Divorce — 23 October 2003
The differences love and hate create in divorce.

Have you ever wondered about the pain, cruelty, insensitivity and
selfishness some couples exhibit when they divorce? Have you ever asked
yourself- “how can two people who chose each other and committed to
everlasting love, end up not only breaking up- but becoming so cruel to
one another?”

One explanation is that the shift from love to hate occurs when immature
people commit, while being unprepared for the responsibilities of shared

Another notion is that love and hate share a fine line. Once that
delicate boundary is crossed, the capacity for viciousness materializes.

Another possibility is that when anger arises due to unmet expectations,
the lines of war are drawn and all previous loving feelings evaporate.

While these explanations may be very apt- they are descriptive and not

I propose that love and hate do not share the same continuum of
feelings, do not share a fine line and inherently spring from two very
different sources.

Love, as everyone knows, is an emotion of caring for another person.
Hate is an emotion of helplessness about one’s frustrated needs. Love is an open, forward energy- hate is a closed contained one. Love enriches the lover while hate damages the hater (and sometimes
others as well).
Love is about growth. Hate is about destruction.

Both love and hate are experienced early in life. Children learn loving
behaviors and experience their parents love very early. It resonates
with their innate capacity for tenderness and caring.

In their dependency, children handle frustrations with anger. Since they
feel so powerless to reverse their parents_ edicts, children resort to
hatred, temper tantrums and name calling- as weapons, prior to complying
with parental demands. “I hate you” “You are a mean Mom (or Dad)”, are
common statements of frustrated children.

In adulthood, a rejected partner may resort to the same childhood
feelings of hate. When the cooperative energy of a partner is
transformed into self _serving energy, the partner is no longer a
partner. He or she becomes a powerful, frustrating enemy.

Divorce is often a unilateral decision that impacts the partner and the
whole family. When a spouse wants out of the partnership, the other
spouse is severely disempowered. The rejected partner’s life is
irrevocably changed not by his or her choice. This intense frustration
may lead some people to strike out with hate induced retributions. And
the war is on.

Regrettably, not only divorcing couples find themselves in a destructive
battle. Any time a partner switches from the power of loving to the
helplessness and self-serving consideration, a “divorced” event happens.
Divorce is the “act of separating or being cut off” from one’s partner.

When you love your mate, you honor her by being forward about your
vulnerabilities. You trust that she will respond with empathy to your
painful emotions. You may say “when you make decisions for the kids
without first discussing them with me, I feel cut off as a parent”. Or, “please let me know how you feel- I want to be part of your life”, those
statements intend to repair your pain in an honest, loving way. Feelings
expressed with such grace, support the union and avoid an adversarial

You may resort to “divorcing”, self- absorbed hateful behavior- if you
withhold your frustrations, feel powerless or assume that your partner
has ill-intents. Being coupled is empowering, any divergence from the
“us” to the “poor me”, risks the partnership.

When a partner feels controlled, excluded, rejected, disregarded, or
insufficiently valued, he may experience helplessness and hate. These
feelings, when left un-remediated, may lead to emotional separation and
ultimately to divorce.

Self-awareness is a key to maintaining a loving union with your lover. Monitor yourself:

  • Are you choosing to stay lovingly connected to your partner?
  • Do you act in a way that confirms the primacy of your relationship
    above all others?
  • Are you open about your negative feelings and express them respectfully?
  • Do you realize that your personal discomfort is also a couple’s issue?
  • Are you feeling powerlessness within the relationship?
  • Do you attribute ill will to your partner’s behavior?
  • Do you engage in withdrawal, withholding, or punitive actions?
  • Are you phrasing your thoughts in cooperative language (“how can we
    solve this?”) or in an adversarial stance (“I must develop my own

By being vigilant about yourself, you can prevent small “divorcing”
behaviors that hinder love in relationships.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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