The term is used frequently in psychology, popular writing and journalism. It can be applied to relationships with inanimate objects, or even concepts, as well as those of a romantic nature or between siblings and parents/children.
A love–hate relationship has been linked to the occurrence of emotional ambivalence in early childhood; to conflicting responses by different ego states within the same person; or to the inevitable co-existence of egoistic conflicts with the object of love.
Narcissists have been seen as particularly prone to aggressive reactions towards love objects, not least when issues of self-identity are involved: in extreme instances, hate at the very existence of the other may be the only emotion felt, until love breaks through behind it.
The term is sometimes employed by writers to refer to relationships between celebrity couples who have been divorced, then who reunite (notably Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, or Eminem and Kimberly Scott), as well as to their relationship with fame itself.
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.
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's political friendship took on at times all the characteristics of a love–hate relationship, if one between friends and allies. Sigmund Freud said of himself that “an intimate friend and a hated enemy have always been indispensable to my emotional life...not infrequently...friend and enemy have coincided in the same person”.
Aristotle warned of the conflicts that can arise from conflicting claims within friendships. A related theme is "obligatory friendship", where one party usually feels indebted to another and forges a friendship but still holds a grudge over a particular past disappointment or set of disappointments, while the "creditor" in the relationship agrees to the nature of the relationship often for security reasons, but remains aware of the "debtor's" grudge and feels counter-indebted until the cause of the grudge is sufficiently overcome.
- 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”.
- 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.
- Eric Berne, A Layman's guide to Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis (1976) p. 86
- "A love-hate relationship". The Economist. 19 January 2008.
- M. A Skura, Shakespeare the Actor (1993) p. 286-7
- Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology (PFL 11) p. 137
- Eric Berne, Sex in Human Loving (1970) p. 222
- Freud, p. 137
- Jacques Lacan, Ecrits (1997) p. 24-5
- R. D. Laing, Self and Others (1969) p. 110
- Neville Symington, Narcissism (2003) p. 85-6
- Skura, p. 193
- A. Pam/J. Pearson, Splitting Up (1998) p. 24
- Anthony Seldon, Blair Unbound (2007) p. 546 and p. 574
- Quoted in Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1964) p. 37
- Aristotle, Ethics (1976) p. 281-8
- J. Boardman et al eds, The Oxford History of the Classical World (1991) p. 489
- Lyn Dupré (1998). BUGS in writing: a guide to debugging your prose (2nd ed.). Addison-Wesley. p. 221. ISBN 978-0-201-37921-1.
- Bryan A. Garner (2001). Legal writing in plain English: a text with exercises. University of Chicago Press. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-226-28418-7.
John Gottman, Why Marriages Succeed and Fail (1994)