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A Therapist Suggests "Getting Closure"

Should you contact a lost love, while married, as therapy?

Although I am married, I had been thinking of her a great deal over the past several years. It was affecting my life in a negative manner and I needed closure to "get on with it," so I went to a therapist for help. I was not interested in renewing the relationship, just in trying to get over it.

My therapist told me that, by contacting her, I would see that she was happy with her life, that she had probably changed considerably and we would have nothing in common, and that she had more or less forgotten all about me. That's not what I found at all.

Thus begins one of the rekindled romance stories I included in my book, The Lost Love Chronicles. The man who told it to me did as his therapist suggested and contacted his lost love, for closure. Instead of closure, his feelings ignited, were reciprocated, and an affair began quickly; he described feeling anguished, as his marriage was good, with a wife and young child he didn't want to leave, yet the reunion was taking over his life.

Unfortunately, this is not the only time a therapist has suggested that a married client contact a lost love, with the same disastrous results. It's common.

I spoke with a woman a few days ago who is in a good marriage with a husband she admires and loves. She began therapy recently because she wanted to work through a traumatic incident in her past, unrelated to lost love, and the therapist suggested she contact her high school boyfriend to see if he could aid her memory of the incident. She took the advice of the therapist, wrote to her lost love through Facebook, and before long, her feelings for him became intense. She came to me for advice because she didn't want to pursue those feelings, yet she didn't know how to deal with them. She was forthright with her husband about what she did and what she felt, and I'm sure that inoculated her from being pulled into an affair.

Here was a woman who had "closure," since her teen breakup. She never thought she made a mistake by leaving him, or thought about him at all. It was contact with him that opened old emotions - feelings she felt for him years ago, but had resolved with the breakup and never felt since. Her several emails to him, at the advice of her therapist, took away the closure she had.

Maybe she didn't realize she still cared for him and had repressed it? I don't think so, after talking with her at length... Analogy: did you ever visit your parents as an adult, in the house where you grew up, and find yourself regressing to old, childish ways of behaving and feeling? Maybe you automatically left your dirty coffee cup on the counter, instead of washing it, because as a child your parents washed it for you and you feel like a kid when you go home? Or, have you ever attended a high school reunion and felt inadequate around the people who, as teens, were "popular," even though you became far more successful than many of them? Old feelings and behaviors come back in the old situations. That's what happened to this woman, and to many other people who wind up in lost love affairs.

When most people use the term "closure," they refer to something that doesn't exist. I remember feeling horrified as I watched a TV newscaster ask a mother, on the third anniversary of losing her son in the World Trade Center Towers, if she had gained closure? Her shocked expression and quick jolt backwards, as if she had been hit in the stomach, was not missed by the thoughtless newscaster who quickly moved on to another question. Is a mother who loses her child, or anyone who experiences a deep loss, supposed to recover as if nothing happened?

Something happened!

We get older and our emotional wounds mostly heal, but they can leave scar tissue. And in situations that remind us of that loss, the emotions come charging back at us. Yes, we go on with our lives, but we are a developmental whole and an event, and the feelings surrounding the event, can cycle back. The past is not lost as long as we have our memories.

Seeking closure by contacting a lost love will typically fail. It adds new information, and this additional information now has to be dealt with, too -- the opposite of the sought-after closure. And, even if you learn that the person is not right for you, you will still feel the old emotions for the person as he/she was during the initial romance.

So is healing and moving forward possible? Yes. But the healing must come from within; you do not need to contact the lost love for this to happen, nor is it desirable to contact a lost love if a complete ending is what you are after. The events and feelings of the past can best be worked through, on your own, with a professional psychologist who understands lost love issues -- someone who will not tell you to find the person for closure. A lost love cannot heal you. There are no shortcuts. Getting over a conflicted lost love experience takes work, and a genuine willingness to let go!

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Copyright Nancy Kalish, Ph.D.

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