Is There A Thin Line Between Love And Hate?

Updated December 16, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

You've probably heard the phrase "there is a thin line between love and hate,” meaning that the difference between loving someone and hating them can sometimes be unclear. Many people have also experienced what is called a “love-hate relationship” – where feelings for each other are complicated and often extreme. While mixed emotions are fairly common, not everyone has had such an extreme relationship. This article explores the reasons behind love-hate relationships, and provides guidance on things you can do to build more stable relationships.

Why Am I So Jealous?

Similarities With And The Line Between Love And Hate

Love and hate are both powerful emotions. Perhaps the reason love and hatred are so closely connected is that the two emotions have many of the same components. 

Both Are Intense

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

Both Are Directed Toward Someone

While some emotions can be directed at objects or situations, love and hate in a relationship are 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 can satisfy that desire. So when they don't care for you the way you care for them, your disappointment can quickly turn to hate.

Both Are Expressed Physically

Love and hate are different from weaker emotions. If you have passionate feelings for another person, you likely want to show it through touch. Hate can be the same way. The idea of hurting someone you hate might sound appealing. This doesn't mean that you should act on those impulses, but it's ok to honestly acknowledge the way hatred makes you feel. These are powerful emotions that can be difficult to control for some people.

Where Is The Thin Line? 

You can't have a stable relationship if you don't stay back from that thin boundary between these two feelings. So, how can you tell if you're getting close?

Feelings Become More Intense

This boundary is more about the quality of feelings than the intensity of them. However, if you're nearing the edge of the boundary, your emotions can become extremely strong. Certainly, you can feel intense love without feeling hate. You can feel intense hatred without love, as well. When you're nearing the edge, you'll likely feel both emotions strongly, at the same time, or back and forth.

Dwelling On Hurts

When you let 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's normal to feel hurt. What puts you closer to the love-hate edge is dwelling on that hurt. You might start out wondering 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 comes from a combination of care and insecurity. It may start out as deep affection, but your low self-esteem convinces you that you aren't worthy of being loved. You begin to closely monitor how they behave 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 them for not loving you exclusively.

You're Possessive Of Them

Possessiveness typically spawns from insecurity and 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 at that point, any feelings you have for them are replaced by a desire to have ownership of everything about them. If they resist your control, hatred can follow soon after.

It's An Abusive Relationship

If your partner abuses you physically, verbally, or emotionally, you'll be right on that boundary 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 will almost certainly be dramatic and may even be life-threatening to one or both of you. 

Should you feel threatened 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 (1-800-799-SAFE[7233])is always an option.

How To Avoid A Love-Hate Relationship

Hate it or love it, relationships can cross that thin border between love and hate, but not every relationship does. 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

That's because you don't need someone else to value you when you value yourself enough. It's nice, but it's only necessary if you don't like yourself.

Value Your Independence

It's 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 strives to meet their own needs. So, be sure to take care of your individual basic needs whenever you can. Make your way in the world. Reach for your highest human potential. 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 be closer to having a satisfying, passionate relationship.

Recognize Your True Rights And Responsibilities

Often, we fail to recognize our rights and responsibilities in a relationship. It's 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 take charge of them. You give yourself the power to affect change. When you leave someone else's responsibilities in their hands, you avoid feelings of resentment. 

You need to be clear about your rights, too. For instance, you have the right to feel safe in any relationship. You don't 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 because the environment they grew up in wasn't a healthy one. If you feel that's the case, therapy might be a good choice.

Build a Strong Support System

You've likely heard the advice, "don't put all your eggs in one basket." It's great advice in a relationship. Many people take it to mean they should have many lovers at the same time. This can be damaging, though, depending on the boundaries you and your partner establish. Build up relationships with friends, family, people at work, people you volunteer or take classes with, and people you meet in your community. Spend time with a variety of people. Engage in activities that have nothing to do with your relationship. 

Learn Not To Ruminate

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

The mind works better when it's fresh. What's more, your mind will keep working on the solution even when you aren't consciously thinking about the problem. For example, think of when you're trying to remember a name. You try and 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 suddenly remember the name.

Having faith in yourself is 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 has a particularly strong ability to decrease rumination. Anyone can meditate. Anyone can be mindful. The more you practice, the greater the help you will 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 even if you're already on the edge of love and hate, counseling might be a helpful tool to move forward in a healthier way.

Why Am I So Jealous?

Studies show that online therapy is effective in helping individuals and couples manage the complicated emotions that often arise out of 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 produced significant positive results in those living with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy works by helping participants reframe the unhelpful thought patterns that are often underlying problematic behaviors and interactions, including those involving romantic relationships. The findings of this study can be added to an already large body of research suggesting that online therapy is beneficial for individual mental health, as well as relationship functioning and communication.

Studies have found that online therapy is just effective as in-person therapy in many cases. Plus, you’ll be able to reach out to your licensed counselor outside of sessions. 

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."


The border between love and hate can be an emotionally intense place. However, in a healthy relationship, you can feel intense passion for someone without ever feeling hatred for them. You may dislike them at times. You won't agree with everything they say. You may even end the relationship and go your separate ways. Regardless, you still love them as a person and wish them the best. If you’re having trouble managing your emotions, need to ask a question, or just want to chat, the qualified experts at BetterHelp have helped thousands better understand love and relationships.

For additional help & support with your concerns

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started