Love, Hate & Happiness
Solutions for Partners in Conflict © Martyn Carruthers

Were you taught that falling in love was an essential step to a happy life?
Were you taught that partnership is easy … if you love each other enough?
Do you still believe this?

Few topics are more fascinating than love, and the opposite of love is probably not hate – it’s apathy. Yet many people have described loving a person and disliking or even hating that same person simultaneously – in the same moment.

Most of us know how it feels to love someone … and how it feels to dislike someone. But we may not understand how or why we fall in love … or why we fall in hate.

Close Encounters

When you meet someone, you may assess their age, figure, weight, clothes, posture, grooming and perhaps speech. Your assessment may motivate you to move towards or away from that person. It is normal to feel attracted to people who appear physically and emotionally healthy; and repelled by people who are physically or mentally ill.

Depending on your personal history, you may feel attracted to or repelled by …

  • people with authority
  • people who appear rich
  • people who resemble a media figure
  • people similar to a parent, sibling or past love

Most people select potential partners both consciously and unconsciously. Can you consciously change your unconscious attractions or compulsions? This is easier if you understand a little psychobiology.

Psychobiology of Love

Your brain chemistry changes when you are in love, in similar ways to some mental illnesses or drugs. Falling in love can be addictive, and falling out of love is often compared to withdrawal symptoms! Falling in love seems to have three phases, Lust, Attraction and Attachment, each associated with hormones and neurotransmitters.

  1. Lust is driven by estrogen and testosterone (affects both men and women).
  2. Attraction is associated with dopamine and serotonin. People in love may feel obsessed. They may eat less, sleep less and day-dream about their partners.
  3. Attachment supports lasting commitments and helps bond lovers together. Feelings of connectedness are associated with vasopressin and oxytocin.

Most people experience a surge of oxytocin during extended touch, for example during sex or massage, and a surge of dopamine during arousing activities. Although both can trigger feelings called love and romance – who are you in love with? With a person – or with your own good feelings?

As the feeling of love can be addictive, people in love may show symptoms similar to substance abuse, and people falling out of love can suffer serious mental health consequences, similar to symptoms associated with withdrawal from addictive drugs.

I can’t stay with my partner and I can’t leave. We love each other
but we both resent and sometimes even hate each other.

Love-Hate Relationships

Falling in love is usually a wonderful feeling; and falling out of love often brings profound suffering. Have you ever loved and disliked a person simultaneously? Such love–hate relationships can occur if:

  • part of you is in love – and some other part of you is not
  • the person you love behaves totally differently at different moments
  • you cannot fulfill a loving relationship, yet you feel bonded to that person
  • you thought your partner was like someone else – and later found it was not so

Both love and hate can be accompanied by strong emotions, and both can lead you to obsessive thoughts or irrational actions. One minute you love someone and the next minute you cannot stand them. What happened?

Love-hate relationships are common relationship styles. One minute you love the person and the next you simply cannot stand them. Why is this? Have you both lost the passion that you once had for each other?

Why should I get married again? I can just find a woman I really dislike and buy her a house!

Solutions for Love-Hate Relationships

You may have believed your first infatuation was true love because you had never experienced such emotional intensity before. You will probably remember this experience for the rest of your life … and compare other experiences to it.

If you love someone, you will likely compare your feelings to your first-love experience. If your feelings are similar, you may decide that you are in love. If your feelings are not similar – you may decide that there is no hope for this potential relationship.

Intimate love-hate relationships may feel like roller coaster rides, but rarely support lasting happiness. Some simple steps to improve a partnership are:

  1. Avoid criticizing each other – and give clear feedback
  2. Forgive each other for irrelevant behaviors and minor details
  3. Strive to understand your own and partner’s words and behavior
  4. Accept that you both have qualities and issues – work to improve yourself
  5. Share life experiences and pleasures – create memories that you can enjoy

We coach people to learn from disappointments … and step towards healthy partnership.

Love and Finding Happiness

I often define happiness as a profound and lasting experience of well-being and fulfillment that can survive and even grow during difficult times. Many people have told us that they feel emotionally whole when they care about certain important people; and when they feel cared for by those people.

Yet love is sometimes a cover or excuse for unhealthy behavior. When I coach people who describe unhappy partnerships, I often ask, “Why do you want to stay together?” Often the first answer I hear is “because we love each other“.

You asked us, “Why do you want to stay together?” I was shocked … I told you lots
of things but my real answer was fear … fear of being alone, fear of a cold bed,
fear of a worse relationship and so on.
Montreal, Canada

To enjoy a healthier intimate partnership, you can examine your beliefs about romantic love. Unhealthy beliefs support unhealthy relationships. If your beliefs about love are based on fairy tales, popular songs and movies, then you are likely to be disappointed in your intimate relationships, again and again.

Conditional Love

Children notice that if they are obedient and cooperative, their parents smile and perhaps touch them gently and speak kindly. With gentle words and kind behavior, parents communicate their love for their children.

Real children sometimes fight, make noise, get bad grades and make a mess. Do their parents still smile and speak gentle, loving words? Or do the children learn: “I am only loved if I am obedient.”

Substitutes for Love

Do you try to fill your emptiness with distractions? As with drugs, the pleasure of praise, power, fun, money and sex can become very brief and artificial. If you don’t feel connected by mutual love, you will soon feel disconnected, in need of another fix.

Often, falling in love is an exchange of substitutes. Many people start relationships based on what they hope to receive and expect to give. This marketplace attitude may be fine for brief affairs, but is a poor foundation for committed partnership.

Relationships built on substitutes will fail – no matter how good the couple felt.
When the feelings wear off, as they must, being based on lies, people are
often left clinging to broken dreams and limiting beliefs.

We can help you build healthy loving relationships on a foundation
of connectedness based on maturity and partnership skills.