I heard Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” earlier today, and remembered my high school girlfriend for the first time in a while. I haven’t talked to her in years, but with everything going on it’s been hard not to think of old times and how it used to be. I had a small group of friends growing up, and she was part of the core. Others came to our game nights or went to the movies off and on, but she was nearly always there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m blissfully married to someone else and wouldn’t change that for all the tea in bags, but even though we’ve both moved away and haven’t seen each other in years we’ll always have that connection and on some level will always care. Unless you had a bad break-up, you probably feel the same way about past relationships. Here’s some reasons why:
1. You are who you are because of them
When you love someone, you hang out with them as much as you can. You do your best to share things, especially things you have in common. As you do, you build a rapport and even a pattern of behavior that can be hard to shake. Of course, you try to be honest, but you also try to be your best self when you’re together. Sometimes you end up being the person they want you be, which has its own list of pros and cons. They change you. You change them. You’ll always remember them for that.
2. You trust them
Love and trust go hand in hand. You’ve been through enough together that you have their back and they have yours. That never goes away. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been apart; you can meet up again and immediately be comfortable because of that bond you had.
3. Loving relationships are forever
Even if you think it’s a social construct, Ferris Bueller called it “the end-all, be-all of human existence” and he was right. Maybe you didn’t fantasize to the level that you drew pictures of you and your loved one with three kids, a cat, and a house with a picket fence, but at some point you told yourself that you wanted to be this happy forever. Even if it was puppy love and you have happily moved on, you’ll always remember that time in your life when you thought it couldn’t get any better. You can’t erase or lose that.
4. Great memories together
If you loved each other, you did fun things together. Holidays, vacations, picnics, whatever – you have something you did together that you can look back on and smile about. You cannot divorce that you had a good time from the fact that you did it with someone you love. That memory isn’t lessened by their presence, it’s improved. Those happy memories will always be happy, and as long as they are you will still care about your old love.
5. Unfinished business
Few loves are as romantic as unrequited love, and love that doesn’t end with happy ever after always leaves a mark, if not a hole. We like finishing things, and a love that isn’t forever is the ultimate order of unfinished business. Of course, you may lose all desire to get back together when you meet your true love, but that old flame will stay in your mind like an unused room. You may never go in it, but you’ll pass it on the way to other rooms and remember that it’s still there.
6. You owe each other
You can’t talk about the “end-all, be-all of human existence” without feeling some amount of gratitude. You counted yourself lucky that the two of you were together. Love in its most basic form is kindness, and when someone shows you kindness you feel indebted to them. It’s a generous cycle of receiving kindness and giving it back. That desire to be kind, giving, and loving doesn’t suddenly go away when the relationship is over. You may transfer it to someone else entirely and unreservedly when you fall in love with them, but you will always remember that someone else had that kindness first.
7. Friendship is the truest love
This may sound like a more eloquent version of “we can still be friends,” but any loving relationship that doesn’t end with happily ever after can still be a solid friendship. Think about a past relationship you’ve had: can you honestly say you don’t care about them now? If they were in trouble, would you try to help? Of course you care. Of course you would. Sure, it will never be happily ever after romantic love, but unless you ended the relationship badly or are a garbage human being you will always care about them, even years and miles apart. That’s love.