Advice Column: How To Get Closure When Your Ex Is A No-Show

Dear Chelsea,

My fiancé (boyfriend of 6 years) has recently told me that he needed time for himself and his family. He told me that he needed this time to find his old self. I told him that I will wait and that I will respect his decision. I was thinking that he really needed this time to spend with his family since his dad is very ill (cancer patient). But a month has passed by already and I haven't heard anything from him. He even changed all his profiles and removed all traces of pictures/videos when we're still together.

I was in denial at first and was still hoping that this is really just a time-off because that was our last conversation. That I will wait. Knowing that the person I'm supposed to spend the rest of my life with has left me hanging like I never even mattered to him is extremely painful. He was a coward for not telling me the truth.

Now, even though he has obviously moved on already, I feel like I'm still hanging in the air. Can closure, as they say, help me move on with my life? Or will trying to talk to him just inflict further pain?

Fiancée Left Behind

Dear Fiancée Left Behind,

For the record, it's easier to cut someone off today but it's no easier to move on from them. Big difference. You said your fiancé has "obviously" moved on already. That's not obvious to me. Sure, he has sat down somewhere and opened up his Facebook. He has pushed delete, delete, delete. But that's Facebook. I hate to say it but social media is where the cowards go to do their dirty work. It's also where the pained carry out rash and poor decisions. Have you called him and said this hurts me? Have you asked him what his intention is, whether he's deleting photographs of the two of you to "help" him or is it to signal some harsh message to you?

Men often tell me that women can't handle the truth. That's why they say I'll see you Saturday and never call. That's why they disappear. That's why they push delete. That's why they don't give women full answers. You know what I tell these men? I tell them we can handle the truth, it's you who can't handle telling the truth. I'm yet to meet a man who hasn't softened and said, oh, right. Men don't challenge me on this. If they ever do, I'll look them dead on and say teach us then. Teach women to handle the truth.

In the meantime, let me talk some truth to you. It's true that men (most of them) don't want to deal with confrontation. They don't want to be dragged back into something that no longer arrests their heart. They don't want to come face to face with a woman who is hurting. They don't want to feel responsible for falling short of "the dream." They certainly don't want a woman to be their mirror. And a woman who doesn't understand usually is that mirror. Because, often, men at their worst, at their weakest, are men who aren't understanding much either. This is why they flee questioning. This is why they say they need time to figure "it" out. Time to figure themselves out.

Men and women flee for two reasons and two reasons only. Because we think we can outrun the questions or because we think we can chase the answers down. But understanding can't be chased. It can be avoided, no doubt, but it can't ever be rushed. Understanding is a gift that becomes us, and the gift of perspective often won't happen in a month. Typically it takes more life than that. For this reason, I'd recommend calling off the search party. It's been one month, don't search for answers yet.

I think your fiancé has a lot on his mind. And the reality is, he's probably focusing on his father more than you. At least, that's why he's left you and gone to him, right? There's probably sadness inside of him and fear and pain and worry and regret and anger and blame. Maybe even self-blame. Who knows, maybe he wishes he'd given more of his attention to his father. (I'm in contact with my father daily but eventually even I will wish I had spent more time knowing him, loving him, and just being.) For the last six years, you've had your fiancé's attention. That's not your fault, that's love, that's partnership, that's heat and youth and a bubble called romance. But now he probably feels like real life is calling him and he's got to get there fast.

A lot of things probably don't make sense right now. Focusing on a future with you probably doesn't make sense right now. Right now he's probably focusing on one more day with his father. He's probably focusing on what one more day could mean to him. He's probably filled up with fear and love and not a whole lot of reasons. If you focus too much on the two of you, you might push him away forever.

Despite his actions, I don't recommend pushing him away. That won't make you stronger or happier. I'm also not recommending you marry him. I don't know. I don't know enough. Even if I did, you know your love better than anyone ever will. Only you can feel your way forward. I'm just here to shine a light on what that may look like and how you might move toward it.

So, here we go. Pushing him away isn't the way out, it also isn't the way through, acceptance is. Understanding is. Whether he comes back to you or not, you are a part of this equation and the perspective you develop from this day forward will be the determining factor for whether you can let him into your heart again or not. But listen, there's a reason why those whose trust has been betrayed usually can't get beyond it. There's a reason why even though two people come back together, they ultimately end up falling back apart. Because they return with the same perspective they had when they left or were left. Because if either one of you doesn't arrive with new understanding, the relationship will not progress. And because you can't decide whether he ever shows up with any new understanding or not, the only "whys" you should be focusing on are the ones that reside within you.

