When my marriage was falling apart I had a friend who was 18 months ahead of me on the divorce curve. Our kids were the same ages and in the same preschool classes. We talked a lot about the dissolution of our relationships. She offered me glimpses into my future. One, in particular, stands out. She said "Sophia, you don't care about sex now, but when you become single, you'll meet some hot guy who will totally turn you around." And she was right, but it wasn't just one.
A while after my ex and I had split up, I had an epiphany: I didn't love him anymore. And it wasn't a frightening realization, rather a liberating one. When I next had lunch with my friend she complained about her ex, as we all do, and said "but I still love him." And I challenged her: "are you sure it's love you feel and not nostalgia?" She fell silent and looked as if she'd been struck by lightning. "Oh my god, Sophia, you're right, it's nostalgia."
She understood that after a long marriage, especially one involving children, you've had great times as well as bad ones, which create enduring memories that will be both cherished and loathed. We are creatures of habit and when the relationship is disrupted, everything, including our bodies, is signaling that we should return to that familiar, if unhappy, place.
It was incredibly helpful for me to admit that I no longer loved my ex. He remains the single most extraordinary person I've ever met, but our time together had come to a close. During that time we traveled the world, changed the lives of thousands, and, most importantly, created two exceptional children. And what I cherish to this day are the happy memories, for which I am eternally grateful. But love? No. Trying to hold onto a love spent is like trying to hug a ghost.