Most people assume that the opposite of love is hate. When you hate someone, there are lingering feelings present. Even if you think you want to see the other person suffer in some horrific way and be in pain—it’s typically because you’re in pain. Maybe you had grand ideas and dreams for the future that will not come to fruition, or maybe there was and infidelity. Perhaps you feel that you were “duped”, and your spouse misrepresented him or herself by changing the agreements you made prior to the marriage. Regardless, you’re angry. Not, not in love. It’s important to understand these feelings.

Love doesn’t just stop because you’re angry and you hate your spouse now. This may explain why couples on the brink of divorce, or who have divorced, reconcile. Everyone knows a couple like this: you never in a million years thought the couple who fought so much would get back together again, but they did. The love didn’t die, but there was true anger/disappointment/resentment. We all go through moments of hate, how many times did you tell your parents that you hate them as a teen? How often did, or do, you and your bestie break up? Did you really hate your parents or friend, or were you just angry and acting out of hurt? You still loved them. That’s why it hurt so much.

The opposite of love is apathy, a complete disassociation of emotions about the other person—you just don’t care anymore. You will be able to distinguish between the two, because both present two very different feelings. This became clear to me when I counseled a couple a few years ago. The husband insisted that because the wife argued back, that she still loved him and he continued to antagonize her, provoking fights just to prove that she loved him; the dysfunction equaled love to him. Her response was always, “My arguing doesn’t mean I care. You should be concerned when I stop caring.”

They were both right to a certain degree. When apathy set in for the wife, the marriage was indeed irreparable. The fighting was merely a warning sign, and the wife was correct in letting the husband know what was coming. She became very calm and peaceful when she decided to stop arguing, create her exit strategy, and then make her move to file for divorce.

If you find yourself in this situation, constantly arguing in any relationship: friends, family, spouse, work, know that it’s a warning sign. Things can go one of three ways: you keep things status quo, make it work or you terminate the relationship. However, if you get to the point that you Just. Don’t. Care.—apathy, it’s time to move on. You’re no longer in a relationship. A partnership cannot be one-sided, and that’s the opposite of a relationship. It takes two caring individuals to maintain a healthy bond.

Heed the warning, take a moment to define your true feelings outside of the pain, communicate and then proceed.

Best of luck to you in all your relationships!