You Need Help: Will I Ever Get Over My First Ex or Is Closure a Myth

Q:

Hi! Is closure a myth???? Will I get over her completely?? I’ve done a lot of work this year to heal from a very devastating first breakup. In summary: after four years and tbh a lot of codependency, I moved across the country, she emotionally cheated on me, and after me struggling to end it, she finally broke up with me. I sent one (1!) very civil email a month no contact after the breakup being like idk how to be friends? (When we broke up over facetime there were so many tears and promises of us remaining friends lmao.) I’m not proud of this, but I had our mutual friend check her email to see that she had left it unread. Shortly after, I caught myself posting snapchat stories because I could see her watching them (not healthy I KNOW), so I eventually unfriended/unfollowed her and all her family on every social media thing I could think of. Flash forward- I’ve been living my life WELL and away from my home state, and in a few months I’m visiting family where she will presumably still be. Would it be crazy to text when I’m there and try to get closure/establish friendship contact??? out of a face to face? A year later? I really thought we were going to grow old together, but I recognize I was hurting myself so much trying to make it work. And really, thinking about it, I don’t even know if I want to be friends? Any advice is so welcome!

A:

Closure is not a myth. However, the type of closure you seem to want is… mostly a myth. It sounds to me like you want to receive the kind of closure that relies on another person either meeting you halfway or providing the sense of closure entirely. I am here to tell you that closure is a choice. It’s one that you make for yourself. You can’t bank on someone else giving you closure, because when it comes to breakups, most of the time you’re just not going to get it.

There are exceptions, of course. But for the most part, the kind of closure you’re talking about takes a lot of time and a lot of work—work that doesn’t really make sense to do outside of the context of a relationship and friendship. And it sounds to me like even though there were promises of staying friends during the initial breakup (which is very common!), neither of you have a lot of interest in being friends. You yourself admitted to her that you don’t know what that looks like, and she made it clear that she doesn’t want to move forward with friendship since she did not open the email or reply (I know it may feel shitty to you that she didn’t verbally set this boundary, but it’s still a clear boundary that she set, and as hard as it is to leave that email just dangling there, you should respect it). 

You even end your question with saying that you don’t even know if you want to be friends. This makes it pretty clear to me that it’s not something you want, especially since some of your behaviors reflect it (the unhealthy social media habits are not a great way to build friendship, for example). It’s perfectly fine to not want to be friends with an ex. It’s one of those things that sounds good in theory but is difficult in practice, especially since there was some element of betrayal before the breakup. I don’t know exactly what emotional cheating looked like in your situation, but if it was enough to make you classify it as such, it does sound like some form of betrayal. And the thing about friendship is that it requires trust, too! If you weren’t able to rebuild that trust before the breakup, it’d be very difficult but necessary work if you were going to pursue a friendship with this person. And you even say that it hurt you to try to make things work. That really signals that a relationship is broken, and you can’t start a friendship from that broken place.

I try to veer away from being too prescriptive when I give advice, but if you want me to be plainly honest: I don’t think you should text your ex. You have reservations about friendship, and she appears to tacitly have reservations, too. Also, if you go into a situation expecting closure, I think you could be setting yourself up for disappointment and more pain. Closure that relies on another person is extremely hard to come by. 

But like I said, closure can be a personal choice. Closure can look like you doing the work to move on. Your ex can’t help you with that. It sounds like you’ve already taken great strides toward moving forward with your life. You said so yourself that you’re living your life WELL in the time since the breakup. If you’re doing well without your ex, doesn’t it sound like a risk to invite them back in, especially when you struggled so much when working on the relationship pre-breakup?

And I get it: Breakups suck! In general, losing someone who was once a constant part of your life really sucks. But based on the information you’ve provided, the cost of keeping this person in your life seems to outweigh the benefit. Being friends with an ex is lovely and works in some situations, but don’t fault yourself for not being able to make it work. I think there’s sometimes extra pressure in the queer community to stay friends with exes, and that comes from stereotypes and cultural expectations. But it simply doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s absolutely okay. 

Letting go is sometimes all that closure really is. Honestly, you’ll probably never get to a point where you never think about this person. Eternal Sunshine technology does not exist! And a person’s first breakup can feel especially dire. Again, it takes time. And I think if you start to let go of this idea about receiving closure from her, it will help you get to a better place.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a writer and critic currently living in Orlando. Her pop culture writing can also be found at The A.V. Club and The Hollywood Reporter, and she wrote the webseries Sidetrack. You can catch her on Twitter and Instagram.

Kayla has written 237 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. I love this advice. I once had a wonderful „closure talk“ months after a horrible break-up (and getting cheated on) but it was at a moment in my life where I didn‘t need it any longer. (We had to talk because we were both invited to the wedding of a mutual friend.) I already was at peace with the relationship and had found my narrative why it ended. To hear the other side was kind of a gift but not necessary. My advice would be: Wait it out until you don‘t hope to hear something that you suppose will help you getting closure in some way.

  2. i literally had a dream last night about this like, fantasy closure talk with my first ex so reading this genuinely helped me today. i hope the person struggling with this is able to find some sort of closure within themselves. it’s been…three years and she’s like married to someone else and everything now but i still think of her a lot. i still want that like, movie version of a closure talk, i probably always will, but it is helpful to remind myself that my life is full and good now and i am missing the parts of that relationship that were good while ignoring the things that made it not work out.

    • I my ex broke up with me like 4 years ago, but it took so long for me to get over it. I feel you on having the dreams! I still get them from time to time. I do the same and remind myself of take off the rose tinted glasses. Not having real closure totally sucks. Everytime I think of something positive about them, I try to remember it in context. Everything is pretty in a bubble. I like to think once I find a new person to fawn over, thoughts of my ex will fade. (It is still tricky though)

  3. Can I weigh in as a relative Old (based on AS demographics)? My first partner and I broke up 15 years ago under less than ideal circumstances. It was EXCRUTIATING. It felt physically painful. It took some distance and time but now we text a few times a week and have kids the same age. We have both, at different times, expressed our warmth/attraction towards each other and kind of wistfully talk about what could have been, had we been at different places in our lives. I don’t know if many people ever fully get over their first long term partner, especially among queer folks where some of us are in similar situations to us… We are both married but there is enough wiggle room that we can ethically express our attraction to each other (I don’t think I know literally any straight people who can ethically do this). Sending strength your way. I hope you get what you need out of this relationship, and years from now you can look back on the good parts with warm feelings.

  4. my ex reached out to me recently (they dumped me in a pretty shit way) and they just wanted to small talk which was confusing and a bit frustrating. BUT it really showed me that I had actually found a lot more closure on my own than I had really realized before we talked. Nothing they said really gave me closure, but realizing that I had throughout the whole breakup and since been able to be honest, vulnerable, and true to myself helped me realize I’ve really let go of what happened and feeling stuck in search for closure from them.

  5. This is great advice, especially since Social Distancing has made me do some hardcore introspection work.
    ALSO, the woman in the feature image looks kinda like a cross between Laneia and Kristen Stewart, which is to say a bit frustrated but hotttt

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