It's not you; it's me, not understanding you (Closure Edition)
May 23, 2016 2:56 AM   Subscribe

What characterizes someone for whom closure is anathema? Or at least, feels no drive toward closure, and is perfectly OK with broken, messy, unresolved relationships? (Not just romantic or interpersonal ones... but those are what matter most IMO.)

You "don't do final." You don't want to talk. You avoid me when I seek you out for That Conversation. You want to jump ahead and act like things are fine. You do not seem to care that this is impossible for me.

I am the opposite. I can become physically ill with the anxiety and lack of resolution in such situations. I believe I know why, and what this says about me. I am not looking for advice on how to change this, or to become more accepting of non-closure situations, etc. That is a whole separate issue.

In understanding this type of person, I hope to become more accepting of that form of behavior; and therefore, better equipped to handle it in my life.

Right now, such people affect me very negatively because I cannot understand them. The situations in which I am aligned with such people affect me quite disproportionately. I tend to internalize the lack of motivation to resolve things. "If he/she cared, they would want to talk; but since they shut down closure attempts from me, they must not care..." This eats away at me.

Again- do not want advice about myself. I want to know what closure avoidance says about those who practice it. The person for whom closure does not matter; who may actively seek to avoid closure situations or conversations, etc., does so because... ?
posted by I_Love_Bananas to Human Relations (49 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Some people avoid conflict. It may not be that it doesn't matter to them as much as they find these conversations very, very difficult and even triggering.

In the same way not having these conversations makes you feel badly, having them affects them similarly. For them, the thing is over, talking about things upsets them and they want to avoid that.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:11 AM on May 23, 2016 [25 favorites]

Sometimes, it feels like there's nothing to gain from a conversation. In fact, I may know that even though we're upset with each other right now, in the long term this problem we're having isn't a big deal... unless we make it a big deal by having a huge dramatic talk about it.

Sometimes leaving the issue alone for a few weeks or months or years is more productive. Nothing is said that can't be taken back, and we both grow past the moment when that fight (or issue, or whatever it was) seems pretty irrelevant.

Sometimes the desire for "closure" is actually a desire for a specific outcome that is never, ever going to happen. "I just want him to know how much he hurt me." "I just wish she'd understand where I was coming from." I don't control other people's minds, so I can't make those kinds of closure happen. Outcomes based in someone else's feelings or comprehension aren't necessarily achievable, and getting hung up on accomplishing those gets in the way of working past something for myself.

Sometimes the desire for "closure" is about rewriting my self-conception so I'm happier with myself. "I know I hurt you, but I want to talk to you about it until you tell me that it wasn't really my fault and I'm still a good person." That's an extra burden to put on that person. If I hurt them, maybe I need to apologize and then give them some room. My self-image is my problem, and if it took a ding because I hurt someone, the person I hurt does not owe me repairs.

Sometimes, I've just had enough. I've reached a point with the other person where I don't like or trust them and I can't imagine that there's any value to further conversations, because I won't be able to believe what they say and I don't even want to restore a relationship.
posted by shattersock at 3:12 AM on May 23, 2016 [104 favorites]

"Closure situations" rarely provide any sort of resolution or clarification, and usually just prolong drama in my experience. Moving on is a highly internal, individual process which can't be rushed or forced. Disliking "closure" is not necessarily an avoidance of resolution but often an acceptance of the messiness of human emotion.

So... I guess I'm one of the people you're talking about?
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:13 AM on May 23, 2016 [34 favorites]

People run the whole gambit between "let it all hang out, dissect every bean on the plate" and "stiff upper lip, soldier on like everything is fine." Neither of those extremes is better than the other.

You "don't do final." You don't want to talk. You avoid me when I seek you out for That Conversation. You want to jump ahead and act like things are fine. You do not seem to care that this is impossible for me.

In this situation, the person who would rather avoid than confront is prioritizing their comfort (not talking) over yours (talking.) The person who wants closure is very motivated to avoid ambiguity; the person who doesn't want closure is very motivated to avoid he avoidant person is avoiding the pain of confrontation, examination and blame or shame.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:15 AM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Usually I avoid long conversations with someone about a particular issue because I have realized that those conversations don't get us anywhere.

This might sound mean, but--for example--sometimes the main issue is that the other person just seems to want to be upset about something. So there's no way for me to help them solve the problem or comfort them, because they just want to wallow. And I understand that sometimes people need to wallow, and I don't mind being a listener like that in my private life sometimes, but when more than half of our conversations become about their wallowing, then I'm not really interested in continuing to engage with them.

Or--as another example--sometimes I find that the person wants to have a big dramatic conversation about something when I think a short non-dramatic conversation works just as well. If we've already had a short non-dramatic conversation about something that cleared up a misunderstanding or where someone apologized, then I feel like the issue is over and we should move on. I have known people who want to have that same conversation multiple times (each time getting more and more dramatic), and I just don't get why.

Or--as a final example--I've never found that talking more about a break-up (with the person I was in a relationship with) makes me feel better. In fact, it has always made me feel worse. So I've decided that the best way for me to get closure is to move on and live my life, because that is the way that I get over things and feel settled in my heart.
posted by colfax at 3:22 AM on May 23, 2016 [14 favorites]

Outside of dating, I don't know where I'd ever need to have a closure conversation.

