Love–hate relationship

A love–hate relationship is an interpersonal relationship involving simultaneous or alternating emotions of love and hate—something particularly common when emotions are intense.[1] The term is used frequently in psychology, popular writing and journalism. It can be applied to relationships with inanimate objects, or even concepts,[2][3] as well as those of a romantic nature or between siblings and parents/children.[4]

Psychological rootsEdit

A love–hate relationship has been linked to the occurrence of emotional ambivalence in early childhood;[5] to conflicting responses by different ego states within the same person;[6] or to the inevitable co-existence of egoistic conflicts with the object of love.[7]

Narcissists and borderlines have been seen as particularly prone to aggressive reactions towards love objects,[8] not least when issues of self-identity are involved:[9] in extreme instances, hate at the very existence of the other may be the only emotion felt, until love breaks through behind it.[10]

Research from Yale University suggests love–hate relationships may be the result of poor self-esteem.[11]

Family and developmentEdit

Love–hate relationships also develop within a familial context, especially between an adult and one or both of their parents.[12] Love–hate relationships and sometimes complete estrangement between adults and one or both of their parents often indicates poor bonding with either parent in infancy, depressive symptoms of parents, borderline or narcissistic pathology in the adult child, and/or parental alienation in childhood. Parents who alienate their children from the other parent frequently suffer from Borderline personality disorder or Narcissistic personality disorder.[13] Children who experience parental alienation techniques by a borderline parent report a higher prevalence of low self-esteem, low self-sufficiency, insecure attachment styles, and higher levels of depression in adulthood. One of the development tasks for humans is to balance the primary love and hate drives as to tolerate ambivalence toward a loved object. When this task is unsuccessfully accomplished, severe psychopathology can ensue. Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) often fail to accomplish the task of ambivalence. They are unable to be simultaneously angry at someone they love, without destroying the love (Corradi, 2013). Children are unable to tolerate the ambivalence, and are indoctrinated to choose. Despite feeling love for their alienated parent, they let go entirely of the loved object. This creates an occasion for the development of ego defenses in the child referred to as “splitting.”

As a way of understanding splitting, a common feature of BPD and NPD, is described as “a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 663).[14]

A love–hate relationship may develop when people have completely lost the intimacy within a loving relationship, yet still retain some passion for, or perhaps some commitment to, each other, before degenerating into a hate–love relationship leading to divorce.[15]


  • The Japanese word “tsundere” is derived from two Japanese terms: “tsun tsun” (ツンツン) (adverb, 'morosely, aloofly, offputtingly') and “dere dere” (でれでれ) (adverb, 'in a lovey-dovey or infatuated manner'). A tsundere character is one who frequently switches between insulting their love interest and acting lovestruck or kind toward them. Tsundere characters usually belittle their love interest at first but eventually become kinder to them over time.[16]
  • Catullus introduced the love–hate theme into Western culture with his famous lines: "I hate and yet love. You may wonder how I manage it. I don't know, but feel it happen, and am in torment".[17]
  • The concept of a love–hate relationship is frequently used in teen romance novels where two characters are shown to "hate" each other, but show some sort of affection or attraction towards each other at certain points of the story.[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Eric Berne, A Layman's Guide to Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis (1976) p. 86
  2. ^ "A love-hate relationship". The Economist. 19 January 2008.
  3. ^ "Skyhook's love/hate relationship with GPS".
  4. ^ M. A. Skura, Shakespeare the Actor (1993) pp. 286–7
  5. ^ Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology (PFL 11) p. 137
  6. ^ Eric Berne, Sex in Human Loving (1970) p. 222
  7. ^ Freud, p. 137
  8. ^ Jacques Lacan, Écrits (1997) pp. 24–5
  9. ^ R. D. Laing, Self and Others (1969) p. 110
  10. ^ Neville Symington, Narcissism (2003) pp. 85–6
  11. ^ "The mystery behind love-hate relationships -". 8 June 2006.
  12. ^ Fingerman, KL; Pitzer, L; Lefkowitz, ES; Birditt, KS; Mroczek, D (1 November 2008). "Ambivalent Relationship Qualities between Adults and Their Parents: Implications for Both Parties' Well-being". The Journals of Gerontology: Series B. 63 (6): P362–P371. doi:10.1093/geronb/63.6.p362. PMC 2749877. PMID 19092039.
  13. ^ Baker, AJL (2006). "Patterns of Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Qualitative Study of Adults Who were Alienated from a Parent as a Child" (PDF). The American Journal of Family Therapy. 34 (1): 63–78. doi:10.1080/01926180500301444. S2CID 219638766. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  14. ^ Jaffe, AM; Thakkar, MJ; Piron, P (11 May 2017). "Denial of ambivalence as a hallmark of parental alienation". Cogent Psychology. 4 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1080/23311908.2017.1327144.
  15. ^ A. Pam and J. Pearson, Splitting Up (1998) p. 24
  16. ^ "tsundere | Origin and History". Retrieved 2023-04-13.
  17. ^ J. Boardman et al eds, The Oxford History of the Classical World (1991) p. 489
  18. ^ "LOVE-HATE | Definition of LOVE-HATE by Oxford Dictionary on also meaning of LOVE-HATE". Lexico Dictionaries | English. Archived from the original on October 31, 2020. Retrieved 2021-09-29.

Further readingEdit

  • John Gottman, Why Marriages Succeed and Fail (1994)