Dear Carolyn: Is it ever okay to reach out to an ex for closure? We broke up this summer, very suddenly. I'm not sure if it would even help, but I've had a hard time moving on and I suspect part of this is about how fast it all felt and how I feel like I didn't say everything I wanted to say.
It seems like everyone under the sun says it's a terrible idea to reach out to an ex and break "no contact," and that closure isn't real, so don't bother.
What's your take? Can it ever help to get back in touch with an ex for a closure conversation? Is closure even real?
— Not Moving On
Not Moving On: Closure is what you think it is, so whether it’s real depends on whether you’re realistic.
How’s that for nothing.
Though I suppose in the realm of nothingness, what “everyone under the sun says” has no rival. If your ex asked for no contact, then I agree with everyone, but otherwise, the wisdom of reaching out depends on variables not everyone can know.
Anyway. Instead of abstracting yourself into unreachable knots, do something practical: Write down all those things you wanted to say but didn’t. Couldn’t.
Don’t send anything to your ex or anyone else; just empty it all out into a letter and stash it somewhere safe.
Then leave it there. A week, a month, up to you, just make sure you let it age. See how you feel just from forming the words.
If the loose threads still nag at you at the end of the designated rest period, then reread what you wrote. Is it still what you wish you could have said? Any cringing, any relief at not having sent it? Give it a hard edit.
Then let it rest again. Repeat this process until you either feel at peace or can sum up your remaining frustration in a concept or two.
If it’s the latter, then ask yourself what you would hope to accomplish by saying this to your ex — and whether that outcome is even possible. Whether it’s something you’d be giving yourself (up to you) or asking of him (not up to you). Ask yourself what approaching him could cost you.
There’s no right answer, the sunburned masses notwithstanding. Approaching an ex can yield regret or relief. As can abstaining. All you can do is clarify for your own purposes what you’re asking and why.
Dear Carolyn: Many times, upon finding out my daughter has a long-term boyfriend and they're probably going to marry soon, people will ask, "Do you like him?"
I just find that question so rude. And why do they lead with a negative question? It's really annoying. What I want to say is, "Why do you deserve to know?" Why do people ask this question?
Anonymous: They think they’re entitled, or think they’re showing polite or genuine interest, or think it’s okay to speak before thinking. I don’t know.
You can always ask, “Why do you ask?”
I do think most people are just trying to make a connection.
No harm in assuming that and responding accordingly. Or, as needed, deflecting cheerfully: “As the possible future mother-/father-in-law, I just hope he likes me.”