Yeah, to add to what Metroid Baby said, I also avoid these because they never go well. It's just the other person basically cataloguing everything they found wrong with me in an attempt to help me understand their point of view.

The person wanting to talk usually just wants an uninterrupted forum to explain why I drove them crazy.

Those conversations I avoid.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:27 AM on May 23, 2016 [12 favorites]

Closure might be a bit of a media creation that doesn't really exist in real life in its pure form. In my experience things are messy and often stay messy, there's rarely a neat resolution. No light bulb moments.
posted by fixedgear at 3:36 AM on May 23, 2016 [16 favorites]

Closure isn't inherently constructive or good; one needs to believe in it for it to work. ALL persons involved in an interaction need to believe in it.

Some answers above make clear that some people simply don't anticipate any positive outcome, for instance, from talking things through. It only requires one person of the two to believe that seeking resolutions or clarification "prolong drama," and it won't be possible any longer to work toward a constructive kind of closure together. If, on the other hand, two persons believe in talking through as a method of cleaning the air and getting things out of the way, they'll likely also be able to move on after talking, and no drama needs to be prolonged at all.

So it may not be so much a matter of understanding "this type of person" as a blanket thing. Try to see every situation as unique; get to know the difference between your perspective and goal and the other person's. If the goals are different, naturally the method chosen to reach these goals will differ, too.
posted by Namlit at 3:49 AM on May 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

There may be a connection here - not sure in which direction - between taste in stories and need for "closure" in relationships. I've been accused/noted as someone with a high tolerance for leaving relationships off in a messy or complicated state. I also enjoy a lot of books and movies with ambiguous endings and unclear character motivation. Life is not a tidy story, things don't always make sense, and people often lack consistent motivation for doing what they do. Humans are messy and weird and there are no rules to the universe saying that"closure" is even necessarily possible, so I don't do out of my way to hunt for it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:51 AM on May 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

What if it truly is because they don't care? It seems like you want to be reassured that lack of closure can coexist with an ex still caring about you. That the reason they don't want closure is anything but indifference. But the truth is that sometimes people are just meh about us. I promise you that it is not a referendum on your worth as a person. I can think of someone as not worth spending more time and energy on for me, but that doesn't mean I don't respect their humanity or think they're bad or worthless in general. I think reasons differ for different people but usually for me in that situation I am just depleted emotionally and ready to cut my losses, and feel like we are just too different to ever reach a mutually satisfactory state of closure.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 4:08 AM on May 23, 2016 [21 favorites]

"Closure" is achieved in different ways by different people. It doesn't always involve some long (or even short!) post-breakup analysis. Don't think of it as them not wanting closure; think of it as them achieving closure through other means, and not necessarily one which involves their ex in any way.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:16 AM on May 23, 2016 [18 favorites]

Often I already understand the other person's motivations and why they did what they did, and the "closure" conversation they want to have is them explaining their motivations to me, in the hopes that if they explain adequately, I won't be mad or I won't think they're a bad person or whatever. That is highly unlikely to happen; I can completely understand (and even sympathize!) with why you screwed me over or treated me badly or whatever, while still being angry about it and thinking poorly of your character. This feels like I got a bad cut, and you want to come pick at my scab until YOU feel better! Why should I keep going over and over something that hurt me badly, to make you feel better?

In terms of "jumping ahead to when things are fine," I'm not totally understanding why you want to have closure conversations in relationships that AREN'T broken. Sometimes people do stupid things, friends forgive each other and move on, and we don't need to rehash every stupid thing someone does. This may be culturally-dependent; I don't really know anybody who wants to have mid-relationship closure conversations. The local cultural attitude is "least said, soonest mended," and it's intended to help the other party save face. We all have our character flaws and do dumb stuff from time to time, and our friends forgive us our lapses; we can apologize briefly if necessary and not have to rehash the whole thing.

A lot of times when a relationship is broken for good, my closure comes from getting away from them and not having to deal with them anymore. Wanting to have big conversations about what went wrong really denies me my form of closure!

I guess I mostly don't see what these "closure" conversations help with, unless you're talking about an irretrievably broken relationship that you nonetheless has no option to completely end, like when you're going to be co-parenting with an ex, or you've had a falling out with a family member you have to continue to see at family events, or you're Ross and Rachel and only have four other friends and a multi-year contract to keep being in each others' lives. Otherwise, if the relationship's not broken, we don't need to belabor the error; if the relationship is broken, the closure comes from not reopening things. "Closure" is for bad situations you have to keep on coping with and have to resolve outstanding issues because you have to deal cordially with someone you have significant differences with.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:35 AM on May 23, 2016 [25 favorites]

Many different reasons:

My friend: was broken up with quite suddenly and refused to engage in any conversation about why with her ex. Her reason was that she is highly anxious and she knew that whatever he said would torture her. She would rather not know what is was that he didn't like about her, she just wanted to put it behind her.

My ex: terrified of conflict. Couldn't articulate needs and hinted or sulked instead. So scared of saying something was wrong and upsetting me, and could barely bring himself to break up with me. Didn't want to be 'the bad guy'. Found it easier to be avoidant rather than confront problems.

