How Can You Love and Hate Your Partner at the Same Time?

Love and hate share the same brain region. This explains why sometimes you hate that person you love with all your soul. It's an emotional experience that's as common as it's striking.
How Can You Love and Hate Your Partner at the Same Time?
Valeria213

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria213 in 15 November, 2021.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

At times, you probably feel like you both love and hate your partner at the same time. How can this happen? How is it possible that you can feel such opposite and contradictory emotions simultaneously? As a matter of fact, science tells us that this is a perfectly normal phenomenon.

Indeed, it seems that the vast majority of us are familiar with this sensation. In fact, when you think about it, you probably look back to all those times you’ve been angry with your partner. For example, a heated argument, a particular misunderstanding, or a clash of personalities can momentarily bring out these feelings of negative valence.

However, in reality, you can also experience these contradictory feelings without your partner having done anything. In fact, sometimes you might feel that your life’s just too complicated with them in it, or that you’ve given up far too much for them.

Indeed, despite not regretting anything in particular, it’s common to feel these paradoxical, strange, and contradictory feelings. Why is this? Is there an explanation Let’s take a look.

“The opposite of love is not hatred; it is indifference.”

-Elie Wiesel-

Couple sitting in the living room thinking about when you love and hate your partner at the same time

Causes of love-hate in the couple

Now you know that it’s perfectly plausible to love and hate your partner at the same time. Furthermore, this emotional experience isn’t as crazy or strange a phenomenon as you might think. After all, you also love your children and your parents dearly, yet there are moments when they drive you crazy.

Something you need to try and do is to develop your emotional intelligence as much as possible. This means learning to accept your contradictory feelings. That’s because they form a part of your emotional repertoire. Indeed, it’s this complex web of opposing and chaotic sensations, perceptions, and emotions that make you human.

As a matter of fact, it’s only in fairy stories that people love each other happily, continuously, and eternally. In real life, we have to deal with contradiction, daily conflict, and all the usual existential ups and downs. Furthermore, we learn a lot from them.

The thin line between passion and aversion

In 2009, University College London conducted a study that discovered something extremely revealing. In this work, they delved into the neural correlates of hate. As a matter of fact, they discovered that romantic love shares the same regions with this emotion. These areas are the cerebral subcortex, the putamen, and the cerebral insula.

Zeki and Romaya, authors of this work, pointed out that, although we always assume that hate is a negative emotion that must be repressed, the truth is that love and hate share certain neurological structures. The neurological excitement they generate is extremely intense, and when processed in the same brain areas, it means that, at the same moment, we can feel both emotions for someone.

Let’s remember that sometimes we can even hate ourselves. Indeed, the human being is defined by that constant contradiction that goes from affection to disaffection and passion to aversion. Nevertheless, they’re generally fleeting experiences that don’t alter our identity or self-esteem.

When you love and hate your partner at the same time, the pain of cognitive dissonance

Nobody told you that loving and hating your partner at the same time is a perfectly normal process. Therefore, when you experience it, you might question both yourself and your psychological balance. This happens for several reasons. One of them is your inherent need for your beliefs and thoughts to be coherent.

When you feel a certain rejection and even anger towards your loved one, you enter into a conflict. A feeling of anguish known as cognitive dissonance appears. This term refers to the internal lack of harmony you experience when you feel one thing and do the opposite or when your beliefs and emotions are contradicted.

You need to rationalize these situations and accept your mixed feelings. One more fact is that, in human relationships, ambivalent feelings are ephemeral. In other words, these feelings don’t last long. Indeed, usually, love prevails. Because the emotion of hatred is volatile and it disappears like smoke curling through an open window…

Couple walking symbolizing when you love and hate your partner at the same time

Nobody’s perfect and neither are our emotions

When you love and hate your partner at the same time, you become aware that they’re not the perfect person you thought they were at the beginning of your relationship. However, you’re also not perfect. In fact, we all have different personalities, hobbies, strengths, and weaknesses and sometimes we clash. Furthermore, feeling passion and disaffection at the same time is a way of discovering yourself. It means you can work on those small differences and reach a harmonious balance.

After all, love usually means living on an emotional rollercoaster. You can experience emotions that range from admiration to spite, from fascination to boredom and, from illusion to disgust. However, there’s something that always, at least, should always, prevail. This is affection, as well as understanding, care, and empathy, etc. In fact, you must learn to accept that nothing defines the human being like fleeting ambivalence and contradiction…

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Affection Ambivalence: When Love and Hate Coexist
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Affection Ambivalence: When Love and Hate Coexist

Affection ambivalence is common in human beings. It's the feeling of loving and despising a person a the same time and causes pain.