Friday, September 17, 2010

The Myth of Closure

"When will this be over?"
How many times have we asked ourselves that question, in the days, weeks, months...sometimes years following learning of our partners' betrayal? Particularly disheartening is the awareness that, after much hard work and healing, we can still be brought to our knees by a song on a radio. Or a glimpse of the OW at the grocery store. Or stumbling across an old credit card receipt that reminds us.... And suddenly the pain feels so raw it leaves us breathless.
And asking the universe – for the zillionth time – when will this be over.
The unfortunate answer is, likely, never.
We can do everything "right" according to the infidelity experts. We can sign off on the no-contact letter, create boundaries, redefine our relationships, even deal face-to-face with the OW and triumph.
But we're deluding ourselves if we think that we can somehow close the door on what happened. Tuck it away in some box and put it on a shelf where we don't have to think about it.
And, frankly, that wouldn't be wise.
"Pain engraves a deeper memory," says poet Anne Sexton.
Which is why, in spite of years of happiness, one act of betrayal can cut us to the bone.
And yet, pain is often where we find our most valuable lessons. It's where we find our truest selves.
Burying those lessons and the self held within only makes them more determined – and likely – to resurface.
Instead, though the idea of denial is an appealing one (just one more drink! A tiny pill to help me sleep! A new pair of shoes! Another piece of cake!), it's important to examine the pain. To see where life took that unexpected turn. To turn it over in our minds, not for the pain itself but for the lesson it holds.
When that lesson is revealed – we sacrifice too much then feel resentful, we ignore our gut feelings, we  need to create firmer boundaries... – it's far less likely that the pain will have the same bite.
Closure? It's possible, I think, to create rituals that help us move forward in our life. Or to have the necessary conversation. Or burn the letters. Or whatever it is we think is necessary to heal. But to think that we can ever shut the door on betrayal is a myth. We are changed by it...from this day forward.

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