Me: I haven't accepted my (above) ex's offers to see me or to talk through the breakup, because there's nothing he can say that will make it better for me. I suspect he wanted to talk about it to explain his side/make himself feel better, and I didn't think I owed him that opportunity. I also felt he lacked the ability for introspection or insight that would enable him to share anything remotely meaningful- I doubt he would be able to explain what went wrong.

Closure isn't something you get, it's something that you do, and expecting a shithead to give you closure is a gateway to disappointment.
posted by Dwardles at 4:44 AM on May 23, 2016 [8 favorites]

Some great replies so far, thank you.

I would like to add that perhaps "resolution" is softer than "closure" and may be a more accurate descriptor for the dynamic I seek, and toward which I hope more understanding may lead me.

Sometimes there is desire on both sides to move on, restore, and retain something of value. But when getting there hinges on "skipping over" things that to one or the other are just too damn deal-breaky... that is the kicker.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:53 AM on May 23, 2016

I'm someone who has gone from needing to dissect and resolve conflicts to preferring to redirect my attention to aspects of relationships that are positive and feel good. I've learned the importance of picking my battles. If nothing productive is to be gained from paying attention to something, I'd rather devote my energy somewhere else. Sometimes redirecting attention means that the negative things can just wither and fade allowing more useful things to flourish. It's all about choosing which fire to add fuel to.
posted by alusru at 4:57 AM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think closure is a myth, and I'm wary of anyone who seeks it because I've learned to read that request as "let me have one last chance to try to control the outcome."

Sometimes there is desire on both sides to move on, restore, and retain something of value. But when getting there hinges on "skipping over" things that to one or the other are just too damn deal-breaky... that is the kicker.

If that is really the case, it sounds like that relationship is not over and that conflict resolution is needed to preserve the relationship. But I'll assume you're talking about a scenario where two people break up and they become/remain friends afterward. When that's possible, it's possible because both sides want that. No bridges were burned, and it doesn't matter how either side perceives "bridges burned." It's a really simple matter of, oh, huh, so we don't work out romantically but I still enjoy spending time with you here and there. If the broken relationship was characterized by hurt, abuse, chronic misunderstanding, selfishness, betrayal, or any other form of toxicity, it's not likely to end in good feelings no matter what. And that is okay.

It took me a long time to learn that I will just have broken, messy relationships in the charred rubble of my past. I used to pride myself on always ALWAYS remaining friends with exes, and it turns out that's not always great. If a friend and I started hooking up and a few months later neither of us wanted to escalate to Relationship? That's fine. We can be cool and return to friendship, because any hurt feelings were minor in scale and easily outweighed by the strength of our prior friendship. But that guy I dated for a year and with whom our tempers flared weirdly and we had yelling fights and he feels like I betrayed him by actually "seeing other people" after we decided to break up? He's never going to feel closure from me, and I'm never going to feel like it ended in a tidy way. But he's moved on with his life, seems happy from what I can tell, and I've moved on with mine. It's fine that we never met for coffee and dissected what went wrong and hugged (or whatever a "closure" would look like).
posted by witchen at 5:14 AM on May 23, 2016 [18 favorites]

There's no such thing as closure. There's justifying. There's complaining. There's voicing anger.

My friend and I call it, "and another thing," because you'll script out this beautiful exchange in your head, and it never works out like you plan. You'll vent, talk, ask, etc, and when you're finally leaving, you turn around and say, "And another thing," because there's always some other thing.

With me, I find these talks exhausting and frustrating. If you want to dump me, just dump me. I don't want to hear all your why's and wherefores. Why? If we're breaking up, that's it, we're breaking up. Why talk about it? I've actually had guys fade on me, and when I let them, they called me incessantly, basically to find out why I'm not all Drama Llama and stalking them.

You say you're looking for resolution. Sometimes there's nothing to resolve. Sometimes a behavior is so egregious, or a topic so pointless that further discussion is futile.

An anecdote: I had a friend who was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was always clingy and needy and as you might expect this sent her over an already thin edge. At the time I also had a friend who was in the end stages of AIDS. So my friend with AIDS wanted to take a last trip on a Caribbean Cruise. So we made the arrangements to do so. My friend with cancer didn't want me to go, saying, "You're taking a chance, they don't know about these things!" I blew it off, mostly because they DO know and I'm my own person Well, we went with another couple, and tragically, one of those folks ended up dying on the cruise. That's a story for another time. So I get back from the cruise, with gifts for her and her kids, and I call to tell her about the cruise and she tells me, "I told you not to go, now you've been exposed to AIDS, I can't have you around my family anymore." She hung up on me.

Now, clearly this should have been a situation where things could have been resolved. I would have been willing, except that there's nothing you can say to someone who's being unreasonable and fearful. I prayed for her, and I would have been willing to talk if she wanted to, but at the end of the day, she was the one who decided to end our friendship and it's not appropriate for me to hock her about it. I found out about her death inadvertently from a co-worker.

