Finding Closure After a One-Sided Breakup


How to handle heartache, rejection, and whispers when the love is gone

There’s no denying it.

The actions of your spouse were painful. They hurt you. Worse, you didn’t deserve it. Believing, trusting, loving — you gave yourself to someone who promised to always take care of you, to put you first in their life.

And now you’re surrounded by constant reminders that something is missing — the empty space in the garage where a second car used to be parked, the half-bare closet rods in the master bedroom, and the missing collection of toiletries on his side of the bath vanity.

But it happened. And now, you’re left with fragments of a life that’s been changed forever.

Some of the pieces exist in the form of memories. You’re surrounded by reminders of a happier time, when there was no expiration date on the love you proclaimed for each other — ghosts from a marriage that died much too soon.

And then there’s the stuff — the antique chair you bought together on your second anniversary, the goofy picture of the two of you boarding your first cruise, the wedding band that now sits in your jewelry box instead of circling his finger.

You were sure that, after a period of adjustment, you’d settle in, reboot, and move on. But it hasn’t happened — not yet, anyway. Still grieving over the infidelity and sense of abandonment, you hold onto those feelings as if they were a weapon — wielding them hard and fast to prove you were right and he was wrong.

And for just a moment, you wonder if you’re refusing to let go of the pain to prove a point.

At dinner time, you hunt through the freezer looking for something to reheat. Because cooking for one seems like such a waste. It makes you angry.

You want revenge. Oh, I know you tell yourself you don’t — because you would never stoop to that level. But if you could get in just one good shot — to hurt him in the same way — so he would know how much it aches, how much his actions have gutted the most sacred part of your life.

Because the bond is broken. Irreversibly shattered.

Sooner or later, it’s time to answer the big question.

“What next?”

But the question isn’t asked in reference to the process of dividing the collected treasures of your time together or finding an apartment that takes dogs. It’s about identity. And the questions are overwhelming.

Who am I … now?

Who am I supposed to be — to my friends, his friends, our friends? Not to mention the in-laws, our pastor, and the server at the local restaurant where we had breakfast every Saturday morning for the last five years.

How much of “me” that was part of the previous “we” is supposed to survive?

The world saw you as a couple. They treated you like a couple — spoke to you as a couple. And now, you sense the uneasiness in how others approach you — the awkward pauses or quick apology when your ex’s name is accidentally mentioned.

When you received the final decree in the mail, you didn’t think about the fallout — or having to endure the self-conscious discomfort and undeserved embarrassment as you’re forced to share the gut-wrenching, private truths of your life. But you tell them. Because they need to know — and you want them on your side. You make it clear you don’t need special handling — the kid gloves aren’t necessary.

You want them to treat you like before — when life was a lie.

The nights are the hardest. That’s when you replay it in your mind — closing joint checking accounts, choosing new beneficiaries for life insurance policies, changing the name on your drivers license.

Sleep is impossible. So you read books, the ones telling you to momentarily step away from the hurt and try looking at the situation from a distance, from somewhere down the road — when the pain has been replaced by purpose. You think about selling the house — or just burning it down. Like the mythical Phoenix, you would rise from the ashes of your broken life and start over.

You were sure you’d made it through the transition. You found new friends, new interests. And you’d stopped reaching over in the middle of the night, subconsciously searching for the warmth of a now-absent body.

You even managed to get through what would have been your tenth wedding anniversary. In spite of the hurt, you caught yourself imaging what it might have been like — the dinner you would have enjoyed, the cards and little gifts you would have exchanged.

But you told yourself, “No.” No more torturing yourself with a fantasy. Tough love — self-applied. And it seemed to help.

Until the card came in the mail.

“Hope you’re doing okay.”

And written below in once-familiar handwriting, “I think we made the right decision,” the penmanship stilted and firm. There wasn’t a signature. It didn’t need one.

You thought about framing it, putting it on the wall to remind you. Maybe if you see it every day, you’ll believe it — “We made the right decision.”

Five words inferring the decision to go your separate ways was mutual — as if you came to the same conclusion after months of honest dialogue. Just another lie.

But it’s a lie you desperately want to believe.