There is so much that my wise psychologist friends have taught me over the years, but one of the best lessons they shared with me early on is that the opposite of love is not hate, but rather apathy. That has helped me understand so much about my clients throughout the years– for it really is a thin line between love and hate. When you are angry at someone, it demonstrates that you still care on some level– if you truly did not care, their actions would not affect you at all.
Often I have seen people do ridiculous things to get another’s attention– write nasty emails, send incessant texts, call repeatedly to yell, etc. Here is my tip for disengaging: don’t respond. You can always screen calls and delete unwanted emails or texts. If you are going to respond, remember Bill Eddy’s line to use “BIFF,” keep it Brief, Informative, Friendly, but Firm.
While parents struggle to get to the point of apathy with their partners during a separation, I strongly encourage them to avoid the conflict around their children. Kids do not need to know the details that are being negotiated in a separation agreement or that there has been an affair. They just need to be kept apprised of changes that might impact them, but more than anything they need to be reassured of three things: (1) that both their parents love them, (2) that the divorce is not their fault and (3) that both parents will continue to be part of their lives.
When kids are involved, divorced parents cannot completely detach, and instead must learn to develop a professional business-like relationship. In doing so, these parents are actually modeling for their children the skill of artfully detaching, which is a necessary life skill both in our professional and personal lives. We all need to be able to manuveur through some complex relationships, including maintaining some at an emotional distance while severing those ties that are toxic, hopefully while never losing sight of the fact that the joy of building healthy relationships is what actually makes life worth living.
By Regina A. DeMeo