Did that hurt? Absolutely, but when other people decide that they don't want to deal with it, you have to respect their wishes. It's intrusive and presumptuous to push for 'resolution' when in their mind they're done and they don't want to deal with it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:18 AM on May 23, 2016 [12 favorites]

I guess i'm one of the people you're talking about, and there are usually two circumstances:

I care so little (about someone or something) that I cannot be bothered to discuss an issue over an over, so I just shrug my shoulders and move on

Or I know it won't change anything, and I accept that I cannot control emotions

Either way, I just don't feel like I owe anyone an explanation
posted by Kwadeng at 5:25 AM on May 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

One of the reasons I seek "closure" is because I like to feel that I can create a complete story in my head about what happened, what might have helped it go differently, etc. because I like to narrate my life and because I like to take away lessons I might be able to use in the future from hard experiences. My ex didn't have the drive to "make sense of things" and introspection wasn't his thing, so he was content just to walk away and move on to the next thing.
posted by metasarah at 5:36 AM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

We reinforce what we spend time on. Why would I expend my limited energy on rehashing something bad when I can work on building something good? Now, if I'm still looking to be friends with someone is it important that I understand why or how I screwed up so I can avoid it in the future? Absolutely! But I don't want to focus on it obsessively until I have worked myself up into an anxious mess. Because in my experience, past a certain point is just boatloads of anxiety.

So, just as not having these conversations is giving you anxiety, whoever you're obsessing over may be avoiding them because of anxiety.

Resolution assumes that if you just talk enough you'll be able to see each other's sides and your interests can coexist. That's just not always the case. You may just not align. Sometimes resolution is not possible. So, why pour energy into it?
posted by stoneweaver at 5:43 AM on May 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

If you want to get something off your chest, I'd rather you just send me an email. That way, I can read it or delete it or do with it as I may. You get the "satisfaction" of having had your say.

Closure or resolution is also defined differently by different people. To me, when you said you no longer wanted to date me, that IS closure. The why is just rationalization. I have seen people need to get closure from their closure conversation.

I was also friends with a family whose child was killed tragically when he ran out into the street to get a ball that had gotten past him. They were seeking closure and wanted to talk to the driver. The driver had her own issues and wanted nothing to do with talking to them. They found closure, to them, in time and in prayer.
posted by AugustWest at 5:44 AM on May 23, 2016

I've been on both sides of this fence. I am now of the opinion that "closure" is just another word for "control." People who have wanted closure from me, or the woman I knew who spent two years talking about how she wanted closure from a friend who had cut her off (and then I had to cut her off, too, because the years of having my life and time hijacked when she saw someone in public that even looked like this old friend had just become unbearable) - they were just trying to get control. Control of their image or of the way they would be remembered, a last ditch effort to get the old relationship back, a desire to change the situation somehow... This applies in both romantic and non-romantic contexts where closure is sought.

Letting go and moving on is real closure. Seeking it out and pushing for it is not. Closure is not gained via interaction with others; it happens with quiet reflection over time.

Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 5:55 AM on May 23, 2016 [51 favorites]

Letting go and moving on is real closure. Seeking it out and pushing for it is not.

Yes, this: learning how to sit with ambiguity and letting it settle out in your heart organically, over time, is resolution from within.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:10 AM on May 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

I introspect things to death and am deeply anxious and conflict-avoidance. For me, if the relationship has gotten to the point of *being* broken, chances are I'm already halfway to resolution about it because I've been overthinking/monitoring/ruminating about it quietly for weeks/months/years already. What's left, for me, is a matter of letting time do its thing for healing and perspective. I may be able to revisit restoring/retaining some part of the relationship eventually, but not without that perspective provided by time.

I've never experienced a situation where A Conversation provided anything more of value at this point. Closure is not a thing that continuing to talk about a situation provides for me, past a certain point, and I generally know when I'm at that point.

I may, possibly, agree to having The Conversation if it seems like the other person really wants/needs to have it for their own resolution, and I want them to have that. But experience shows me that in that situation I'm likely to be withdrawn/defensive/anxious/upset to the extent that neither of us comes away from it with anything really being any better, and I feel a lot worse at the end of it. So these days I'm less likely to accommodate that. However much I still care about the other person, that conversation generally rips my guts out and harms whatever healing I've begun, and that's not something I will do to myself lightly if I don't see any prospect of really helping the other person.
posted by Stacey at 6:13 AM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you've got a continuing relationship with a deal-breaking problem in the middle of it, then that's not about closure but rather about navigating boundaries -- specifically, yours. You still can't control the other person, is the thing.

You haven't given an example, so this will have to be vague, but to pick an example from my own life: I once had a friend who let me down very badly when I was in the middle of a crisis, by ignoring my need for help and making everything about how he felt about me having this crisis.

This permanently diminished my trust in this person, and afterwards I told him less and didn't try to rely on him any more. There wasn't really a point in having a Big Talk about it, though, because part of what had happened was that he'd destroyed part of my trust in him, and an apology would not have easily restored it.

Since then, about ten years have gone by, and we've both changed, and eventually we started to talk a bit more, and even later than that we talked about the thing that upset me. He never did get to the point of being able to give me the kind of apology that I might have wanted, but we have acclimated into the relationship we have now. It has positive aspects and I'm glad it exists. If I'd fought with him ten years ago, it probably wouldn't exist. The old, higher-trust version of our friendship can't exist either, because, as a person, he's not really up to delivering that level of reliability.
posted by shattersock at 6:16 AM on May 23, 2016 [14 favorites]

Sometimes there is desire on both sides to move on, restore, and retain something of value. But when getting there hinges on "skipping over" things that to one or the other are just too damn deal-breaky... that is the kicker.

