Is There A Thin Line Between Love And Hate?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated May 1, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

You've probably heard the phrase, "There is a thin line between love and hate,” meaning that the emotions of love and hatred can be closely linked. Many people have experienced what is often called a “love-hate relationship,” where feelings for each other are complicated and often extreme. Love and hate can have similarities, such as their intensity, their direction at another person, and their ability to be expressed physically. Your relationship may be approaching the line between love and hate if your feelings have become more intense, you’ve been ruminating, and you’ve become increasingly jealous. You may be able to improve your relationship health by working on your self-esteem, valuing your independence, recognizing your rights and responsibilities, building a strong support system, learning not to ruminate, and getting professional help through online therapy.

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Struggling with a love/hate relationship?

Similarities between love and hate

In general, love and hate are both powerful emotions. Perhaps the reason love and hatred are so closely connected is that the two emotions tend to have many of the same components. 

Both can be intense

When you're feeling an intense emotion like love or hate, it's often challenging to be objective about the relationship. Both emotions can take over your life. If you feel love intensely enough for your partner, you may find yourself living in a situation you would never have accepted before. If you hate someone strongly enough, it may not matter what they do for you; the feeling may not go away easily. If your relationship ends, it's usually going to be difficult to simply shrug your shoulders and say, "Oh well, it didn't work out. It's no big deal." Instead, you're probably going to have a strong emotional reaction to that loss. 

Both are usually directed toward someone

While some emotions can be directed at objects or situations, love and hate in a relationship are typically directed straight at the other person. Because you're precisely focused on someone close to you, you tend to expect your feelings for them to be reciprocated. No one else may be able to satisfy that desire. When they don't care for you the way you care for them, your disappointment can quickly turn to hate.

Both can be expressed physically 

Love and hate are often different from other, potentially weaker emotions. If you have passionate romantic feelings for another person, you may want to express them through touch. Hate can be the same way. The idea of hurting someone you hate may sound appealing at times. This doesn't mean that you should act on those impulses, but it can be okay to acknowledge the way hatred can make you feel. Love and hate are usually powerful emotions that can be difficult to control for some people.

Where is the thin line? 

It’s usually challenging to maintain a stable relationship if you don't stay back from the thin boundary between the feelings of love and hate. You may be approaching the thin line between love and hate if you notice the following characteristics in your relationship.

Feelings become more intense

This boundary is often more about the quality of feelings than their intensity. However, if you're nearing the edge of the boundary, your emotions can become extremely strong. It can be possible to feel intense love without feeling hate and to feel intense hatred without love. When you're nearing the edge, though, you'll likely feel both emotions strongly, at the same time, or go back and forth between them.

You find yourself ruminating

When you embrace vulnerability by letting someone see and hear your thoughts, fears, and weaknesses, it can create the potential for you to be deeply hurt by them. Whether it’s an intentional jab or a carelessly phrased comment, it can be normal to feel hurt. What may bring you closer to the love-hate edge is dwelling on that hurt. You might start to wonder why they would hurt you that way. If you keep ruminating, a small comment can take on significant importance and eventually turn into hatred.

Jealousy increases

Jealousy typically comes from a combination of care and insecurity. It may start out as deep affection, but your low self-esteem can convince you that you aren't worthy of being loved. You may begin to closely monitor how your partner behaves in each moment, especially when interacting with someone you consider a competitor. When you feel jealous most of the time, you might begin to hate your partner for not loving you exclusively.

You feel possessive of your partner

Possessiveness typically spawns from insecurity and frequently results in controlling behaviors. You might find yourself manipulating situations to keep your partner away from other people. Possessiveness can go even further, though. You might try to control who they spend time with, what they do, and even what they wear. Possessiveness might seem like loving and caring, but when you reach this point, any feelings you have for them may be replaced by a desire to take ownership of everything about them. If they resist your control, hatred can begin to develop.

It's an abusive relationship

If your partner abuses you physically, verbally, or emotionally, you may sit on the boundary between love and hate until you get out of the situation. Many victims of abuse have strong feelings of affection for their abusers. When the balance tips from love to hate in an abusive relationship, the result can be dramatic. 

Should you feel threatened or unsafe in your relationship, please know that help is available. You can get out of an abusive situation with the help of professionals. Some people might be more comfortable turning to loved ones for assistance, but calling an abuse hotline like the one at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) can always be an option.

If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

How to avoid a love-hate relationship

Relationships can cross the thin border between love and hate, but not every relationship does this. So, how do you keep from getting into a love-hate relationship? If you're already in one, how do you ensure your feelings stay on stable ground for the long run?

