Love-Hate Relationships: I Love You, But I Can't Stand You

Love-hate relationships can be very damaging. Read on to learn all about them!
Love-Hate Relationships: I Love You, But I Can't Stand You
Francisco Javier Molas López

Written and verified by the psychologist Francisco Javier Molas López.

Last update: 29 August, 2023

Love-hate relationships aren’t the exception to a rule. In fact, many people aren’t willing to admit the percentage of love and hate that exists in their relationships. That unwillingness has led people to think that everyone has “perfect” relationships, as that’s how they’re portrayed on social media. If you believed all the photos and tweets, you’d think that everyone has idyllic relationships, free of conflict. However, under that guise of happiness, often lies a love-hate dynamic.

But what’s the root cause of this very common phenomenon? How is it possible to feel so ambivalent towards a person?

Little by little

At the beginning of a relationship, you tend to feel that you’re on cloud nine, that nothing could go wrong. Over time, however, your partner starts to act a little passive-aggressive. Little by little, you start to feel contradictory emotions. On one hand, you love your significant other. On the other, however, you feel something entirely different. Maybe aversion, anger, or even hate. Usually, people aren’t aware of the reason why this love-hate dynamic creeps into their relationship because it happens gradually.

Over time, you might start to treat your partner the same way they’re treating you as a response to their behavior. Thus, you both end up disrespecting each other. Your relationship becomes dysfunctional. The question is, can hate spring from the same source as love?

A couple with their backs to each other.

Love and hate

In response to the previous question, love can stem from the memory of the first ideal moments as a couple. A lot of people think, “It used to be so nice before, surely it’ll be that way again”. Another thing that sustains many love-hate relationships isn’t love at all. It’s codependence. The love they felt at the beginning gives way to emotional codependence and attachment.

This dependence is the reason why so many people have a hard time ending love-hate relationships. In fact, it’d be more accurate to call them codependency-hate relationships. Also, there’s the tendency to blame your partner for your unhappiness“You aren’t who you used to be and you don’t make me happy anymore”. When that happens, the feeling of hate only grows because you believe that your partner is the reason you feel bad.

“Love doesn’t consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry-

It isn’t always so obvious

On the other hand, you might be in a respectful relationship but still feel aversion. What seemed so great at the beginning and helped you grow has become a kind of aversion over time, and you simply don’t know why.

When you start a new relationship, you tend to idealize the other person. But over time, you start to see their defects and reflect on them. Little by little, part of who they are starts to bother you.

Many people ask themselves, “Why can’t I stand my partner if they haven’t done anything to me?” or “Why does everything they do bother me?” These types of situations are harder to analyze. On one hand, you’re clinging to the initial memory of your partner, as you just can’t fathom that people change over time. In the end, you realize that you’re with someone you just aren’t compatible with anymore.

Relationships start as sparks. When you’re in a new relationship, you gloss over everything. Falling in love turns into love, you get to know your partner, and, over time, you realize you don’t get along that well. However, it’s easy to fall into dependency. That makes it very hard to end a relationship.

A woman with something over her eyes.

Ending love-hate relationships

It’s a lot easier to end a love-hate relationship than you might think. You often hear that there’s a fine line between love and hate. That might be true, but people have the ability to decide not to hate. When both partners start to disrespect each other, the best option is either to get professional help or end the relationship. Here, love has taken a back burner, and all that’s left are bad manners and dependency.

In the second case, instead of hating your partner because they don’t make you happy, it’s important to recognize that your happiness isn’t their responsibility. They aren’t obligated to fulfill your expectations. Thus, you can try to accept your partner exactly as they are or make a decision about the relationship.

Before you start a relationship with someone, you should consider having reasonable expectations. That way, you won’t feel betrayed or deceived when they don’t meet them. On the other hand, if you foster your ability to enjoy solitude, you’ll be more resistant to dependency.

If you know how to enjoy your own company, it’ll be easier to accept your partner for who they are, with all of their strengths and flaws. Consequently, you won’t fall so easily into the love-hate dynamic. Knowing how to love yourself and enjoy your own company and avoiding strict expectations will make it easier for you to accept your partner.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Arntz, A. (2005). Pathological dependency: Distinguishing functional from emotional dependency.
  • Ten Bruggencate, T., Luijkx, K. G., & Sturm, J. (2019). Friends or frenemies? The role of social technology in the lives of older people. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health16(24), 4969.
  • Aumer, K. (2016). Introduction to the psychology of love and hate in intimate relationships. In The Psychology of Love and Hate in Intimate Relationships (pp. 1-9). Springer, Cham.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.