Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. No closure: A year ago, I, a woman in my early 30s, started getting close to a co-worker. We would hang out in my room and slowly also became physically intimate, even though we never had sex. This was all new to her. We spent most days together like this for about six months, though she insisted she wanted this to be private. She is not out, and I never discuss my private life with my colleagues.
Before she moved, I sent her an email trying to discuss our relationship, but she never responded. She returned to town for a week a few months after I last saw her but never wrote to me. This has been a year now.
I know I should move on—but why is it so hard? I genuinely adored her, and my most favorite places in town have all these memories with her. It’s honestly hard to go to some places, even though we never officially dated—which makes me feel stupid and ridiculous.
I’ve written to her a few times since to see how she is, or if we can maybe talk: no response. I want to be respectful of her even though I feel so hurt by her just ghosting me like this. Our time together to me was really important. I would rather she just wrote to tell me she hated me all along than this absolute silence. I cannot understand it. What to do without any kind of closure? Is there even such a thing as closure?
A: It’s hard because you loved this woman and not only did she break up with you, she’s unwilling to acknowledge either publicly or privately that you two were ever in a relationship. Which, by the way, you were; part of the reason you feel so overwhelmed right now is because you did date her for half a year but don’t have the social support that comes from a publicly acknowledged breakup. Breakups are hard to deal with, full stop; dealing with a breakup with someone who pretends you two never meant more to one another than good friends or co-workers feels like losing touch with reality.
Part of what you want from her now is an acknowledgment that what happened between the two of you was real and that she remembers it, but she’s clearly not able to give that to you. That’s painful and bewildering, but you can’t continue to contact her to ask for something she’s not capable of giving. She’s conflicted and closeted and wants to pretend nothing ever happened between you two, and that’s probably how it’s going to be for the foreseeable future. It’s painful, but you can’t drag an admission out of her.
Talk to your friends about it. You don’t have to identify her by name if you’re worried about outing her, but you absolutely have the right to discuss your own personal life. Talk to a queer-friendly therapist, or write a letter that you’re never going to send explaining why you’re so hurt and confused. Your feelings of confusion and devastation are totally understandable, but they’re not sufficient cause to contact her again. You will never be able to draw water from that well.