Clean breakups can be hard to come by. For a lot of people, the endings of relationships can leave behind a lot of emotional baggage and questions about how things wound up the way they did.
These queries are completely normal and natural parts of the breakup process. "The ambiguity is really difficult to deal with," says Elle Huerta, the founder and CEO of Mend, an app that helps men and women through breakups. "You feel out of control when you're dealing with a breakup, and you think that if only the other person could answer some of your questions about it, you'd feel better." This can lead some people to seek closure with their past partners. They're sure that if they can sit the other person down and get clear-cut answers, it will be easier to move on.
But Huerta says this is a fool's errand, and she's not alone. "Nobody likes to feel rejected, and hope springs eternal that by having a conversation, something would change," says Jean Fitzpatrick, LP, a premarital and marital therapist in NYC. "But a conversation rarely gets anywhere." She says that the main reasons are because people aren't always 100% truthful during breakups — not always intentionally, though. "The reasons we give for a breakup aren't always the truth, or they're half-truths, or we can't see that that reason has something to do with us, too," Fitzpatrick says. "So someone can say, 'We fight a lot.' But it takes two people to argue, and those arguments don't happen because of one person." This fudging of history isn't always out of malice. We're humans. We aren't able to see the complexity of a situation.
"When you question someone, more questions arise. It's an endless cycle that doesn't make you feel better or help you move on."
Elle Huerta, founder and CEO of Mend
Both Huerta and Fitzpatrick agree that the act of looking outside of yourself for closure will only lead to more questions. "It's like scratching an itch," Huerta says. "When you scratch it, it becomes itchier. When you question someone, more questions arise. It's an endless cycle that doesn't make you feel better or help you move on."
So instead of calling or texting your ex with those questions, Fitzpatrick suggests unfriending or unfollowing them on social media so you're not constantly faced with evidence of their new life without you. "That can lead to questions like, 'What if?' which aren't helpful," she says. Both she and Huerta also underline the importance of searching for that closure within yourself by way of some good old self-care. "It can be very therapeutic to write down all of the questions you have for your partner instead of texting them," Huerta says. "It externalizes those doubts so that they aren't able to run wild in your brain, and you may realize the answers aren't all that important."
Huerta is also a proponent of meditating, even if it's just for five minutes a day. "Mindfulness is about being in the present moment," she says. "A lot of times, when you're focused on getting closure, you're so focused on things that could have happened, or things that already happened, instead of being focused on the present." But if you're not the meditating type, Fitzpatrick says that any type of physical exercise should help you focus on the present. "It's also great to do something that involves your senses, to distract yourself from your mind," she says. "It might be cooking, or lighting a candle, or taking a scented bath." Allow yourself to feel your feelings, but make sure to focus on moving forward, too.
Fitzpatrick also says to remember that no relationship is a total loss. "I think that sometimes people worry that the person they were with a partner is gone forever," she says. "It's constructive to focus on what you enjoyed about the relationship and how you can carry that forward — be it with a new partner, a friend, or yourself."