Did you know there were three people in your marriage? No, I don’t mean his mistress. I don’t mean her mom. I’m not even talking about the kids.
In every intimate pairing of two people, there’s an important third dynamic unique from each individual partner – the relationship created between the two of them. Even if you can’t stand to be in the same room with your partner ever again, the relationship endures.
Even if you never speak to one another again, the relationship endures. Even when you are no longer married, you will always be two people who were married. If you have children, you might only see them in your respective homes on your scheduled days following a divorce, but you will always be their parents and, as a group, will always be family.
Perhaps this is why many organizations have prioritized the premarital period to help people enter into a marital relationship with eyes wide open. Legal unions can be dissolved, but dynamic relationships built upon shared history endure. What about those of you going through the divorce process right now, who just want the relationship to end?
A friend of mine has been divorced for many years and hasn’t seen her former spouse in a great while. Her memories of him are not fond and she would rather do just about anything than see or talk to him. But the mere fact that she knows she doesn’t want to be around him is evidence that the relationship endures – he is still on her mind and has the power to influence her emotions and behaviors.
Their divorce did not erase who they were together and what they meant to each other during that formative period of their lives. Their enduring relationship, which began when they were children, affects their current behavior every time one of them avoids a family function the other one is attending or asks one of their children how their mother/father is doing.
How much different could their lives have been if they had acknowledged the enduring nature of their relationship throughout their divorce? Perhaps they would have nurtured their post-marriage relationship so they could more easily co-parent their children.
Perhaps they would have accepted the bond between them as part of their identities, despite their separation, so those inevitable encounters were less stressful. A person can’t cope with something they refuse to acknowledge. Ignoring the fact that a relationship, an emotional tie created with another, doesn’t cease to exist because a judge decrees it doesn’t make post-divorce life any easier.
People can divorce from other people, but there’s no law on the books that can erase the imprint of an intimate relationship.