On this particular point, assuming you're talking about an ongoing relationship: Generally it implies that those things aren't actually a dealbreaker for the other person (because it's not that big a deal to them, or because they don't see the relationship lasting long enough for it to matter, or because they assume they'll be able to change themselves or you on those issues over time), or that the person is seriously conflict-avoidant and is too anxious to discuss them, or both.
posted by lazuli at 6:26 AM on May 23, 2016

I think that some of it is being comfortable with the world being an unfair and random place. I don't believe in Just World fallacies, and when bad things happen to me and my family I don't need to search for a deeper reason. There usually isn't one, and I can't undo what's done anyway.

When I dump people I am done with them, and I want them to respect my decision. In terms of trauma, I find I get over things quicker when I am able to accept that there IS no underlying cause or meaning, and it was just one of those things. Unpleasant for me, but I have to dust myself off and carry on.

It is sometimes worth being like a dog with a bone if you are trying to stop the same thing happening to somebody else (ensuring your rapist is convicted, campaigning for better safety laws, that kind of thing). But otherwise (bag snatchings, car break ins, skiing accidents, job losses, major illness) you just need to deal with the new situation as best you can and move on.
posted by tinkletown at 7:11 AM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I feel like almost every "big talk" I have initiated has been a mistake and has been more about my own desire for continuing contact or drama than about any resolution. I feel this way particularly about day-to-day little stuff - "we need to have a big talk about how we had an argument while we were hanging out last week", etc.

I've found that time and distance work much better for me, both because they allow me to detach from whatever I'm feeling in the moment enough to think about it a bit and because they allow me to remember what I liked and valued in the other person rather than only feeling anger.

I just feel like too much gets made of a lot of stuff. I watch my friends having Serious Talks about very small stuff and it just seems to amp up the drama, because the Serious Talk provides new text to analyze, so to speak.

I will admit that I also hate saying really hard stuff to people if I don't have to. Like, let's say that I drop someone because I really hate the perpetual drama of their relationship with their sister, and I hate how they treat their sister. [Real life example!] It may not be my business to get into this with them. Maybe they and their sister think the yelling and constant gossiping and complaining is okay and normal; maybe they just think it's not an outsider's business. It may not be productive for me to get into it with them - I may feel like the emotional stuff that drives the relationship is so deep-seated that a little conversation with me isn't going to make any difference. All that will happen is that I will hurt them and upset them but nothing is likely to change. I sometimes feel that if a pattern is really deeply entrenched for someone, there's no real use in having a Big Conversation, because they themselves have to come to be able to move past that pattern.
posted by Frowner at 7:20 AM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't personally think closure is a myth. But for some people, me included, it only happens by letting things go until a shift in perspective happens organically. Sometimes, that can be a good long time. It's not going to happen by someone talking me into it, unless there is very specific information that will change how I feel about whatever happened. And-- again for me-- closure varies. Sometimes I've been fortunate enough to see things differently and turn negative feelings into positive ones. Other times it's just that enough time has gone by so it's ceased to be relevant. It is very much a case by case basis.

I've been on the other side too. I remember very much wanting to meet with someone and have a breakup talk. That was a control thing more or less; I didn't want that person popping around and trying to revive the relationship, which I thought would be too tempting. Turned out I couldn't control them and had to make that break in my own head.
posted by BibiRose at 7:38 AM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sometimes there is desire on both sides to move on, restore, and retain something of value. But when getting there hinges on "skipping over" things that to one or the other are just too damn deal-breaky... that is the kicker.

That's not closure, as others have said. That's two people who disagree on the way to resolve a conflict. If someone wants you to skip over a thing that you feel is a deal-breaker, you negotiate that or that turns into the deal breaker. I have, alternately, been the person who "wants to keep talking about a thing" or the person who "wants to stop talking about a thing forever" and it can be hard sometimes to see the other person's desires as equally valid but everyone feels what they feel and no feelings are "right" so they must be negotiated.

I am definitely a "no closure" person and it's not because my life is messy it's because it's compartmentalized and it's pretty important to my general mental health that I "flag it and move on" so to speak and don't just pick at old hurts if there's not some purpose to that.

Put another way, there are people I have reciprocal relationships (partner, friends, SOME family) with and people I don't. In reciprocal relationships, if someone else wants to talk about something more (or less) than I do, we work it out and meet partway, compromise. For people who I do not have reciprocal relationships with--I think of some family specifically but this could also be just some random person in my life--their desire to get something from me for them is not a concern I have. It's not so much not-caring (as in specifically lacking care for that person) as not-my-problem. Like I care in a general sense but that caring doesn't make me need to DO anything about it with that person. I am not in a relationship with that person that comes with an obligation to them. I can care without having to do something about that.

