Love–hate relationship

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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 roots[edit]

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]


A notable celebrity love-hate relationship and long time estrangement exists between Jon Voight and his daughter, Angelina Jolie.[12]

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 Chris Evans and Jenny Slate), as well as to their relationship with fame itself.[13][14]

Family and Development[edit]

Love–hate relationships also develop within a familial context, especially between an adult and one or both of their parents.[15] 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.[16] 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).[17]

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.[18]


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.[19] 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".[20]


Ontological study says that love hate relationship exists among colleagues. Especially if there is difference in education qualification or skill sets. However, they may have a natural affinity towards each other because of common family, cultural values. Their mutual trust and respect may be extremely strong. Their expression of love may be subtle but hatredness may be overt or silent. Sometimes they express their hatredness overtly only to know how much it is approved by other person. Such colleagues end up in constant conflicts and at times becomes irreparable too. However, if one initiates a subtle patch up, the patch up happens quickly and everything is restored to normal.


  • The Japanese word "tsundere" comes from two words—tsuntsun (aloof, irritable, cold) and deredere (lovestruck). 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.[citation needed]
  • 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".[21]
  • 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.[22]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Finn, Natalie. "Why It Was So Important to Reconnect: Inside Angelina Jolie's Complicated Relationship With Dad Jon Voight". E!. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  13. ^ Skura, p. 193
  14. ^
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ 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. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ A. Pam and J. Pearson, Splitting Up (1998) p. 24
  19. ^ Anthony Seldon, Blair Unbound (2007) p. 546 and 574
  20. ^ Quoted in Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (1964) p. 37
  21. ^ J. Boardman et al eds, The Oxford History of the Classical World (1991) p. 489
  22. ^ "LOVE-HATE | Definition of LOVE-HATE by Oxford Dictionary on also meaning of LOVE-HATE". Lexico Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 2021-09-29.

Further reading[edit]

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