Salvaging a Love/Hate Relationship


It’s a common mistake to think that love and hate are on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. They’re both very strong emotions. But they are not opposites. In reality, there’s really only a very thin line separating love from hate.

The opposite of love is indifference. By definition, love must include caring, but indifference does not. It’s possible to hate someone for their behavior, but to care deeply for them all at the same time. Hence the term, “love/hate relationship.”

What is a love/hate relationship? Can you possibly feel love for your partner in one moment, and hate that same person the next? Even more difficult, can you feel both love and hate at the same time? Does your partner give you all the support in the world, and then the next day, or even the next moment, recoil from you?

Love/hate relationships are more common than most people might want to believe. Some love/hate relationships are toxic and should be ended. But it is possible to turn a love/hate relationship into a healthy one that will last.

Are You in a Love/Hate Relationship?

Here are some common signs that you may be involved in a love/hate relationship.

  • You feel like the relationship is fake. You can present a “happy couple” face to others, but you feel you’re living a sham.
  • Your relationship is a constant battle of two egos slogging it out, and it can be exhausting to even think about it.
  • You’re always breaking up and making up.
  • You’re lonely. There’s a sense of being apart even though you’re together.
  • You bring out the best, and worst, in each other. You might be lovely as individuals, but when you’re together, you exhibit behavior that you never thought you’d be capable of. You can shock yourself with the intensity of your emotional responses. You wonder where your hateful words came from. And at the same time, you can’t believe anyone could say such foul things to you.
  • You can’t fix your conflicts. You think you are, but all you’re doing is skimming over the cracks. The same issue will keep surfacing again. And again.
  • You swing wildly from one emotion to another. One moment, you’re immersed in your partner and adore him. The very next moment, you detest every little thing about him. Periods of stability and level emotions are rare: one day you’re so happy you met her. The next day, you’re fantasizing about what you’re going to wear to her funeral. But one thing you never feel is indifference: things are either very, very good, or very, very bad.
  • Thinking about your relationship is a way of life. It’s always there, always in the forefront of your mind.
  • You feel like your partner has characteristics that set him apart from others. You adore him. Nobody else can compare. He has behaviors that sets him apart from everyone else.
  • You realize that your relationship follows a definite cycle. You begin to distrust the happy times, because you know that bad ones are just around the corner.
  • You or your partner display narcissistic or sociopathic traits.
  • There’s no empathy. Your main concern is how youfeel, how the other person feels or may be affecting you.
  • You can’t see a future in the relationship. You just seem to be going around and around in the same pattern.
  • You hate, detest, and may even fear your partner.
  • You or your partner insists that the other party have no other relationships outside of yours. You are constantly tied together in a stale, toxic bond.

Can Love/Hate Relationships Work?

So, what now? You’ve realized you may be in a love/hate relationship, but can things be fixed? Sometimes, they can’t. Here are some signs you should end your love/hate relationship.

  • If there is any form of abuse in the relationship. This applies whether the abuse is emotional or physical. It doesn’t matter if it’s just one or if it’s both partners being abusive; it’s time to end it.
  • If you hate your partner more than you love them, it’s time to end it.
  • If you are deeply unhappy most of the time, it’s time to end it.

Areas to Work on in Love/Hate Relationships

But there is hope. Love/hate relationships can last a long time. Actually, they usually do, because both partners are addicted to the emotional turmoil: when you’re apart, everything seems dull and gray, because the other person is not there. The relationship is like an addictive cocktail of complex emotions.

Yet, like narcotic drugs, a love-hate relationship is always toxic. Neither partner is able to be at their best at work, or socially, because the relationship is like a millstone that has to be carried around.

Counseling may be able to help salvage a love/hate relationship. Counseling can help the partners learn how to build and expand the areas of the partnership that work well. It can teach couples how to manage issues and can impart healthy coping strategies. But the success of counseling really depends on whether both partners want the relationship to succeed.

If your love/hate relationship is to become a healthy relationship, then the following areas must certainly be addressed.

  • If only one party is committed to the relationship, it’s not going to work. Both partners must be 100 percent certain they want the relationship to be healthy.
  • No relationship is able to survive a lack of trust. If either partner is experiencing intense feelings of jealousy, this issue must be examined and dealt with.
  • If one or both partners is constantly referring back to past misdeeds, the atmosphere of the relationship becomes toxic. Learning how to forgive, to forget, and to move on is critical.
  • Compassion and empathy. A loving relationship involves caring about how the other person is feeling. Both parties must realize what effect their words and behaviors are having. If, in the heat of the moment, you couldn’t care less about the other person, perhaps you’re not as committed as you thought you were.
  • Personal time. It’s a human necessity to pursue friendships, activities, and relaxation away from your partner. When each partner has a healthy life outside of the relationship, both partners are able to bring freshness to it. All relationships need space in order to change, evolve, grow, and adapt. That’s how they last for a lifetime.

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