A couple of weeks ago I read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (which I highly recommend). The lead character is a young teenage girl who is murdered, and we see the lives of her family and friends through her eyes as she watches them after her death. The thing that stayed with me is how the people who loved her would always see her as fourteen years old.

We all change as we grow older. Each time we do, the person we have been dies and a new one is born. When someone you love changes, the way you love them changes as well. It can be hard to let go of the person that was and embrace the person they’ve become. But if we don’t, we end up loving a memory, not a living person. Love reinvents itself. If it doesn’t, it stagnates and dies.

Sometimes we need to grieve the loss when a relationship changes, even if that change is for the better. Parents grieve when their children grow up, but fall in love with that child all over again as he or she transforms into an adult. I think it’s important to treasure the memories of how we once loved someone while at the same time letting go so it can grow into something new. It isn’t always easy. Many times people will drift apart, and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. But if you want to prevent it from happening you have to make a conscious choice to learn how to love that person in other ways. Perhaps that’s why some marriages last for so long. Each time one partner changes, they both look for new reasons to love each other, and don’t try to hold on to what’s been lost.

Zen Buddhists practice something called mindfulness, which means living in the present. It seems to me that the same thing can be applied to relationships: love in the present. Because if you don’t love a person as they are right now, you don’t really love them at all.