Sometimes people move away from a marriage as they become involved in a new relationship. Often the new relationship is an affirmation during a vulnerable time that you are lovable, fun, and sexy — contrary to how your spouse is treating you. It can be a chance to act on fantasies that were irresistible to think about. After several months of an affair or an open relationship within a separation, the new relationship may begin to deteriorate. It was a bridge through a transition, but not a good choice for a long term commitment.
For all of these reasons, it is natural to have conflicting feelings. Long after love fades away, attachments can continue. The dependency, the comfort of the familiar, and the memories all contribute to difficulty in letting go. Angry feelings often co-exist with longing for the familiar spouse.
It is not unusual to experience a flurry of intimacy with your ex-spouse, when you turn to each other sexually for some of the needs you each have, to hold on to the past, or just to release some tension between you. While such activity is common, and natural, be aware that it can be very confusing. One of you can easily get hurt when you attribute more meaning to the intimacy than was intended, or sustainable. You may also experience guilt and renewed pain. You may sleep together one night and wonder bitterly what is wrong with you in the morning.
Greg and Pam had been separated for three months already, and Pam was seeing someone new who she liked a great deal. Yet when Greg dropped off their two children, he stayed around to make sure they got off to their various sports practices and activities. Alone in the house afterwards, Pam and Greg made love with deep emotion and wild abandon. Later, as Pam drove to her new boyfriend’s house, she pulled to the side of the road and sobbed, with guilt and confusion flowing over her.
As this process of ambivalence boils away inside of you, your spouse will sense it and respond. Even though he or she may seem oblivious to your feelings, he or she may be experiencing similar feelings. Perhaps your spouse’s reaction will stay at the unconscious level, unexpressed underneath layers of denial and fear. Perhaps your spouse will try to forestall the progress of the divorce. Or perhaps your spouse will go along with the divorce process, as he or she begins to anticipate the possibility of life outside of this marriage.
These feelings of attachment come and go, you may feel like you have a split personality. Having an understanding of what is going on inside your self and your soon-to-be-ex spouse can help you be perceptive and considerate of each others needs.