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Is Hating Your Partner Normal?

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When I’m treating a couple in therapy and flashes of hate appear, I’m never worried. In fact, I’m more worried about relationships that are too cool, where passion is nowhere to be found, where the marriage is contained and controlled, more like a business arrangement. Hate in marriage is the dark side of passion. I don’t really think we can fully love someone until we are free to hate them. As someone who knows what it is to be in a long-term relationship, I can say that momentary feelings of hate are a normal, maybe even necessary, part of the marital tapestry. After all, hatred signals that we care, that we are involved with the other person, that we are hurt, angry. We are disappointed. Let down. We may feel emotionally injured, which means that we are invested in the relationship. We are hungry for love. The opposite of love isn’t hate. The opposite of love is indifference.

In an interview with couples therapist Terry Real, published in the Washington Post, he talks about how hating your partner is a normal:

“No one acknowledges the underbelly of relationships,” said Real, author of “Us: Getting Past You & Me to Build a More Loving Relationship.” “Nobody acknowledges the darkness.”

I remember a famous Italian actress who was asked in an interview if she had ever considered divorcing her husband of 40 years. She paused and said, “Divorce, no. Murder, yes.”

I loved that honesty. Who among us, if we are truthful, has not indulged in a fleeting fantasy of doing away with our partner? How could we not, given the vulnerability and dependency that are the hallmarks of real intimacy. Fantasies are nothing to be afraid of. They are like dreams, except we are awake. Our fantasies are symbolic expressions of our primal feelings. That just means we’re human. To acknowledge them, to let our imagination roam free without taking ourselves or our fantasies too seriously, is healthy. We’re alive and connected to other humans. Our fantasies give us the chance to let off steam without anyone getting hurt. Then we are free to love, fully.

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