THE BLOG
01/26/2016 01:12 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2017

Valentine's Day Advice for Dealing With Your Ex: Handle With 'Don't Care'

Want to give your ex a gift for Valentine's Day? Didn't think so. But you should and here's why: If you give your ex the gift that I'm about to recommend, you will get a HUGE gift in return. Before I tell you what you'll get, let me explain what you should give:

A heaping helping of Don't Care.

Let me be clear: Don't Care is not the same thing as Active Hate. Never, never, never confuse these two things. Don't Care is a zero emotional carbon footprint product.

It burns completely clean, leaving no toxic residue on you. It has no half-life at all. Active Hate, on the other hand, is extremely corrosive. It could very well eat a hole in your soul before you can deliver it.

Here's how Don't Care works:

Did you hear through the grapevine that your ex will be going on a luxury sailing trip in Greece this summer with his new Sports Illustrated swimsuit model girlfriend? Apply a generous layer of Don't Care.

Having trouble figuring out how to dispense it? Use this trick: Visualize Rupert Murdoch or Donald Trump. Would you at all care if you heard the same news about those guys? Would you call a friend to complain about the trip or waste any time at all thinking about it? Of course not. A trip of theirs has nothing to do with you. Plus, their very presence would ruin a perfectly good trip. Same thing goes with your ex.

Have you learned through powers of deduction that the amount of homework that your son has to do at his dad's house is a sum that is less than zero? Subtract all of your stress over that issue by adding on a bunch of Don't Care.

I'm not saying you shouldn't care about how your kid is doing in school, because you definitely should. What I am saying is you shouldn't care about his dad's approach to homework. Think about it this way: Would you lose sleep over what was happening at the house across the street, homework-wise? Probably not. Why? Because you cannot control what happens at the house across the street. Your job is to worry about what happens in your house.

I understand there's a key difference between your kid and your neighbor's kid. One is your responsibility and the other is not. But once you and your ex split up, there are jurisdictional limits to your parenting, and the sooner you realize this, the happier you'll be.

Yes, you're a parent 100% of the time. And yes, you care about all those things that parents care about even when your kid is not home. But just as you have your own way of going about things at your house, your ex is entitled to have his, even if it is lackadaisical or even down right bone-headed.

And yes, you might have to make adjustments to your own parenting as a result of whatever is or is not happening at your ex's house. But view this as identifying an area in which your kid needs some extra support rather than an area where your ex is falling short. Parents identify areas in which their kids need support all the time.

For example. If your kid changed schools and his new school had twice as much homework, you'd have to make some adjustments at your house to accommodate that new reality. Or maybe you'd talk to your kid about taking advantage of blocks of free time built into his school day. Similarly, if your ex doesn't weave in time for homework while your kid is at his house, you might need to help your kid figure out how to meet that need when he is not at his dad's house.

When used the right way and in the right amount, Don't Care will help you understand what issues and areas you have reasonable say over and are therefore worth your energy. And that's where the gift to you comes into play. Once you don't care about what happens at your ex's house, you will dramatically reduce your stress level and slow down your aging process. In short, not caring about your ex can add years to your life -- and those extra years can be really, really good ones.

I realize that not everyone has enough emotional currency to spring for full strength Don't Care when it comes to an ex. If you're not there yet, consider the less costly version of simply Caring Less. Caring Less isn't as powerful as not caring at all, but it will get you at least some of the same type of relief. Start there and then maybe you'll be able to spring for the full strength Don't Care by next Valentine's Day. xo