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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What is Closure...Really?

A quick look-up of the word "closure" as it relates to psychology shows that closure is when you take something that is ambiguous or not-understood and find a resolution to it. In that sense, closure can be minimized as a simple question  ---->  answer process.

Relationship closure is a whole different beast, though. Ambiguity in a relationship, particularly one that's in crisis, can last for years and have many different layers. There are questions about the other, such as:

** Why is he/she acting like that?
** Is there someone else?
** Is my partner cheating/mentally ill/physically ill/stressed out?

And there are ambiguous questions about ourselves, such as:

** What did I do to cause this?
** Is it my fault?
** Could I have been better/sexier/funnier/richer/more attractive?
** What could I have done to make this relationship work?

The interplay of all of those unknowns can make it really challenging to find "closure" in any real sense of the word. How can you achieve closure when you're not sure if maybe you could have done something to prevent your relationship from falling apart?

In my work with pre-divorce/divorcing/and post-divorce individuals and couples, there is a palpable belief that closure can happen and it can happen in such a way as to make people feel better. As an optimist, I do believe closure can occur and it can be a relief. I also think of that type of closure as an "ideal" closure.

As a realist, I think we need to explore that a more "baseline" closure may happen instead and that baseline closure may have to suffice for awhile.

Recently, I was asked what word I would use that means the same thing as closure. I couldn't think of just one. Instead, I thought that closure (particularly baseline closure) is a mixture of 1) acceptance of the things that happened, 2) hope for the future, and 3) forward motion toward change.

Accepting what's happened isn't necessarily finding answers, but it's the acknowledgement that answers may not be found. In couples where one partner wants to know "WHY?" and the other partner still has ambiguity about that very same thing, answers won't be forthcoming. So, accepting that something happened and can't be changed is really that first step toward closure.

Secondly, developing or rekindling hope for the future is key to finding closure. If you can't envision a future for yourself that holds something positive, you won't move past needing to understand the "why" of your situation. You'll be constantly trying to find "the answer" because it feels like the answer has to come before the hope.

Finally, forward motion is the process of acting on your hope. Forward motion means making one change, or a whole bunch of changes, that propel you toward your positive vision of what the future will look like.

If you're in the process of trying to find closure, which stage best describes where you are right now? If you've achieved closure, how did you do it? What were the pivotal moments that told you that you'd gotten to where you needed to be?

Please feel free to email your responses or post them on this blog. You can reach me at You can also check out my website at for more information about achieving closure within relationships.

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