The Opposite of Love is... Passionless Indifference
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September 30, 2014 - Updated November 19, 2014

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My close friend, “Beth,” and her boyfriend, “Mitch,” dated for over two years. They had a terrible breakup that included allegations of cheating, lying, emotional abuse and a whole lot more. The police were called, a strict no-contact order was put into place, and mutual friends were forced to pick sides. One was either Team Beth or Team Mitch, there was no gray, no neutral zone.

Beth hated Mitch. She talked about him often, she swore up and down that he was the most awful guy on the planet, and she went to great lengths to ensure that everyone knew it. Mitch wasn’t a whole lot better. There was a reason he was an awful boyfriend, he told his supporters, and that was because Beth was a horrible girlfriend. She was selfish and didn’t give him the attention he was entitled to. Beth was the ultimate nag and he was glad to be rid of her.

Several months later, Beth got a call from the police while she was grocery shopping. Mitch wanted the no contact order lifted so that they could communicate again. Beth was floored. Sure, it was fine if Mitch wanted to contact her again but no way in hell would she ever reconcile with that asshole, she told the police. A few hours later, Mitch called Beth. She didn’t take the call but she did text him and, oh my, the texts were awful. Plenty of accusations flew between the two of them. When Beth showed me her phone and I read them myself, it left me breathless. Ouch.

After several days of texting, Beth and Mitch decided to meet up and have it out in person. They went to a restaurant and for the next two hours, the conversation got quite animated and loud. Beth said they might have caused a scene, though she was so focused on the interaction between the two of them that she failed to notice anything else. She did say that at one point she knocked her drink over. Beth drove home in tears, shaking. Did the meet-up provide much-needed closure and comfort? No, said Beth, it was awful and she wished she hadn’t gone at all. She felt dark inside and in need of a shower.

The next day, Mitch sent Beth a text. He was really sorry about everything and it was nice to see Beth again even if their meet-up was contentious. And with that text, the door of forgiveness was unlocked, barely opening just a crack. Beth’s response was… not as strident or angry this time around. She was softening, ever so slightly. Several days later, the two of them met up for lunch to exchange personal items that were left at their respective homes. This meeting wasn’t so bad. At the end of it, they hugged. Several days later, they went to dinner. And today, they are doing quite well. They are friendly again and who knows how this will all end. They’re taking it slowly but Beth says they laugh a lot and are quick to forgive. Therapy is probably not in order, but time and patience definitely is.

And what do I think of their reconciliation? It doesn’t matter because it’s not my life. That said, I don’t think Mitch or Beth are bad people and their relationship was actually a good one, from what I could tell. There was no abuse, not even a hint. How and why their breakup got to be so awful is baffling to me. I think it was totally unnecessary but when emotions run high, things can head south in a second. No doubt this is what happened here.

In the midst of the Beth-Mitch story, I was contacted by one of my readers who lives in another part of the world. His name is Alan. He is a very smart and wise guy, if you ask me. I love his comments on many of my articles and our “conversations” via email have been thought provoking. One morning, we were talking on the phone and he asked me what the opposite of “love” was. I immediately answered “hate.” Nope. Love and hate both involve passion, feelings and emotions. Try again, he said. I was stumped. The answer is “indifference.” That means there is no caring anymore. No love, anger, hatred, just nothing. And that is how we know when we’ve truly healed (as much as one ever can heal entirely from a tough experience, anyway)—when a person or event no longer conjures up all kinds of emotions and passions.

Which brings me back to Beth and Mitch. When the anger and hatred had been dealt with between the two of them, what was left? Was it love? Perhaps. It’s been some four months since Beth and Mitch have reconnected. Beth says that their relationship has morphed into something that borders on beautiful and significant. The two have a more profound respect for each other and she’s never been happier. Mitch says the same. According to him, he had always hoped they’d make up from the minute they broke up, police aside.

As for me, I think a lot about their story. Beth was so adamant that she was disgusted by Mitch and that she could never forgive and forget. If that was true, how is it possible that they’re doing so well now? My take is that once the anger had dissipated, the love was still there. Beth never reached “indifference” and, if she had, their reconciliation would probably have been nearly impossible.

Now before anyone flames me, note that I am not advocating that the same is true for everyone! In my own experience, I can tell you that in the case of my ex-husband, beneath the contempt, anger, disappointment and frustration that I felt for him, there was no love or respect. Forgiveness and indifference took a long time for me to reach. And reconnecting with that men was never an option. Still, in some cases, it is possible. Whether that’s wise is entirely another story.

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