This gets weird particularly with breakups because you can go from highly-reciprocal (i.e. we are both very responsible for each other's emotional well-being) to non-reciprocal without an intermediate stage. So a "no contact" breakup basically means that the person immediately becomes not-your-problem and you are not under an obligation to them (in my world) to help them with basically anything. It's jarring, yes. In my view there are a whole world of other people who can help you manage your emotions up to and including a paid therapist, but pinning this all on the one person you may have some conflict with when they have indicated that it's not their concern is basically prioritizing your own feelings (to discuss) over theirs (to not). And again i can't stress enough that it's totally AOK to want to talk about things and have closure but if you're in a relationship with someone you should have one set of expectations and if you're not it's a lot more difficult to feel, in my opinion, like they owe you something they don't wantto give.
posted by jessamyn at 7:50 AM on May 23, 2016 [18 favorites]

I've been thinking about this, and I will take back my earlier statement that closure is a myth. I have enjoyed closure, but it looks more like schadenfreude (or whatever its positive inverse is, if it's someone I'm fond of) than meeting for coffee to dissect the situation.

For example: You cheat and leave your spouse for someone else, and then that person cheats on you. Your ex-spouse may find that funny and/or accept it as an appropriately tidy end to the story. That kind of thing.
posted by witchen at 7:58 AM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Asking for closure is usually asking the other person to share (or even take on) responsibility for confirming, changing, or resolving your inner narrative about the relationship and its history.

If I'm not willing to "do final," it's really because I feel that the responsibility for that inner narrative should, at this point in our relationship, be yours.

And based on your update: if you have a deal breaker, then you have a deal breaker, and you don't me to provide closure that confirms, changes, or resolves that for you.
posted by pinkacademic at 8:24 AM on May 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

maybe i'm misunderstanding, but i think there can be a path to closure, in some cases. it can be found by encouraging the other person to be critical of you. by creating an environment where that is possible and an expectation that it will be productive - that you will receive criticism openly, and make some kind of positive response.

this seems to be completely the opposite of most comments above, which seem to be about you (OP) complaining even more. but in my experience (as one who complains easily) what's needed for closure is not more complaining on my part, but hearing the other side of the story.

and that can only happen if the other person thinks there is something to gain from this process.
posted by andrewcooke at 9:57 AM on May 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

There's also the possibility that they prefer to find closure from only themselves - they reflect upon the relationship themselves, and process it by themselves, and do everything that way.

And there is definitely something to be said for seeking closure without involving your ex. Because the ex may not have the self-knowledge enough to know what it was that left them unsatisfied about the relationship, and so if you tried to ask them "what was the problem" they would stammer out some vague idea that they thought maybe could be the reason, but isn't necessarily the reason. I tried getting that kind of closure from my last ex in my last big breakup, but the problem is that he had some major issues that he wasn't facing and they led him to sort of accuse me of not being supportive enough, which I ultimately knew was bullshit, so that didn't help - but then a passing comment from one of my best friends about him made me realize what really was the problem, and that is when I had my closure.

Sometimes hearing what your ex thinks the problem was doesn't help, because their perspective may be skewed. That fact alone can cause some people to want to find the closure from within their own selves, and find the truth that feels right from their own perspective. Your ex may not come to the same conclusion about your relationship that you would, but that's true of a lot of things anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:27 AM on May 23, 2016 [8 favorites]

I don't think that there is any one mindset or type of personality that can be associated with an avoidance of formal closure in relationships. People avoid seeking closure for lots of reasons—a desire to look forward rather than back, a desire to avoid conflict, a feeling that the other party has an ulterior motive in seeking to have a closure conversation, an unwillingness to consider the other party's feelings, an unwillingness to consider one's own feelings, a desire to never interact with the other party ever again if one can help it, the belief that a closure conversation is likely to make things worse rather than better, the belief that sufficient closure has already been achieved, a desire to hold the door open on the relationship in hopes of reinstating it in the future… lots of reasons, most of which can be either valid or not depending on specific circumstances. And of course, most of those reasons are not mutually exclusive and in any given case the real reason is likely to be a combination of factors which may not even be fully understood internally.

Has there never been a time in your life where you just wanted to put something firmly behind you and never think about it again? In the aftermath of a breakup, a lot of people feel this way. The person may feel like they have a lot of internal processing to do before they're willing to discuss the breakup with someone else, and even then they may feel that discussing it with their ex would drag up unpleasant feelings and push them back into a place of grief and longing from which they've worked hard to escape.

I know there are exes in my life who I would be very opposed to having a relationship post-mortem with, and others with whom I either would or have had such conversations. In no case though have my feelings on the matter been stable until a fair ways out from the breakup, meaning that having a closure conversation soon after the breakup would probably have been based on some pretty raw, unprocessed, incorrect-in-retrospect perspectives the airing of which would have just stirred things up and caused additional pain to both of us, prolonging my recovery and doing no good to my former partner either. This has been borne out through experience, as well.

The successful post-mortems that I've had have always been several months out from the breakup, and were part of the process of building a platonic friendship with that person. On occasions where I've sought closure in the immediate aftermath (or when my former partner has sought it of me and I've agreed to try it) I've always found that whatever resolution was supposedly achieved turned out on later reflection to be sort of a mirage, and that after doing more internal work and getting to a place where I was genuinely Over It, my feelings about what happened and what went wrong and all that were very different from what I'd thought back when the closure conversation happened.

