After divorce, it is common to experience a powerful desire for a sense of closure.
Unfortunately, this need to close the book on your last relationship can be so overpowering that it plays tricks with your mind and can severely delay your healing process.
In order to come to terms with this need for closure, it first helps to understand why we experience it in the first place.
The reason people often seek closure after divorce is because breakups have a nasty way of causing an identity crisis. That’s because while you were married, much of your identity was likely tied to that of your spouse.
On your wedding day you promised to stick by your wife’s side “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.” So when that relationship crumbles, it can cause a personal crisis, and dealing with that crisis is the only way you’re ever going to move on.
Research backs this up. A Monmouth University study found that people who felt their relationship made them a “better person” were more likely to say that the breakup caused them to lose part of their identity. It doesn’t help matters that guys often tend to take breakups harder than women.
So what finding closure after divorce is really about is rediscovering your own individual identity.
What makes you you
When considering your identity, take things back to ground zero. What are your values? What are your interests? Your passions?
Make a list of all of these things and refer to them daily as a form of self-affirmation. As you go about your day-to-day life, try to consciously act in a way that aligns with those values and choose activities that help cultivate those things you care the most about.
This could mean volunteering at a local animal shelter or training to run a marathon (or even just getting back to gym on a regular basis). Choose hobbies that are healthy and that bring good into the world.
You might still be going through the heartbreak of divorce, but try to reframe how you think about this split. Guys often need time to grieve the end of their marriage, but try to start thinking of this as a new opportunity and embrace the freedom that you now have to reinforce and reinvent the person who you are on your own terms.
The stories we tell
Another factor that can delay your quest for closure is the story you tell yourself about why your divorce happened.
Researchers have found that when people tell harmful stories about themselves and the role they played in their relationship, the harder it is to find closure after breaking up. One research subject wrote: “I learned that I am too sensitive and that I push people away to avoid them pushing me away first. This characteristic is negative and makes people crazy and drives them away.”
These stories breed feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. They contribute to a false narrative that there is just something about you that is going to carry over and harm your future relationships as well.
Instead of fixating on what you did wrong in the relationship, focus more on the circumstances and how this is giving you a chance to grow. Maybe the timing was just off for this relationship or your personalities didn’t fully mesh.
This doesn’t mean you should refuse to accept any blame for the divorce. Some introspection can help you shore up weaknesses and lead to personal growth. But even if you feel you were a major cause of the marital breakdown, you can choose to focus on how you’re using your divorce as a time to improve yourself so that your future relationship are healthier and happier.
Don’t obsess over closure
For many of us, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that an explanation or an apology from your ex will help you move on. But is that really true?
“Is there anything that they can say that will erase the pain,” Arends wrote. “Are there any words powerful enough to bring everything to an emotionless close?”
When you get caught in this cycles of seeking closure it locks your focus on your ex and the past rather than yourself and the present/future. Accept that you can’t change what’s already happened and come to terms with the fact that you might never fully understand why things happened the way they did.
Instead, turn your energy towards establishing a sense of groundedness that is going to help you thrive as you start the next chapter of your life.