A love/hate relationship is one in which couples can't live with each other but they also can't live apart. Some caring or dependency holds them together in spite of much unhappiness. No marriage is free of ambivalence. We all experience some disappointment in our marriage. However, a love/hate relationship is characterized by bickering, anger, bitterness, and blame.
Love/hate relationships provide little happiness, love or warmth, but they do provide security. These couples are often stuck in destructive complimentary patterns—mother/son, daddy/baby or master/slave, for example. The best marriages are based on mutual support and allow both individuals room to grow. Love/hate relationships stunt the growth of both partners.
Ironically, the partners in love/hate relationships are most in need of love and support. The basis for their destructive pattern is rooted in childhood abuse or neglect. Each partner is consciously or unconsciously expecting the partner to make up for all the lacks from their childhood. At the same time there is an underlying belief that they do not deserve the love they crave. They expect and demand love yet push it away when it is offered.
Because the childhood traumas and deficits were so overwhelming there is an inability to show neediness or even an outright denial of vulnerability. Little or no empathy was shown them as children. As a result they withhold their own caring for fear of being too vulnerable. This sounds pretty hopeless, but it isn't.
Couples who have faith in God and a meaningful connection to a church can overcome past patterns through acceptance of God’s love and purpose in their life. A life-changing faith in God can be life-changing in the marriage, also.
Couples in a love/hate relationship often love each other deeply but are caught up in their own needs and in their negative interactions. To change these interactions they need to:
1. Stop the angry interactions, they only do harm.
2. Apologize. Take responsibility for your own part in the problems.
3. Give and receive support to each other.
4. Communicate in a constructive way - this means listening to the other's point of view, avoiding labels, blaming, or criticism.
5. See one's partner realistically, as a person with needs, wants, hurts and vulnerabilities.
6. Nurture each other; learn to make up for some of the childhood lacks.
7. Take the risk of sharing your vulnerability; be open and this will eventually encourage your partner to be so.
8. Build fun times into your marriage; develop a sense of humor even about your repetitive problems.
9. Assume the best about your partner; be empathic.
10. Work on your own childhood issues so they won't be played out in your marriage.
Marriage enrichment programs and counseling can help couples take the above steps necessary to change a love/hate relationship into a supportive, satisfying one. Couples married for a long time can continue to grow and change. Their maturity is an asset in tackling difficult problems.
“Hatred starts fights, but love pulls a quilt over the bickering.” Proverbs 10:12 The Message