There are some exes who feel bad about dumping you and try to help you through the healing process, get break-up closure and move on. Most of these exes are likely securely attached or are somewhat secure in some form or another. The majority of exes who see the break-up as closure itself (everything is said and done) and see no need to talk about the past of give you closure are often either fearful avoidant or dismissive avoidant.
Our attachment style influences the need for break-up closure
Attachment styles may explain why some people need break-up closure and others don’t, and why some people transition smoothly without a closure conversation and others find it hard to move on.
According to research on post break-up adjustment, people with an anxious attachment style (including anxious-avoidants or fearful avoidants) have the hardest time moving on without cognitive closure. They often feel that in order for them to move on, the break-up must make sense, and all the pieces must somehow fit together. If the reasons for the break-up don’t make sense to them or they don’t agree with why an ex ended the relationship (instead of opting to work on it) or if they have a hard time processing the circumstances surrounding the break-up, exes with an anxious attachment become obsessed with finding the answers, making the break-up make sense and finding closure. They find it hard to move on without a closure conversation with an ex. They may even perceive an ex not wanting to sit down and have a conversation about the break-up as further rejection, disrespect and the reason why the relationship may have ended in the first place.
It’s difficult for people with an anxious attachment to accept a break-up
Hypervigilance – the elevated state of constantly assessing potential threats around you, and rumination – repetitive thinking or dwelling on negative feelings (especially about past experiences), replaying other people’s offenses against them, and obsessing over their mistakes, flaws and weaknesses, signature traits of an anxious attachment and fearful avoidant attachment drive the need for break-up closure.
When a break-up happens, the majority of people with an anxious attachment style feel that something unjust, unfair and underhanded has been done to them, especially if they didn’t want the break-up, didn’t see it coming or feel that things can still be worked out and an ex ending the relationship is not the right decision.
They struggle accepting the break-up because to them it doesn’t make sense to break-up and because they dread the unpleasant experience of separating from someone they still want to be with, even when one or both people are clearly unhappy and miserable in the relationship, and breaking up makes more sense than staying together to try to make the relationship work.
The break-up confirms an anxious attachment style’s fear that others don’t want to be close to them and don’t love them enough to stay, and a fearful avoidant’s fears that people can’t be trusted and relied on to be there for them; eventually they all leave.
But unlike anxious-avoidants or fearful avoidants who gradually deactivate their attachment system in order to deal with the realities of a break-up, anxiously attached people become obsessed with wanting closure. This makes it harder for them to transition or move on after the break-up.
Accepting the break-up and letting go of the past requires time, effort and a desire to change
Compared to people with an anxious attachment, securely attached transition smoothly and fast after the break-up because of their healthy beliefs about break-ups, healthy emotional regulation tools, and healthy and positive view of themselves and view of their exes.
They accept and understand that break-ups happen, and an ex has a right to walk away from a relationship they don’t want to be in anymore. They may not agree with an ex’s reasons for breaking up or the manner in which they did it, but they accept the break-up as something the other person felt was necessary for them – or for the relationship.
A securely attached ex may wish an ex is open to working things out instead of breaking up but they also don’t want to keep an unhappy person in a relationship they don’t want to be in and would rather see an ex happier with someone else than be miserable in a relationship with them. They don’t get upset, think of themselves a ‘victim” of a break-up/an ex, and don’t become needy, lash out or obsess about the break-up. Instead, securely attached individuals use the experience to self reflect, re-center, change if they need to and decide their next action. They may even see the break-up as something that needed to happen.
Research also shows that individuals with a secure attachment report less preference or need for cognitive closure and are more likely to rely on new information in making decisions. This means that a break-up doesn’t have to “make sense” for someone with a secure attachment to transition or move on after a break-up. They fill in the missing information and pieces as new information comes in and choose their actions based on new information rather than be stuck in the past trying to make sense of it.
To a secure person, what has happened has happened, there is nothing anyone can go back to change it. This doesn’t mean they don’t think the past doesn’t matter, it means that the past in only relevant if it informs the present and the future. They’re always asking, “What can I learn from the past that can make the present or future better”.
Securely attached people are also happy to sit down with an ex, answer questions their ex has about the break-up and help and ex find clarity, learn from the experience and move on from the past.
Looking for break-up closure from an avoidant ex can delay healing, letting go and moving on
Unlike securely attached who do not need cognitive closure to move on but are happy to sit down with an ex and answer questions their ex has, avoidants in general do not feel the need to revisit the past, review their decision to break-up or re-experience the painful emotions of the break-up. If things ended on good terms with no emotional outbursts, drama or hurtful words, an avoidant ex (fearful or dismissive) may be willing to have a conversation, answer questions and help you get closure. They’re not always comfortable to meet and have a face-to-face conversation but may be willing to text or email.
If the relationship ended with emotional outbursts, drama, or hurtful words, an avoidant ex may be wary for a repeat of what happened. Many avoidants also avoid closure conversations because they think an ex is going to try to convince them to get back together and things may get emotionally heated, there’ll be arguing about details, projecting feelings, crying, maybe even yelling, guilt tripping, manipulation and just an overall unpleasant experience an avoidant would rather avoid altogether. To them, what’s the point in having the conversation if it’s not going to change anything. Their mind is made up that they don’t want to get back together.
Also, if during the relationship, a dismissive avoidant ex felt disrespected or if you constantly violated their boundaries they may see your need for closure as your problem and not theirs. They see the break-up as something you brought on yourself, and you need to deal with the consequences of your words, actions or behaviour on your own.
