Closure, But Not As You Want It

25 Oct 2018

Who would not want to have closure from their emotionally abusive relationship?  You have been forced to admit that the harmonious relationship that you desired can never be on offer.  It is only normal to longer for the compensation of a gracious ending that melds finality with peace of mind.  Is it really too much to seek the kind of closure that Jeffrey Sumber defines as “a mutually agreed upon experience where both people leave with resolution or peace.”  In this article we shall explore the kind of closure available to an abuse survivor.

When a toxic relationship ends

All narcissistic, emotionally abusive relationships end somewhere.  Mostly, they end either when the abuser decides to move on to Pastures More Gullible or else when the abused partner has reached the end of the line.  The end of the line comes, for a lot of us, when we can no longer shake off the feeling of being about to fall into an abyss from which we will never emerge.

Mostly, we hang on in our toxic relationship until we realise that time is running out on our sanity and/or our life. The point finally comes when we understand the true cost of both leaving and keeping the relationship.

The persuasive power of closure

Still, when the parting of the ways finally comes, we have a hankering to do it like civilised people. The notion of “conscious uncoupling”   exerts considerable appeal.  At least, if we can manage a good ending, we can look back on that aspect of the whole, sorry relationship with pride.  That classy closure will color the way we look back on the relationship.  It will also enhance our view of ourselves.

Or, at least, civilised closure would be a great comfort – if only it were possible.

Unfortunately, at this point, a reality check is in order.  You need to ask yourself why would a toxic, narcissistic partner would want to give you the satisfaction of a – mutually agreed – closure? Since, in his eyes, everything is all about him, anyway, what would he get out of a good, dignified closure?

You could answer that he would get the satisfaction of behaving nobly for once in his life.  For some abusers that has some – momentary – appeal, inasmuch as it serves to confirm his own opinion of what a swell guy he is.

The toxic person’s approach to closure

On the other hand, however, abusers and Narcissists do not have too much of an issue with believing that – if the shines out of anywhere – it shines out of their backside.  So, that momentary, illusory, Good Guy Glow, is not worth a great deal to them.

My unlovely ex belonged to the group who never missed a chance to massage their almighty ego. So, he made sure to have – and glory in – his Good Guy Glow moment.  He basked in it like a cat in sunshine, briefly.  Then he reverted to his customary nastiness.  He belonged to that category of Narcissists and abusers who love to “grab” their rewards and then trample all over them.

Ultimately, however, any toxic partner worth their salt spends their time calculating what will offer them the most satisfaction at their partner’s expense.  Obviously, denying you the closure that you want affords them far more satisfactions than making you happy ever would.

What is in it for them?

After all, what is there for them in making you happy? 

Among the things that they know about you is that you are very dependent on their opinion.  So you may well keep trying for the closure that you want – in which case closure becomes another hook.  Either that or they can use your desire for closure as a means to bamboozle you, all over again, into staying in the relationship.

On top of that, you need to consider that the whole closure issue opens up a new opportunity for them to vent their multiple dissatisfactions with you.  Plus, if applicable, they can do their damnedest to twist the knife in you by celebrating the Perfect Joys of Pastures More Gullible.

The bottom line you need to remember

The bottom line – because you always need to think about bottom lines when it comes to toxic people – is what is in it for them. Their agenda is always, ultimately, to ensure that you do not get your wants and needs met. Narcissists and abusers get their needs met by denying you yours.

So, it helps to face up to this ugly truth; from the moment you fully commit to a relationship with a toxic partner, that relationship will be awash with ugliness.  Even if you (still) have moments of joy and companionship, you can expect emotional ugliness to become an ever-increasing part of that relationship.  What that means is that the end of a toxic relationship is likely to be bloody.  The abuser causes as much blood-shed as he can. That leaves you with just one choice – how much you are prepared to bleed.

Certainly, the end of your relationship will be painful, heart-breaking even.  However, fixating on the Impossible Closure will only make things much worse. So, here is what you need to do instead.

The 3 Things You Must Do

  • Decide what you really want out of ending the relationship – that means looking past the Holy Grail of closure.  If you are like most other women, what you really want is peace of mind and a life – that is a life after the toxic relationship.
  • Admit to yourself what is, and is NOT, possible. Chances are co-parenting like nice, civilised human beings is NOT possible – at least in the short or even medium term.  As you already know, Narcissists and abusers are much, much better at counter-parenting than they are at co-parenting.  Why wouldn’t they be, after all? One way or another, a toxic (ex)partner can always find creative ways to use the children to wound you.
  • Use the right tools for the job. One of my all-time favorite family stories is about my older brother, The Family Genius.  Wanting to show his wife how An Intelligent Man defrosts a freezer, he took a hammer to said freezer.  Needless to say, that didn’t work too well.  It cost them a new freezer.  Curiously, that cautionary tale applies to closure – albeit for different reasons. When you apply “nice”, “civilised” and “reasonable” to the end of your relationship will not achieve your desired result – because you will not actually BREAK anything.  Rather, the Civilised Approach will cost you a fortune in emotional wear-and-tear, lawyers fees and self-doubt and blame. Fortunately, there is another way.

Focus on what works 

Having already learnt, over and over again in the relationship that Nice Doesn’t Work, you need to think effective.  You end the relationship by making it perfectly clear to a toxic partner that there is no further dialogue or wiggle-room available to him.  If you absolutely must have contact, you ensure that that contact is limited to the purely practical.  Plus, you limit the means of his access to you to the bare minimum.  Better still if you have no cause to be in contact, at all. There is no earthly need to let him have open access to you via live conversations, and social media.

Ugly but effective beats civilised but ineffectual every time.  In the longer term – quite likely the much, much longer term – it may be possible for the two of you to have a superficially civil relationship.  Although I, personally, would not put money on it.  Either way, the high-road to peace of mind and recovery requires you to let go of the closure myth and, instead, slam the door on your toxic partner and his toxic relationship habit.

Your closure, your way

Mutually agreeable  closure would have been nice.  So, too, would have been The Happily Ever After. But you can’t get blood from a stone.  Time to stop appealing to a toxic partner for what they will never give you.  Instead, you provide yourself with your own closure when you say to yourself, “It was vile.  He was vile.  I’m done.  Never again. I acknowledge that I did my absolute best. I alone am the arbiter of my truth.” Sure it doesn’t sound too noble and romantic.  However, when you create your own closure, you save your own life.  That’s courageous.  As I see it, that beats the hell out of noble but self-destructive.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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