“Finally, I‘ve found the love of my life,” we triumphantly declare. “My soul mate—at last!” When past relationships have quickly fell in shambles, new love appears refreshing. But when the roadmap to successful relationships is mysterious, we see success in the first flashes of attraction, proclaiming greatness, decorating the experience with beautiful projections of deeper meaning. Many want love so bad they misconstrue the rush of gleeful beginnings for the security of carefully constructed intimacy. The extreme emotions of attraction followed by the devasting disappointment is a familiar pattern to many. I refer to these relationships as love hate relationships.
The love hate relationships typically involve personal insecurities and unrealistic expectations on a partner. The insecure partner wrongfully holds to the magical belief that true love will solve the insecurity. Thus, the romantic hopeful is continually seeking the idealistic mate . However, as with all relationships, imperfections eventually intrude, primal fears arise, and love quickly turns to hate. “Charged with thunderous energy, some relationships bounce between euphoric highs and ‘call-the-cops lows ” (Murphy, 2020).
We would be wise to ponder this insightful instruction, applying the wisdom to romance. Several years ago, I participated in an on-line community. On many occasions participants discovered a friendly spirit and romance ensued. Before even meeting, they would publicly share their lucky find—a soul-mate; the love of their life. Most these relationships ended as quickly as they started. Embedded within us is this yearning for a perfect match. This unrealistic expectation eventually invites disappointment when the imperfections of the imperfect partner are unveiled.
Love Hate relationships are interpersonal relationships that involving simultaneous or quickly alternate between emotions of Love and Hate—these relationships commonly involve intense emotions.
Unconditional love and complete acceptance are idealistic hogwash. Relationships scrutinized against these ideals eventually will be dashed against the hard rocks of reality. At some point, we will discover conflicts in desires, either because of differences or imperfections—there will always be episodes to address and disruptions to accept.
Whether we bond immediately with a therapist, a romantic partner, a friend, or the content of a facebook page, eventually differences will emerge that challenge the connection. Emotionally stable relationships require work, processing differences and working through conflicting emotions. With effort, we can resolve some of the differences but not all; some conflicts continually resurface, demanding attention, igniting minor tiffs or even exploding into relationship destroying brawls.
This article is one of the original Flourishing Life Society articles. The first title (2012) I published it under was “You Are the Best Ever; I Hate You!” It has always been one of my favorites since I personally encountered this phenomenon a few times in my personal life.
When challenges arise, we have choices: We can dissolve the relationship; we can suppress the emotions ignoring the evidence; we can demand change; or we can learn to love despite the divergence of ideas.
“Unconditional love and complete acceptance are idealistic hogwash.”~T. Franklin Murphy
Positive and Negative Interactions
All relationships include positive and negative interactions. Our ability to process the negative is essential for the relationship to thrive. Relationships involve an ebb and flow of closeness and conflict (Campione‐Barr & Killoren, 2019). Unfortunately those that seek a perfect partner, where nothing in the relationship will strike their insecurities, eventually must confront negative feelings and conflict. The slightest disagreements sets off alarms, and sending the insecure lover into fits of rage.
Fromm’s Example of Love Hate Relationships
Erich Fromm explains this phenomenon in detail in his timeless classic the Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. He describes the love hate relationship through an example of a narcissistic and exploitive aunt towards her servants. However, I find his depiction of this relationships as strikingly familiar with romantic love hate relationships.
Fromm wrote, “she demanded that a servant should be completely ‘devoted’ to her, have no interests of her own, and gladly accept the role of a creature who is happy to serve her. She approaches each new servant with the phantasy that she is the one who will fulfill her expectations.” He continues with this example “after a short ‘honeymoon’ during which the aunt’s phantasy is still sufficiently effective to blind her to the fact that the servant is not ‘right’—and perhaps also helped by the fact that the servant in the beginning makes every effort to please her new employer aunt wakes up to the recognition that the servant is not willing to live up to the role for which she has been cast.”
Eventually, Fromm writes the aunt “experiences intense disappointment and rage… Not being aware that the cause for this rage lies in her impossible demands, she rationalizes her disappointment by accusing the servant. Since she cannot give up her desires, she fires the servant and hopes that a new one will be “right.” The same mechanism repeats itself until she dies or cannot get any more servants” (1992).
Unquestioning Love that Quickly Turns to Hate
Over the last eight-years at Flourishing Life Society, many followers have come and gone. I have noticed a noteworthy pattern. Occasionally, a new follower arrives, liking and commenting daily. Some gush with great admiration, but time passes and the flowing praise ceases and they soon, I suppose, are lavishing comments at a new page they have found.
The perfect match of philosophy seldom exists; eventually ideas will clash and challenge our commitment. With the variety of topics, and the frequency of posting on Flourishing Life Society, there will always be some differences. Soon the perfect match disappoints and the page is abandoned for another site where the engagement hasn’t yet revealed a difference.
These dramas are caused by a form of cognitive splitting. In the love hate dynamic, the person judges relationships, employers, and social media providers with rigid, non-flexible all-or-nothing thinking. Perfect or terrible is the only choice. We dismiss the countless shades of complexity for cognitive ease. I love you; until I hate you.
The next time you find that perfect match—your soul-mate—slow down and ask, “does it only seem perfect because the relationship hasn’t encountered its first conflict?” “How will I respond when I discover relationship differences that cause discomfort?” And equally important, “how will my partner respond?” We don’t need to rush to the conflict; but we should be prepared when they arrive. And they will arrive. Will the soul mate become the hated adversary?
Processing Displeasure in a Partner Without Hating Them
We need skills to process displeasure if we want the enjoyments of a lasting relationship. Relationship skills are perishable and dynamic. People are not perfectly predictable, surprises will arise throughout the relationship. With refined skills, we can skillfully navigate through the choppy waters while enjoying the benefits of security and love.
Intimacy demands we work through occasional distressing emotions. Successful couples are not successful because of being perfectly matched; they’re successful because they have the emotional maturity and skill to resolve conflict, building the bonds of trust.
Those who routinely explode when things don’t feel right or hide behind a mask of indifference create a new dynamic to the relationship. Their partners feel threatened, unable to predict which triggers will ignite dangerous tantrums. Instead of comfortable connection, partners to these volatile people learn that differences can be dangerous. They begin to protect by curtailing openness, guarding expressions, hoping to avoid another unfavorable encounter.
When pasts conflicts with a partner have been treacherous, the experience taints new encounters, beneath the surface of the immediate issue lies unresolved hurts. Past discussions that ended badly leave us tender during new disagreements. Embedded emotions resurface and easily overwhelm. With change, we can establish trust, over time new interactions can prove the relationship provides safety.
We can start peeling away the layers of hurt, and step by step invite the beginnings of intimacy. Trust creates security; security builds trust. Only when we work through the conflicts can we achieve the closeness we desire, utilizing our strengths, drawing upon outside resources and refraining from the push to run upon normal collisions with differences. I love you; you are different, but we can work through this.
Campione‐Barr, N., & Killoren, S. (2019). Love Them and Hate Them: The Developmental Appropriateness of Ambivalence in the Adolescent Sibling Relationship. Child Development Perspectives, 13(4), 221-226.
Fromm, Erich (1973/1992). The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. Holt Paperbacks; Revised and Rev edition.
Murphy, T. Franklin (2020). Relationship Drama. Psychology Fanatic. Published 11-16-2020. Accessed 4-10-2023.