If a fearful avoidant ex felt unappreciated, their needs and feelings ignored or if they felt that they couldn’t trust you either to be there for them or be truthful with them, they may be too upset, hurt and angry to give you a closure conversation.
“Moving on” vs “pretending to have moved on”
The common advice by many other coaches on how to get an avoidant back is to make them think you’ve moved on and don’t want them back. They tell you to write a text or email that gives the impression that you are done trying to convince an ex to get back together, are moving on and wishing them the best. Apparently pretending to move on will make an avoidant feel safe and want to come back because there is no pressure from you to get back together.
I discourage and do not support giving a false sense of safety in any form or using “reverse psychology” manipulative tactics. First of all, the idea that “pretending to move on will make an avoidant feel safe” is fundamentally flawed. “Pretending to move on to make an avoidant feel safe” is the very definition of “unsafe”. Making someone feel safe begins with you being safe (and secure). You are not safe when you give someone a false sense of safety.
Secondly, its’ self-sabotage and a choice you’re actively making. I’ve worked with many men and women who sent an avoidant ex a closure text or email hoping that this will indeed make an avoidant think you’ve moved on and don’t want them back. They either got no response, got a response that made them confused and more anxious, or got a response that made them panic that they’d lost their chances forever.
But more importantly using “reverse psychology” to get an ex interested in you says more about you than it says about your ex. It says you’re desperate and will do anything to get your ex back, you don’t believe (lack confidence) that you’re worthy of love without having to manipulate someone to love you, you’re possibly toxic and definitely unsafe.
If your relationship was toxic or had toxic elements in it, it signals a continuation of a toxic dynamic and proves that your ex was right to end the relationship, and/or you’re not good for each other and better off moving on.
Last but not least, an ex who has moved on doesn’t care if you have moved on. Telling someone who has moved on that you’ve moving on or have moved on makes you come across as some kind of “loser”. You’re once again proving just how desperate you are, and possibly emotionally immature.
Should you ask an avoidant ex for closure if you still want them back?
If you want your avoidant ex back, telling them you want closure or trying to get them to give you closure or sit down to talk about the break-up more often than not hurt the chances of getting them back. Fearful avoidant exes who may be conflicted about getting back together and dismissive avoidant exes who may still be open to getting back together but not ready to get back together are especially sensitive to an ex wanting closure or asking for a closure conversation.
Because of their avoidant attachment aversion to talking about the break-up or the past and high sensitivity to rejection and abandonment, a fearful avoidant may see a closure text or email, or you pushing to meet to get closure as you wanting to be done with and move on. They may be conflicted and not ready to completely let you go and fear that the closure text or a closure conversation sit-down means you will stop talking to them and exit each other’s lives. They may get triggered and pull away for good, or rush to ask for no contact as a pre-emptive measure (reject you before you reject them). They’re sad to let you go but in a fearful avoidant’s way of thinking “It was bound to happen anyways. It was just a matter of time”. They just sped up that time.
Some fearful avoidant exes keep postponing the conversation, sometimes promise to meet but never follow through on meeting and having the conversation you’re asking for.
Dismissive avoidants are less afraid of rejection and abandonment but a dismissive avoidant ex who may still be open to getting back together but not ready to get back together may feel pressured or feel manipulated and put a complete end to things. Some dismissive avoidant exes (and fearful avoidants leaning heavily dismissive after the break-up) may even see letting you have the closure you’re asking for as an act of kindness. They’re not ready to come back and understand that it must be hard for you because neither of you knows when they’ll be ready or if they’ll even ever be ready for a relationship, and if closure what you feel is the best course of action, they’re happy to give it to you.
And because dismissive avoidants believe they’ve a superior ability to control their emotions and impulses and anxious attached people let their emotions get the better of them and can’t control their impulses, an anxious attached ex may start reaching out and acting needy after asking for closure. Dismissive avoidants exes take it upon themselves to help you move on by not responding. As far as they’re concerned, if they don’t respond you’ll eventually stop reaching out and be able to move on because that’s what you wanted closure for (and they’re happy to help).
Process your own feelings about the past and allow yourself to let go or move on
In my many years working with people with an anxious attachment style, saying to them “process your own feelings about the past and allow yourself to move on” is easy for me to say as someone with a secure attachment, but not that easy when you have an anxious attachment or fearful avoidant attachment style. But I say it anyways because looking for break-up closure from an avoidant ex can delay healing, letting go and moving on. Most people get stuck in place for months and even years because their avoidant ex won’t and can’t give them the closure they’re looking for.
Sometimes you have no option but to accept that you may never have the answers you’re looking for, never make sense of why the break-up happened or be able to make all the pieces fit together. Repetitively thinking or dwelling on negative feelings about past experiences, replaying what your ex said or did and obsessing over their mistakes, flaws and weaknesses – or yours, is only keeping you stuck in dysfunction or pain, and much worse hurting your chances of getting back together with an avoidant ex.
At the end of the say, you’re really the only one who can give yourself true closure (whatever closure means to you). Be grateful for the experience and tell yourself the memories of what you had together will remain with you forever; but right now the most important person you should be thinking about is YOU.
Yes, it’s hard when you still have feelings for someone, wish things could work out and thinking of your ex 24/7, but you have to for your own sake. Start giving yourself the attention you’re giving to your ex. Do things that make you happy: go out with friends, sign up for a self-advancement class, try new adventures, etc. Don’t feel guilty when you feel deep sadness and cry. Crying is apart of the healing process. Let the tears flow, then gather yourself up and keep moving forward. Day by day with the help of time and effort, the past will become a memory, the present an enjoyable experience and the future a promising reality. And you’ll come to the conclusion conclusion that “closure is overrated”.