Love-Hate Relationships – And The Psychology Behind Them

Written by Harini Natarajan

When you hear the term love-hate relationship, does a specific person come to your mind? If yes, you may be stuck in a complex and complicated relationship with that person. You know that this person makes your life intensely difficult, yet you can’t seem to stop loving them or thinking about them. Your conflicting feelings of hatred and love for this person make you feel confused and depressed – you can’t live with them and can’t live without them!

When you are stuck in a love-hate relationship, you generally don’t hate that human being, only their behavior. They fail to meet your expectations and cause conflicts between your brain and your heart. You can absolutely love a person and hate their behavior, and it could be anyone from a sibling, a parent, or your partner. The signs of love-hate relationships are very obvious – you will recognize them the moment you experience deep love for someone mixed with despair or frustration.

The Psychology Behind Love-Hate Relationships

Love-hate relationships are very common. Love and hate are emotions that are more similar to each other than they are different (1). We are often embarrassed and irritated by the behavior of people we otherwise love and adore. But why does this happen?

Love-Hate Relationships – And The Psychology Behind Them


  • Non-Reciprocation

Most often, we develop a love and hate relationship with someone when they don’t reciprocate our feelings. Children tend to do this most, and all of us did it as children. It is hard to be in love with a person who doesn’t love you. And to soothe our heartache, our brains conclude that the other person has issues or is flawed. It is a human tendency to protect one’s feelings, and this is why we pour all our hatred towards this person.

  • Boredom

But there are other relationships as well that develop into love-hate relationships even when one’s love is reciprocated. Love and relationships are paradoxical, it is quite common to get bored or tired of someone you live with or spend time with. Living with someone means experiencing the daily grind of fighting over doing the dishes, the cooking, or even about which channel to watch on the TV. Spending a lot of time with your loved one is good. But spending all your time on that particular person can be detrimental to the relationship.

  • Sacrifice

The most important fact of relationships is that you will sometimes have to sacrifice your wants, needs, and preferences for the needs of your loved one. Parents need to do this for their kids, and spouses need to do this for each other. Finding a middle ground is a great idea, as both parties will feel accepted and loved. Sacrificing our needs doesn’t feel good, especially if we have always lived our life our own way. When we are in a relationship, giving up on what we want is most often seen as unfair or punishment. We sometimes gradually start to hate that person we consider as the reason for giving up our independence.

Love-Hate Relationships – And The Psychology Behind Them


  • Vulnerability

Love makes everyone vulnerable – and when two people are in a relationship, after the initial honeymoon period is over, they start showing their true colors. When our love is young, we hide who we truly are. We present an amicable and marketable face to avoid being judged. But after we get more comfortable and secure in a relationship, we start to loosen up and let the other person see our weak points.

But the truth is, when we are sharing our weaknesses, we are truly being vulnerable. We are showing our defects and flaws. Keep in mind that the other person is also showing their issues and flaws. We all have flaws, and we need to accept that if we want to convert a love-hate relationship into a love relationship. You need to accept that no one in this universe is without flaws. You will eventually have to face the good, the bad, and the ugly side of others, and sometimes, you may hate something in them – you just have to learn to accept it.

  • Hate And Love

Hate naturally begins appearing with love when you are exposed to the not-so-flattering sides of other people when you get to know them better. But the truth is, you can’t hate someone you don’t know well, and you are bound to think about them more often and intensely if you hate them. Fixating on a person, whether due to hate or love, means that you have a deep relationship with them.

When love is mixed with hate, it leads to ambivalence. In an ideal relationship, love would trump hate every time, but we know that this isn’t always how life really works. We experience ambivalent feelings when we feel two conflicting emotions at the same time, such as being sad at the demise of a loved one who had been suffering for a long time, but at the same time happy that they don’t have to experience pain or suffering anymore.

Love-Hate Relationships – And The Psychology Behind Them


Loving and hating someone at the same time is the most natural thing in the world. Hating those we love does not make us monsters but more human. According to a study, the same regions in our brain get activated whether we love or hate someone (2). While experiencing both these emotions, researchers noticed increased activity in our brain’s insula and putamen. Both love and hate are extremely strong emotions, and the brain can’t distinguish between them when it comes to the intensity of feelings. Psychologically, the effect of love or hate in our brain can turn from positive to negative or vice versa very quickly.

So, What Is The Conclusion?

We love to hate the people we love. In this love vs. hatred game, there are no winners. We simply can’t have a relationship where it’s just positive pure, unequivocal love all the time — even if the love is unconditional. There are times you will get tired, impatient, and frustrated – and that’s ok. It is always preferable to feeling indifferent towards someone you used to love deeply.


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As Chief Editor, Harini sets the tone and editorial direction for StyleCraze to deliver engaging, interesting, and authentic content revolving around women's health, wellness, and beauty. She has over 14 years of experience in content writing and editing for online media. She specializes in the areas of Beauty, Lifestyle, and Health & Wellness and is proficient in Medical Sciences (Biology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Biochemistry). Her background in Biomedical Engineering helps her decode and interpret the finer nuances of scientific research for her team. Harini is a certified bibliophile and a closet poet. She also loves dancing and traveling to offbeat destinations.