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LOOKING FOR CLOSURE

Looking For Closure
Obsessing about why things ended might be a way for you to avoid something: grief
By Adam Segal

I was seeing my boyfriend for about eight months and it was really becoming something special. We met through shared friends, slowly got to know each other and always seemed to get along so easily, as we were into many of the same things. I was beginning to think he was the person I would spend the rest of my life with. Then a couple of months ago, out of nowhere, he said he realized he wasn’t in love and didn’t want us to go further. I tried hard to find out what he disliked about me in hopes I could change and make things work. He insisted that he liked me a lot, but just didn’t feel strongly enough to commit to an LTR. How do I get some closure when he’s not giving me any info about what went wrong?
– Ben
 
Dear Ben:
 
An unfortunate and widespread notion is that for a relationship to end, someone had to behave like a jerk. Those kinds of breakups, while usually more combative, are easier in some ways because they make sense to us and there’s a story of ‘what went wrong.’ In reality, many relationships end the way yours has: because one or both people didn’t feel that elusive spark.
 
It sounds like it’s really tough for you to simply believe your ex and to trust that, while he had affection for you, he wasn’t feeling deeply enough to keep things going. There can a helplessness we feel when no one’s at fault and, instead, the chemistry simply doesn’t add up. We want to zero in on some kind of personal shortcoming: That way we have some control (or the illusion of control). If he thought you were a couch potato, you could join a gay badminton league; if he thought you were too cranky in the morning, you could meditate. Without a list of criticisms, how are you to wrap your head around this split?
 
All of your obsessing about ‘why’ things ended, while exhausting, might be a way for you to avoid something: grief. This guy was really meaningful to you and it’s so painful that he’s opted out. You will have to give yourself some time to actually feel and move through this loss—there’s no way around that. I’m not suggesting that you’ve been a perfect boyfriend, and it absolutely makes sense to reflect on your time together. But it sounds like you are spinning your wheels and determined to pin down what has made you so intrinsically unlovable in some way. You weren’t the right fit for this guy and that really sucks, but it doesn’t mean you need to overhaul your personality in hopes of being every man’s dreamboat. Now is the time to be hurt and disappointed until that lifts (and it will) so that you are available for something better.
 

 
ADAM SEGAL, writer and therapist, works in private practice in downtown Toronto. Ask him your relationship or mental-health questions @relationship@inmagazine.ca.

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