Once you are in a relationship with someone, you will always be in a relationship with that person. It’s like the Hotel California, you can never leave. I don’t care if you never speak to her again, if you move to the other side of the world, put up a dartboard with her face on it, refer to her only as, The Bitch; you will always be in relationship. There will always be a corner of your brain, I dare say, a corner of your heart, that has her name on it.
This is doubly true if you are in photos in Facebook together. This is triply true if she met your parents. It’s quadruply true if you were married. It’s doubly, triply, quadruply true if you have kids together. You are hitched.
Love may not be eternal, but relationship is. The legal end of a marriage is not the end of a relationship.
Relationship, at its minimal level, means that your partner rents space in your head. You think of him sometimes, happily or unhappily, with fondness or regret. He’s part of your story and you are part of his. You have to account for him if you’re honest. You’ll be flooded with memories, good or bad, after the most trivial cues. He will affect the way you relate to anyone else. He will be an item to compare and contrast.
Former relationships rarely exist at this minimal level. Usually there are more feelings. Many more. They may be negative feelings. You might hate her, but there will still be feelings. At some point, time and time again, for the rest of your life, after the right buttons are pushed, you will be transported by your passions.
You’ve seen this in others. You’ve had beers with the man who, at the mere mention of his ex, goes on a ten minute tirade about the shrew. You’ve drained a bottle of wine with a friend who combs over every detail of her ex’s pervasive perfidy. These are people still in relationship even though their divorces are final.
By the way, love and hate are not that far apart. They are both intense. They are both very, very far away from indifference. You’ll never be indifferent about a former partner, no matter how hard you try to fake it.
If you agree that you will always be in relationship, then the question is: what kind of relationship will it be?