Hate gets a bad rap. Yet real love doesn’t exist without it. Hate and love always live next to each other. Lots of folks don’t like to think about the moments in their lives when they hate their children, their partners, their parents, much less to talk about it. But people are much too complicated and complex to have all their parts loved without also bumping up against hate. But that is what makes love an achievement.
One of my clients was recently grabbling with a commitment her husband had made to her when he was her fiancé. He told her he would always have her back. She knew he was sincere when he said it. That he really meant it. The problem though is he hadn’t yet come to hate her yet when he made that commitment.
When we are newly in love, we are so connected to everything we love about our partners. We hardly even have to make a commitment to things like monogamy in the first couple years of a relationship because we are still so smitten. As lovely as that is, real love, mature love, strong love, is when we can maintain our connection to our love through the blur of hate. And it takes a few years into a romantic partnership before we have moments where our hate can blind us.
Melanie Klein, a psychoanalyst and Object Relations theorist, developed a concept of two positions. These positions, mental/emotional stances, are the paranoid/schizoid and depressive positions. The paranoid/schizoid position is characterized as a place of half truths, where the world/ feelings/ people/ reality is split into good and bad, right and wrong, love and hate. When we are in this position if we are right, the other person is wrong. If they are good, we must be bad. In this position we can only completely and totally love every single aspect and moment with our partners and want to obviously live the rest of eternity with them, or we only have hate for them, can’t understand how we ever ended up in a relationship with them and must leave the relationship immediately.
The depressive position is so named because it is a place of whole truths with wide ranging perspective and can therefore feel daunting and heavy. It is when we know that while our partner wronged us, we have wronged them as well, and while we may be filled with hate for them in a moment, they are also the person with whom we have shared some of our most tender moments, and that they too have to contend with their hate for us.
Mental/emotional health is demonstrated not by living in the depressive position, as carrying that level of truth night and day would be exhausting. Health is characterized by the ease with which people can move between these positions, not getting trapped in either for too long, bringing the stark truths learned in the split position, to later integrate them into the depressive position.
Okay, back to love and hate and my client’s confusion over her then fiancé’s commitment, and her current husband’s abandonment. It is easy to believe you can have someone’s back when you are filled with love, and haven’t had a series of fights that evacuate your insides into outer space and fill you with despair and self-loathing and a hate for your partner that scares you.
I often argue that folks shouldn’t get into a long term committed relationship until they see how someone treats them when they are filled with hate, and that takes a good 3 years to develop. The hate we feel towards our partners requires years to develop because it requires transferring some of our early feelings towards our parents onto our partners in ways that become hidden even to us. They aren’t regular feelings informed by a mature brain, but primitive raw feelings possible only in the world of a child, who must rely completely on their parents, and who have a deep terror and resentment about that dependence.
I get it… this is dark stuff, and most of us like to think if we had a reasonably good childhood we wouldn’t be filled with dark and primitive feelings. I will try to write something soon about the conflicts of early childhood even for the person raised by good enough parents in a good enough environment free of external trauma, but for now, I hope we can agree that we get crazy angry in a fight with a partner that feels less than rational.
So, as I had stated in other posts, the fact that you and your partner fight, and that sometimes you hate them, doesn’t mean it is a bad relationship. What makes it a bad relationship is if you can’t treat them as someone you also love when you are hating them, or if they can’t hold the same capacity.This doesn’t mean treating them lovingly and kindly during an argument; we are certainly entitled to act with anger. It does mean remembering that while we have a goal to share our anger, and make our points, which might hurt them, we should not be trying to hurt them. Anger isn’t the same thing as meanness. Don’t be mean.
Smith is an analytically oriented psychotherapist with 25 years in practice. She is additional the Founder/Director of Full Living: A Psychotherapy Practice, which specializes in matching clients with seasoned clinicians in the Greater Philadelphia Area.
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