I often had trouble sleeping while my nearly 30-year marriage was falling apart, so I would Google various self-help topics on my iPhone while lying awake late at night. Occasionally, I'd come across a factoid or bit of advice that would truly resonate. Here's one: "The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference."
Pow! That one hit me right between the eyes. I had loved my husband for a very long time -- over half my life. Because of the deep hurt I experienced when the marriage ended, it was easy to transform my intense feelings of love and care into their evil twin counterparts, hate and anger. When I read this statement about indifference I suddenly understood that love and hate are actually two sides of the same coin, and that neither one would help me recover from the harsh reality of my broken marriage. In fact, my strong feelings for my husband, both positive and negative, were keeping me tied to him. The more I stalked his activities on Facebook or via credit card charges, the less I would be able to heal and move forward with my life.
I vowed that indifference would be my goal. (No surprise: This is easier said than done).
Here are four ways you can work toward indifference so you can get on with your life:
- Shift the focus to yourself. The dictionary definition of indifference is "a lack of interest or concern about something." When you're married, the norm is the opposite of indifference. You're interested in absolutely everything about your spouse, from dinner-time discussions of "How was your day?" to his/her latest accomplishments at the gym, ongoing health issues and books or news items of mutual interest. Because this ongoing concern occupies a huge amount of your psychic real estate, achieving indifference requires a radical change in your outlook. You have to stop worrying about the minutia of your spouse's life and shift that concern to yourself. Think about ways you can improve your career, your fitness level, your social life. Make plans and use your network to help you achieve your new goals. This may sound selfish, but after spending so many years as a "we," it's perfectly acceptable (and necessary) to concentrate on defining your "me." Just remember that focusing on yourself doesn't preclude being a good citizen, friend and colleague. Use Rabbi Hillel's wise words as your guide: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I?"
When you feel frustrated or upset by a person or a situation, remember that you are not reacting to the person or the situation, but to your feelings about the person or the situation. These are your feelings, and your feelings are not someone else's fault.
Once you recognize that you (not your ex-spouse or anyone else) are responsible for your feelings, you will become empowered. You will take control of your life. And you will stop spending so much of your precious time and energy thinking about what your ex is up to.