How to move on when a relationship ends

Whether it be a romantic relationship or a friendship, closure is needed at the end of a relationship. Some of us find this moving on harder than others. 


It has been both my experience, and also my professional observation, that this is far easier for those of us who have a secure attachment style of relating. The reason for this, l believe, is that when we are secure in both who we are and therefore how we are, our authenticity is rarely compromised, and we are therefore clearer about employing healthy boundaries. We don’t move on with the stories we create, we are done, and there is nobody living rent-free in our heads and heart.

Relationships for securely attached individuals are 'cleaner' if they end, there is no endless rumination or internal debate about what occurred.

For those of us who have problematic attachment styles, which are the anxiously attached, the dismissively attached, or the fearfully attached, our endings (and therefore our capacity to move on) are far more difficult and felt, and experienced as complex. This is because they are full of the 'stories' we tell ourselves, both about the other person and ourselves and what the ending is because of. There will be a culprit. Some days the 'story' will be all about what we did wrong and at other times, on other days it will be more about them – the other person in the relationship and how badly they treated you and behaved.

Either way, the circumstances and reviewing them will be a useful thing to know about, explore and understand, at some stage, but it will be the 'emotional first-aid' that will need attending to first and foremost. This is very often ignored. It is a wound, and when you are, let us say bleeding out, however valid learning about what caused the wound, it will be the wound and its care that needs our absolute priority.

What is closure?

Relationship means being in a connection that is shared. We can then experience 'mirroring', seeing ourselves. When the relationship breaks down it is largely because these shared beliefs, understandings and outlooks (as well as shared sympathies and leanings) experience a clash, a difference. Where there was mutuality, a new circumstance enters that throws an entirely different light on things and a feeling of misalignment takes over.

After this happens we hope that we can mend the problem, and go back to the loved and known status quo, and into reparation.

Lack of closure is about being in, and remaining in, the clash without any means of being able to mend the relationship.

If in between the clash and the repair, there is no shown remorse, however, which will be able to review both perspectives, the felt hubris will make reconnection undesirable and it will remove the incentive to reconnect.

The personal ownership of what might have been done by oneself and the felt shame because of it, will be what moves towards re-evaluation of the relationship both of one’s own actions and how things could be done differently in the future by this understanding. 

This personal ownership of shame is when shame creates and allows and facilitates a mending, a resolve, and is actually a healthy inter-relational response. Unlike when the shame creates panic because of feeling both unaccepted and unacceptable.

Without it, and more especially if a long period of time passes between the clash and any shown interest in its repair, a lack of felt responsibility will lessen the likelihood of possible repair. 

Of course, there can be a whole lot of variants around this, but for the purpose of clarity here and examining this dynamic it is best to keep it simple.

So if our attachment type is insecure and any one of those insecure variants, we might in the clash, whilst feeling shame, fast forward to reparation without taking enough time to really examine what needs reevaluating. This will result in an inevitable problem in the future of the relationship, as nothing will have been truly resolved. Or whilst feeling shame, turn to blame and anger. Either one will not resolve anything. Mutual humility, equal responsibility and working through each one’s own shame will need to be felt.

Without this, there is no closure.

Sometimes a difference of values can be felt and respected. This can allow the relationship to end with closure, and the closure is mutually agreed, in turn, blame can dissolve if someone feels at least genuinely respected.

Somehow though in the midst of the pain of all this, it is important to remember that we never truly have control of another person’s views or behaviour, we can only really ever affect our own. Sometimes it is not necessary to complete closure with other the person when the relationship ended badly. We can, however, affect and heal the person we were in that relationship and how we felt and showed up in it.

If left unchallenged and unaddressed, the treatment that we ourselves have historically allowed that hurt and wounded us can be worked, on the person we were within that relationship. 

We can heal by our own hand, we can create new healthy boundaries to ensure that in the future, we make better choices, choices that allow our authenticity and safer more reliable exchange.

In a way, it is our self-belief that allows the wound and it is there within that wounded part of ourselves that we can find our own independent version of closure and move on feeling at peace.

At the end of the day, what have l learned from this? Ask yourself. What is ours, and what is theirs? Take and move through what is yours, but you don't need what belongs to them, that has been projected onto you, not ever.

Repair means a new understanding of yourself. We see who we are often through the eyes of other people, which is why it is important to become more aware of ourselves and who we find relationship with.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, N8
Written by Gail Berry, Emotional and Relationship Coach
London, N8

Written by Gail Berry Emotional Coach - both a therapist and an alternative medical practitioner who works with healing people’s core wounds and uses Bach Flower Remedies alongside talking and behavioural therapy to make real change and transformation possible.
07771 715072
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