For example, why might you have needed a break from your fiancé? What's the best thing you could do with this time apart? While he's caring for his father, what is calling on you to care for it? Who can you reconnect with? Where have you fallen out of touch with yourself? Who were you six years ago, right before you met your fiancé? Is there any part of you or your life that you miss? How can you revisit those aspects of yourself? If his leaving you were actually a blessing in disguise, what blessing would that be? Why do you think you've fallen in love with a man who could switch off so easily? What are the first emotions you try to separate yourself from?

While these questions might be uncomfortable, to recover yourself you must answer them and then embrace those answers. Embracing your own truth will make it easier to embrace his. And, whether he belongs in your future or not, accepting what you had and what you now have is imperative to loving without any bitterness in your heart. This is where closure comes into play. Closure, mind you, is a tricky little dance.

Often when someone comes to me and talks about their desire for closure, what they really want is one of three things: (1) to no longer feel anything toward their ex; (2) to know why their ex did x, y, and z so they no longer doubt themselves; and (3) hope for reconciliation.

From this, I've discovered that the want for closure is more often the desire for an opening. I feel like you want an opening. You want a chance. Since there's no knowing whether he will give you that chance, it only makes sense to focus on your ability to give him a chance. Because, believe it or not, it will come down to this.

For you to give him a chance, you will have to accept what he did. You will have to accept that he gave you a ring and left you in the dark. That he did not tell you the truth. That he deleted your photographs. Your moments. That he acted like you didn't exist. You will have to accept that he was the catalyst for so much pain. To be clear, you can accept this. I've accepted this before. And I've gone through something similar to you. Only, it wasn't a month and it wasn't a fiancé. It was a guy who talked a big talk about marrying me and disappeared because he was sick but then came back and then disappeared after my grandfather died. He disappeared for a year.

By the way, he didn't just show back up either. It took my calling and my initiation and my bravery. It took me not pretending that I didn't still think of him, that I didn't still care. More than anything, it took me deciding that I didn't want to be controlled by another person's cowardice and my own pride. To this day, I'm happy I picked up that phone. I'm proud of myself. I'm still proud of me. I think you just want to be proud of how you handle this, too. The beauty is you don't need him to come along and do anything for you to feel proud of yourself. You just need your own brave actions.

So, how did I make my big, brave move? I spent months answering my own questions, my own whys. I gave up the need to figure him out. I never asked myself why this happened to me. I was only ever curious about discovering why it happened for me. What bullet did I dodge? Again, the answer wasn't him. (Though, how very little effort it takes to think so.) The answer was my own pattern of continual co-dependency. My answer was another long distance relationship that I had sworn would never happen again. You see, before he even came into the picture, I knew I had work to do. The silver lining is, if he hadn't disappeared, I may have never given myself the chance to make myself a priority.

But because he did, for the first time, I did what I had to do. I put my passion into me, myself, then men. And this switcheroo made all the difference. This reprioritization is why a year later, I was the one who was brave enough to call, who cared enough to call. I was the one with humility, curiosity, and compassion. (That's what it'll take, FYI, to genuinely show up for a man who has given up on you before.) And you know what he's told me a few times since then? That when he saw me calling, he realized that I was a better person than him.

This admission was a gift because I wasn't expecting it. And I wasn't expecting it because I didn't need it. I didn't need him to feel like I was better than him. (Though of course that was nice.) I needed myself to know whether I was braver. Braver than I had been a year ago. Braver, not in spite of his leaving, but thanks to it.

When my friends found out that I reconnected with him, they thought I went to him for closure. They thought I went to him for answers. Explanations. Apologies. They thought I met up with him so I'd be able to finally let him go. I wasn't there for any of that. I didn't ask questions because I didn't need his answers. I already had my own. I wasn't there to hear him say sorry because, honestly, what's a sorry gonna do? I was there because something inside me told me to go. And within the last year, I'd made a practice out of listening to myself, out of no longer betraying my intuition. I was there because I wanted to show up. I wanted to be the person who can show up. I wanted him to see that there were better ways to come into someone's life and to go.

Girl, I achieved all of that and more. And what friends imagined would be an angry night was actually a magical one. It was magical because for the first time in my life, I felt like the strongest one in the room.

Your fiancé can be a catalyst for your strength as much as he's been a catalyst for your pain. Use him for that. Use what he's done to develop yourself, to prioritize yourself, to become the bravest heart in the room.

Maybe one day he will see you calling and he will have to admit to himself how special you are, how strong. And maybe this, maybe you, will inspire him to do better.

Chelsea

A Breakup Coach trained and certified in Solution-Focused Life Coaching, Chelsea Leigh Trescott writes for publications such as Thought Catalog, Elite Daily, and Mend. Her three-and-a-half-year relationship inspired her to breakout on her own as a Breakup Coach. Now she helps her clients turn their sob stories into silver lining breakups, too. Seeking advice? Send situation and question to Breakupward@icloud.com for a chance to be featured.