When we’re a people pleaser, perfectionist or overthinker who’s likely been prone to overgiving and over-responsibility, there can be a tendency to want to control endings, including how the other party perceives us. We go through a break-up or have a fallout, or something occurs where we feel people misunderstood or undervalued our goodness, and we will pursue “closure”, sometimes exhaustively so. It becomes a battle to prove that we’re a Good Person.

It’s human to want to seek a resolution and conclusion for our emotional experiences.

We want to put things into perspective, to feel a line has been drawn. There can be a desire to make amends; to agree to disagree. It can be a sense of wanting everyone to accept what’s happened and move forward in peace.

Let’s be real, though:

We don’t like feeling that someone has what we regard as a negative or unwarranted perception of us.

We sure as hell don’t like feeling as if someone got away scot-free or that there won’t be an apology or acknowledgement. Even the whole wanting each party to reach acceptance and move on through our designated form of closure reeks of our controlling-the-uncontrollable ways.

Um, what if they’re OK already and it’s us that isn’t?

What if they’re going to take longer than we’re comfortable with?

What if they’re OK with us and also done on this subject?

And what if they’ll resolve and conclude their emotional experience but don’t need our input?

When we’re invested in our goodness, in our inherent sense of being a good, decent, loving person, not having closure feels wrong. It feels unfair; it feels like judgement.

As one person put it to me, “No matter what’s gone down between us; no matter what an ex did to me in a relationship, we always wound up being friends (or at least on civil terms). I don’t get why this ex doesn’t want to make things right. Am I really that bad? Do they just want to carry on as if our relationship didn’t happen?” Side note: they weren’t describing friendship or closure; it was letting their exes off the hook instead of confronting their own boundaries.

It’s pursuing what we see as ‘closure’ that causes us to behave in unboundaried ways. We overstep boundaries because we’re all up in the ‘we’ of our idea of a joint experience when really it’s about the ‘I’ in our individual experience. As we believe we’re being ‘nice’ (or that they’re ‘bad’), we think continuing to email, call, text, insist on or meet up for discussions, is okay. We think that they should want to make things good between us because we do in spite of their actions. This mentality blinds us, though, to what can become invasive and controlling behaviour.

We’re not looking for closure. I know it feels like we are, but we’re not. What we’re trying to do is win.

We’re trying to be right. We’re trying to keep the door open so that we don’t have to confront ourselves. Our ego is wounded.

It’s not that they’re The Greatest Person on Earth. It might not even be that we could have a genuinely meaningful relationship with them. We want to win by having the last word or making them feel guilty. We want reparations for where we feel shortchanged, used or mistreated. And that’s entirely human. But when we see our emotional state and poor boundaries as someone else’s problem, we’re never going to have closure.

Feeling as if we have to talk to them for closure highlights where we already relied on them for defining ourselves and the relationship.

And no explanation, no answer, will be enough for ‘closure’ if what we really want is for that person to validate an old unmet need from the past.

Same if what we want isn’t closure but a fairy tale ending where they spontaneously combust into the person we want so we don’t have to evolve and deal with our boundaries. It definitely won’t be enough for ‘closure’ if we want them to fill a void, to fix something we’re doing to us.

Sure, this person acknowledging and apologising might make us feel better. Might. Even if they do, it will be temporary. If we still don’t take responsibility for our boundaries, then we’ll continue thinking, behaving and choosing in the same way that contributed to our pain. As a result, we’ll victimise ourselves regardless of what anyone else does. We might even try to go back to the person.

When we want closure but feel the other person isn’t giving it to us, is ‘withholding’, we need to step back. We need to acknowledge where we’re not only giving away our power but pursuing a hidden agenda. What’s really going on here? What’s the baggage behind it? Is this who I want to be? Is trying to be right and win making me more of who I am or less of it? Am I using this situation to avoid dealing with something else? Is this how I want to feel and continue feeling? How can I give myself closure by allowing myself to have healthier boundaries through taking care of me?

The situation doesn’t mean we’re a Bad Person. Them not wanting to do our version of closure doesn’t mean we’re not a Good Person.

Our emotional experience isn’t the same as someone else’s, even when they’re part of the events that contributed to it. So regardless, we will always be the one who gives ourselves permission to resolve and conclude by allowing us to move forward one day, one step at a time.

Are you ready to stop silencing and hiding yourself in an attempt to ‘please’ or protect yourself from others? My book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon), is out now.

The Joy of Saying No by Natalie Lue book cover. Subtitle: A simple plan to stop people pleasing, reclaim boundaries, and say yes to the life you want.
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