by a list of all the ways your life improved after Myrtle was out of it. Then tear off the last part and tape it to your closet door.

If you go the indirect route, definitely choose a friend with the smallest potential for assholery. For this reason, a family member or therapist would probably be your best bets, or maybe I just have trust issues. Get the unresolved situations off your chest and be really kind when your friend gives you advice or shares their feelings. This can’t be a Myrtle’s Such A Bitch party, so stick to the list. Once everything has been covered and you feel really cleansed, let it go for good. Consider reading some books about forgiveness. I’ve never read a book about forgiveness, so I don’t have any recommendations.

You can also do a combo plate of both types of closure. You can’t change the past obviously, but you’re more or less in control of right now, so keep your little eyes on the horizon and spend the majority of your energy on the people and things that make you happy, regardless of who else is around.

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Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and she thinks you're fucking rad. She's 33, has two kids, two dogs, one Megan, some personal essays and a lot of emails in her inbox.

Laneia Nicole has written 352 articles for us.

27 Comments

  1. Thumb up 1

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    I’ve been working on the whole “closure” thing for a while now..I chose the “combo plate” approach..And while I think that closure, in theory, sounds great..I’m finding that life is just alot of loose ends.

  2. Thumb up 2

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    While I agree that sometimes, the act of direct confrontation can feel terrible, so can losing a friend without knowing the reason why. I dealt with a friend who kept leaving passive aggressive notes on her facebook wall and writing angry blog entries without including my name. I felt like she was referring to me, but when I would talk to her about it, she would play it off like we were cool. That went on for 3 (!!) years. Finally, she fessed up to being hurt by something that I did. She had every right to be upset at me, but if she had actually talked to me about it, we could have at least salvaged the relationship instead of having three years of a strained, unhealthy, fake friendship.

    Faking a friendship is just as bad as faking an orgasm. Neither party is ever really satisfied and you can’t right a wrong if you think what you’re doing is working.

    Also, here’s a fantastic article written by Rachel Wilkerson. Her writing spoke to me on the feelings of loss when breaking up with a friend.
    http://www.rachelwilkerson.com/2012/03/02/the-life-when-friendships-break/

    • Thumb up 2

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      I think this is the best advice. Yes, people we love will be assholes and to have that space already laid out for the day when the asshole arrives? Perfect indeed. Realistic expectations are key. Plus, this is really funny dialogue to have in one’s head.

  3. Thumb up 2

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    Also working on closure. My ex and best friend was a complete ass to me but it was in order to do the right thing for her and her feelings and I want to support her and be happy BUT it’s hard when she had to hurt me to get there. So, this was very good food for thought. Thanks Laneia.

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    I really like the analogy of closure as re-breaking a bone that didn’t heal properly. It sucks to have to go through all that pain again. And once it heals yet again, the weather changes and that motherfucker aches like hell, and it may never really completely go away. But it is really damn nice to be fully functioning again.

    Anywho, great advice. And the picture of the raccoon is pure genius.

  5. Thumb up 2

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    I would add to the indirect closure line: Time. It’s going to suck and you’re going to hate it and you probably healed the wound that she reopened and rehealing wounds is always harder than the first healing, so it will take time. The asshole room is a good place for that person to spend that time.

  6. Thumb up 0

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    Sometimes, friendships need space. I had a really bad fight with a friend a few years ago, where both of us were really mean, but the time apart really gave me space. Now I am in a space to acknowledge the role in the argument and she is more honest..

  7. Thumb up 2

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    Really good timing on this one for me… just had four of the shittiest days of my life and now this boy I liked is dating some other boy that I used to like and my evil ex is dating a girl I used to make out with and argh I really should just let it all go. /end rant

  8. Thumb up 2

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    I still hold on to relationship-related anger from like two years ago, and I’ve been wondering if I should try to talk to her about it. It was a very messy situation and she didn’t “technically” do anything wrong, but she did hurt me. Looking back, removed the emotional intensity of that time, I’m more objective about it and am able to see the role I played, but I also see how legitimate my feelings of betrayal were, and how insensitive she truly was.

    I haven’t achieved full closure, because I’ve never really… talked about it. With anyone. Not her, not anyone. It was just me continuing to live every day, and TIME of course, that helped. I am basically over it, but I know that there is definitely residual anger. I don’t think that will ever go away unless I can express it to her, which I never did initially. It’s just been so long that I don’t know if it’s worth it, in terms of our current friendship and in terms of, like, my own emotional needs.

    Aaaaanyway! I don’t know I don’t know that’s all. It actually felt sort of cleansing to just write it out here. :-)

  9. Thumb up 0

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    Closure is definitely the way to go. I’ve found the combo plate approach helps, but really Lauren up in the comments there is right, a lot of it is Time. Time and figuring out that regardless of a friendship ending and the truly terrible feelings that come with it, you deserve to be happy. Really really happy. It really is true!

  10. Thumb up 2

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    Honestly if people consistently invalidate me I cut them out of my life and if I have to give up a friends circle to do it, well so be it. It’s sad but I have learned at this point in my life that I have to protect myself and so often closure/forgiveness advice really means well tough shit swallow that awful treatment and like it because you have no alternative. Not what I think the point of this article is but I’m just saying.

  11. Thumb up 0

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    Great advice!

    I’ve taken a copy of the Raccoon card & I’m keeping it for when I need it. I’ve had a few people at my work get on my wrong side, and it’s open plan so you can’t just go up to them and talk. The Raccoon card is perfect.

  12. Thumb up 2

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    Dear experimenting straight girl,

    You were a douche.

    Thanks to Laneia’s closure article, I can now say those words.

    No love,
    Autolurker

    P.S. Love the racoon. And this advice. And everything about this post, generally.

  13. Thumb up 2

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    This is so relevant to my life right now, it’s not even funny. I used to be horrible at this sort of thing, but I’m trying to be better about it with regard to my current situation because, honestly, holding onto all that rage and hurt is EXHAUSTING.

    I think it’s important to remember that forgiveness isn’t really about the person you’re forgiving–it’s more about you, and letting all of the shit go. I used to hold on to things for a really, really long time because I thought forgiving someone who never said they were sorry meant I was letting them get away with whatever messed up thing(s) they did. When I started looking at forgiveness in a different way, it got a lot easier.

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