Improve your self-esteem

When you value yourself, know your worth, and refuse to accept less than you deserve, you generally don’t need anyone else to validate you. You may also remove yourself from any relationships that don’t serve you or are unhealthy. In addition, focusing on self-care, introspection, and self-improvement can remove your focus from your relationship.

Value your independence

It can be easy to fall into dependence if someone is there and happy to take care of your needs for you. It might seem like a convenient and helpful sign of love at first, but it likely isn't. Instead, it's often a sign of unhealthy attachment. It may seem romantic to need each other so intensely, but in a healthy relationship, each person usually strives to meet their own needs.

It can be helpful to take care of your individual basic needs whenever you can. You might reach for your highest human potential and go out of your way to do things for yourself, rather than automatically letting someone else do them for you. When your relationship is based on deep care and not need, you'll likely be closer to having a satisfying, passionate relationship.

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Recognize your true rights and responsibilities

Often, we fail to recognize our rights and responsibilities in a relationship. It can be easy to blame someone else when you don't separate what is yours to do and what is someone else's responsibility. By accepting your responsibilities, you can take charge of them. You can give yourself the power to affect change. When you leave someone else's responsibilities in their hands, you avoid feelings of resentment. 

You may need to be clear about your rights, too. For instance, you have the right to feel safe in any relationship. You don't necessarily have the right to demand that your partner asks you before making even the smallest decisions. People commonly have trouble understanding their rights and responsibilities when the environment they grew up in isn't a healthy one. If you feel that's the case, therapy can be helpful in teaching you how to set and maintain healthy boundaries.

Build a strong support system

You've likely heard the advice, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." This can be great advice in a relationship. However, many people take it to mean they should have many lovers at the same time, which can be damaging if you are in a monogamous relationship. Instead, you might build up your relationships with friends, family, people at work, people you volunteer or take classes with, and people you meet in your community. It can be beneficial to spend time with a variety of people and engage in activities that have nothing to do with your relationship. 

Learn not to ruminate

Because ruminating can intensify feelings of hate, you'll likely be more emotionally stable when you learn not to dwell on problems. It can be common for people to convince themselves that if they think about something long and hard, they'll be able to find the perfect solution. The truth is that it rarely works that way. 

The mind tends to work better when it's fresh. What's more, your mind may continue to work on the solution, even when you aren't consciously thinking about the problem. For example, consider the task of trying to remember someone’s name. You might try to think of it, but it just won't come to mind. Then, an hour later, when you aren't even aware that you're thinking about it, you may suddenly remember the name.

Having faith in yourself can be a significant component in avoiding rumination. You can also learn to notice thoughts and let them pass by without dwelling on them through meditation and mindfulness. Studies have shown that mindfulness often has a particularly strong ability to decrease rumination. Anyone can meditate, and anyone can be mindful. The more you practice, the greater the help you may get from your thoughts.

Getting help with online therapy

How can you have a passionate relationship without crossing into hate? If you have low self-esteem, feelings of insecurity or jealousy, or if you're already on the edge of love and hate, therapy might be a helpful tool to move forward in a healthier way.

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Struggling with a love/hate relationship?

Studies show that online therapy can be effective in helping individuals and couples manage the complicated emotions that often arise during relationships. In a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the effectiveness of online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) was examined. Researchers found that online therapy generally produced significant positive results in those living with symptoms of depression and anxiety. The findings of this study can be added to an already large body of research suggesting that online therapy can be beneficial for individual mental health, as well as relationship functioning and communication.

Online therapy often has many additional benefits when compared to in-person therapy. For instance, you can attend sessions from any location with an internet connection. Plus, it’s often easier to schedule sessions that fit into your life, as there are normally session times available outside of typical office hours. 

Take a look at how others have been able to get the help that they need by reading the counselor reviews below.

Counselor reviews

"After counseling with Dr. Cothern for 4 weeks, I have seen a huge difference in myself and my relationships with my family. She has helped me to see that what I am doing is good for me and that I shouldn't beat myself up when I do. It says something that might be seen as being too forceful when really it's not."

"Jennifer has been a great help to me and truly gave me great advice to fix my relationship."

Takeaway

The border between love and hate can be an emotionally intense place. Love and hate tend to be intense emotions that are usually directed at another person and are often expressed physically. If you’ve been feeling jealous, your emotions are becoming more intense, and you’ve been ruminating, then your relationship could be approaching the line between love and hate. Valuing your independence, increasing your self-esteem, recognizing your responsibilities and rights, learning not to ruminate, and leaning on your support system can help your relationship become healthier. It can also be beneficial to work with a licensed therapist through online or in-person therapy.
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