So in short, I feel like closure conversations are overrated, and that true closure comes from within. It is sometimes worth talking things through down the road, and sometimes not, but immediately after a relationship ends what I really want is space and time to think. To come back to your actual question though, I don't think there's any generalizable, identifiable characteristic in me that makes me feel this way. It's more the result of a learning process, of having learned through trial and error what works best for me at the end of a relationship, and what seems to work best for my former partners. Also, finally, sometimes I really just don't want to talk to that person again. I can think of a couple pretty bad relationships I've had, where at the end I went no-contact right away and have rarely if ever interacted with the person since.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:43 AM on May 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

What I am hearing is that this is a situation where both parties bring such fundamentally different mental frameworks that no good will come of discussing it.

I like hashing things out. But once I am really done with someone, no, we don't need to have some Talk about it. I talk to people to navigate the relationship. If we are done, there is nothing more that needs to be said. And if we are not done and you have Issues and I can tell this will be a shitty conversation with no redeeming value, no, I don't want to have that conversation.

We all have dumb shit in our subconscious. Some dumb shit is just reinforced by having The Talk that a person wants. My ex used to have a great phrase for this that I can never remember properly to the effect of "When did you stop beating your wife?" where there is such a presumption of guilt that there are no good answers. Some questions are framed such that engaging them at all goes bad places. And I am just too old for this shit.
posted by Michele in California at 10:57 AM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Avoiding someone IS closure. Not only that, it is in some circles, the sociable, polite, and generally desired thing to do. You see no closure where these people see closure. Anything less than an enthusiastic yes is not a maybe, it's a no. All maybes are nos. Thikkng like this helped dramatically in my social understanding in all areas of my life.

Sometimes explaining things in great detail to other people is exhausting and invites argument. "Oh, you're mad that I x? I can totally change! You should have told me!"

Basically, I think people who stew over closure are lonelier/have less social outlets than those who would rather move on. If you're stuck on a desert island with only one person for life, closure is fucking important. If you're popular and in demand in a city of 5 million, closure is a waste of everyone's time.

Knowing when to quit is a really useful life skill. Sunk cost fallacy and all that.
posted by quincunx at 11:29 AM on May 23, 2016 [8 favorites]

I mean, think of it like this: there's no "closure" when someone dies. They're gone and you feel your grief and come to terms with it. Breakups are like that. Closure is artificial. Real life involves lots of natural sudden, unexplained losses.
posted by quincunx at 11:38 AM on May 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

I would like to add that perhaps "resolution" is softer than "closure" and may be a more accurate descriptor for the dynamic I seek, and toward which I hope more understanding may lead me.

I think they're the same thing and I will avoid resolution if ultimately it's someone who is looking for control because they can't/won't let go of something.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

I mean, think of it like this: there's no "closure" when someone dies.

My mom always said "Funerals are for the living." We go. We see the body. We wrap our brains around "Yep, he's totally dead."

Closure does not mean "All loose ends were neatly tied off." It means "This thing is done. We cut it off right here." It doesn't matter whether it was a nice snippy snippy with cute scirrors or slamming the door on it and it broke in two where the door hit it.

When I homeschooled, I wrestled with closure -- with "How do we know we are Done?" Then one day I realized that in public school, you are done when the school year ends, even if you did not get through the whole book. And I began inventing little rituals to signal We Are Done, like I had my sons pack up some phonics thing one last time and mailed it to a younger cousin. We never got through all of it. They hated every minute of it. Their phonics scores had come up to an acceptable range. So, I declared phonics Done and created a little ritual for them to know "Yeah, this shit you hate? You won't ever have to do it again."

Other people not wanting to talk about it doesn't deny you closure. If you have some need to clearly mark an ending, you can make that happen. It doesn't require another's input. This may be the real issue: you think it does require their input. Nope. It doesn't.
posted by Michele in California at 1:07 PM on May 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

I do not (generally) engage in e.g. post-breakup post-mortems anymore, because I've come to believe "closure," if it exists, comes from within, from thinking it through on your own and going through the whole gamut of emotions that hurt but bring healing. I do think a real breakup is advisable in most cases where the relationship was decent, so I'm not talking about just wordlessly vanishing on someone you had a serious relationship with here-- but I'm just no longer amenable to post-mortems for closure's sake.

I feel like, if you need it from someone else then that is not truly closure; that's prolonging entanglement, and often not for altruistic reasons-- for selfish ones. I can admit my reasons were somewhat selfish when I sought this from exes. And it never went how I wanted it to. And it usually reset the timer on my own healing. Which is not something I want to do to myself or someone I care about.

In my experience these post-mortem talks usually prolong pain, elevate melodrama, and only serve one party. I find the actual motives might be: getting the last word, inflicting further damage to get back at them, wanting to seem like "the good guy," wanting to manage their memories of you and their ideas of the relationship, wanting to rekindle, wanting them to attempt to rekindle so you can reject them and get an ego stroke, expecting them to take care of your feelings when you should be taking care of your own, wanting to take care of THEIR feelings when it's no longer your responsibility, I could go on, just a whole huge raw bloody mess.

Post-breakup, everything is too raw and unsettled. Maybe years down the line when you've gone through your own processes and actual friendship is possible. But not in the thick of it.

I am currently not speaking to someone until it doesn't hurt so much I cry in my sleep. I know it hurts him that I don't want to talk about the breakup but we're broken up and I can't do anything for him at the moment that wouldn't make me die of sadness. It is most assuredly not because I don't care.
posted by kapers at 1:12 PM on May 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

Again- do not want advice about myself. I want to know what closure avoidance says about those who practice it. The person for whom closure does not matter; who may actively seek to avoid closure situations or conversations, etc., does so because... ?

