Breaking up isn't always easy, but there are plenty of strategies that can help you move on faster, like cutting off all contact with your partner and taking the necessary time to work through your feelings. Another powerful tool? Writing a closure letter to your ex.
In an article published by the British Journal of General Practice, researchers found that therapeutic writing has positive effects on the immune system as well as the mind—but in order to reap the benefits, it's important that you use the exercise to learn from your emotions instead of just reliving painful memories through the act of writing (and definitely don't use it as an opportunity to just tell them off for everything they did wrong in the relationship).
Whether you've decided to write your words on paper or type a heartfelt email, keep reading for five key tips for writing a letter that can help you come to terms with your breakup and get over your former flame.
When you sit down to write, it’s important that you’re in the right state of mind. For example, writing the letter after a few glasses of wine or a hard day at the office may not be the best way to approach any important type of writing exercise, especially one pertaining to your love life. Instead, find a time when you feel level-headed, can think about your past relationship in a rational and objective way, and are able to truly focus your thoughts without any interruptions or distractions.
Focus on Yourself
When writing a letter to your ex, the focus should be on yourself and how you feel. Rather than pointing out all their faults or blaming them for what went wrong in the relationship, it's better to look internally. For example, explain how you felt when certain things occurred in your relationship and do your best to explain why you were disappointed as a result of those situations. You can also use this time to share some insight into your own actions and why you reacted in certain ways.
If your approach is one of self-explanation rather than being accusatory, your ex will probably be more receptive to your message.
Steer Clear of Insults
It’s important that you take the high road when it comes to handling a past relationship. That means keeping the insults or passive-aggressive jabs out of the letter, both in terms of specifics as well as the overall tone itself. After all, if your ex feels disrespected, judged, or that their character is being attacked, they might become defensive and disregard your letter altogether. Rather than relying on criticism and low-blows, make sure that your words are constructive and productive.
Write From Your Heart
While the letter may have your ex's name on it, remember that the purpose of this writing exercise is to help yourself move on after the relationship. Be heartfelt and share your raw emotions—don't hold back. You don't necessarily need to forgive your ex, but you do owe it to yourself to be honest about your feelings to help you actually move on.
You can also use this letter as an opportunity to apologize to your ex. After all, if you know that you're also at fault and this has been preventing you from finding the closure you’ve been seeking, this is the perfect time to say you’re sorry.
Hit Send—or Keep It in Drafts
Now that you've gotten everything off your chest, it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t actually have to send that post-breakup email or letter. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find that the simple act of writing out your thoughts and feelings about what happened between the two of you and where things went wrong in your relationship can be powerful enough to help you move on.
You can also consider reading your letter to a close friend, family member, or mental health professional who can listen to you and offer support and guidance.
Mugerwa S, Holden JD. Writing Therapy: A New Tool for General Practice? Br J Gen Pract. 2012;62(605):661-3. doi:10.3399/bjgp12X659457