It says nothing about them. There is no universal wanting closure makes you this kind of person dynamic. There could be a million reasons, some related to the break up itself, some to the person themselves.

Personally, closure is overrated in my opinion.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:48 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

In my case it's due to conflict avoidance and other avoidant behaviors because I'm kind of a mess inside.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:59 PM on May 23, 2016

If he/she cared, they would want to talk; but since they shut down closure attempts from me, they must not care...

My most cynical opinion is that this is pretty much correct. The people who are shutting down closure/understanding conversations often in fact do not care -- or at least, everything they care about has been accomplished (and your thoughts, feelings, and needs didn't make the cut).

There are various reasons why they may not care. Some of them may have merit. Many don't and are pure (and self) motivated reasoning. Possibly masking a limited capacity to care (in general, or about you), which there's a variation in like everything else.

For a little more nuance, which is usually good when considering human behavior, I think it's probably worth thinking about examples like this:

"Closure situations" rarely provide any sort of resolution or clarification, and usually just prolong drama in my experience.

In my experience these post-mortem talks usually prolong pain, elevate melodrama, and only serve one party.

I think it's likely that many people have only had this kind of experience with conversations surrounding various exits and wind-downs.

Of course, many people have also only had meh/unproductive/unpleasant experiences with differential equations, 19th century novels, sex, country music, surgery, and your favorite restaurant, which doesn't mean any of those things aren't worthwhile, it just means execution matters a lot in every case.

In my 20s I dated some women who were conscientious and caring in relationship closure conversations. I did know that things didn't always happen like this; I did not know how far outside the norm this might be or how much of a gift I was being given both in making the passage healthier and modeling better behavior.

I don't have a perfect track record of making closure happen myself, so it's easy for me to imagine myself rationalizing these kinds of conversations as being nothing but unproductive drama if I hadn't been on the receiving end of a very productive experience. Many people may not ever get the chance to know what that's like.
posted by wildblueyonder at 2:50 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I wonder if it would be useful to think of it in terms of emotional labor? That some people find it's labor really best done on your own, and not something we should expect others to do for us? (Though many women are socialized to undertake this labor, to be such great perfect girlfriends that they soothe and manage their partner's feelings and provide gentleness and counsel even when they are themselves in pain and are no longer even partners.)
posted by kapers at 3:44 PM on May 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

I am generally pro-closure. I feel the anti-closure culture is one in which relationships are less close and that is seen somehow as a positive, as independence, as a diversification of the emotional portfolio, healthy, realistic, mature. This point of view is distrustful of strong feelings as selfish at best, and bordering on the pathological. An anti-c person can withhold closure as a teaching device. "You don't deserve closure--since you're in the wrong." The pro-c person is seen as in the wrong for even wanting closure. "Neediness is unattractive."

From the anti-c perspective, becoming "physically ill with the anxiety and lack of resolution" is something to be outgrown, like a child becoming willing to stay with a sitter so his mother can go out. He needs to trust that she will return, that she cares about him even though she is willing to leave and create this anxiety.

That said, I have encountered pro-c people who aren't really looking for closure, but to be right. They want closure by your surrender/capitulation. They demand begging forgiveness which they are then hesitant to give. They will argue that your apology is insincere; that you are faking resolution to get the conflict over with. Any position can be used as an occasion for a power play.

And, of course, a person could be anti-c because s/he imagines you are like that.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:43 PM on May 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am pro closure. I am not pro beating a dead horse, digging my grave deeper, helping you dig your grave deeper, etc. And sometimes the talk "you" want to have with me looks like one of those things and I am clear that in order to give "you" the positive closure experience you desire, I will basically have to play therapist while you accuse me of nefarious motives. And I am just less willing to do that these days because I have been burned too many times, and even when it goes well, it is a lot of work for me that mostly benefits you and is unlikely to do much for me, so it ends up making me feel bled for your free therapy session, hence "I am too old for this shit."
posted by Michele in California at 1:08 PM on May 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

There's closure, which is utterly pointless, then there's the exit interview. Sometimes, when something has gone wrong, you need to know why so that you can learn from the experience. Sadly, people who lack enough self-awareness to have understood their part in the situation, rarely will learn anything from the exit interview, anyway.

So it ends up being pointless to indulge the wish for closure.
posted by mousesinger at 4:00 PM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have literally, one single time, had a conversation about That Thing That You Fucked Up That Time Year Ago that actually helped me to let go of lingering anger. In that situation, both people fundamentally adore each other, and the issue had long ago reached an acceptable settled outcome that everyone was fine with. I was a little embarrassed by the anger, but was also like, look, you did Shitty Thing that had Effect on me, and I don't know that you ever got it, and you kept expecting me to be fine with it. Let me describe it to you. And Friendo said, well shit, I'm sorry, when you say it like that, I did kind of have my head up my ass. And suddenly I was not mad anymore! It was actually very surprising.

The other 99% of the times I've had some kind of issue with someone, either shutting up about it (to them) until I felt better worked, or trying to talk to them about it a lot didn't work. Often B, followed by A.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:19 AM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

« Older Syncing Facebook Events with iPhone   |   How to get the most out of San Sebastian over a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.