(Quote Alert – I am going to throw around quite a few in this post. Quotes are no substitute for good science or research, so I recommend that you do your own)
I have heard it said that “one cannot hate another person unless they have first loved them”, which at the time made sense to me. Along these lines, a very good friend recently said to me “love eventually turns to hate” in discussing my impending divorce and his own experience. For some reason his comment threw me a bit.
I never understood how such a strong positive emotion could turn into such a strong opposite emotion. That was until I learned that hate is NOT the opposite of love –the opposite of love is apathy. This explains so much these days.
First of all, I have never encountered a definition of love that was sufficient. Platitudes like: “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” “love is a many splendored thing,” “love hurts,” and “God is love” all fall short. So I must concede that I do not have a definition. It is like defining pornography – it is hard to define, but we all know it when we see it, and one man’s art (or National Geographic photo) is another man’s porn.
Why does love so often turn to hate? I would argue that it is more biological than emotional. When we fall in love, there is a measurable response in healthy adults. A host of chemicals and hormones circulate inside is in preparation for the mating process. Some have argued that what we call love is, in fact, nearly 100% a physiological phenomenon. I am a romantic at heart and believe that there is at least a little bit of what I will loosely call “magic” when it comes to love. But there is no denying that initial attraction is often confused with love. The hormone rush can be overwhelming in teenagers when they connect with their first love. This has been well established, but what is less clear is the link between this feeling and the hate that seems to spring from it.
Hate is essentially one potential outcome of the chemical withdrawal process that occurs when a relationship ends. When we are emotionally connected to another human being in healthy ways (and obsessive and other non-health ways) we experience an array of physical and emotional changes. A breakup is like kicking a drug habit and the physical discomfort is palpable and can be quite powerful. I am not saying anything new here, but we still don’t seem to get the significance of this in modern society. A good enough explanation of the negative feelings that arise from such rejection can be seen here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j8ZMMuu7MU.
In terms of my own experience, I still struggle not to hate my ex. The seeds of the undoing were planted in the very beginning of the relationship, so I cannot blame her. That being said, I have very concrete and specific reasons for asking for the divorce and two years down the road from our first discussion about this I am still angry. As much as I try to tell myself that this will pass and that I will find love again, etc. It does not take away the very present physical manifestations. It is a nearly constant sense of loss and sadness. I really loved this woman with everything inside me and it did not work after 20 years together. The loss is significant for both of us.
What I notice is that she too seems to hate me. I guess this should not surprise me given my own feelings, but it is still a bit jarring to be on the receiving end of such negativity from the love of my life and the mother of my children.
Ultimately these feelings have a way of subsiding for most people. The Hollywood notion of that person who carries a torch for a long lost love is indeed romantic. But these days, it seems creepy to me. On one hand we have a pathological narcissist who believes that he or she can move on while secretly hoping that the former partner will writhe in the pain and agony of loneliness and the bitterness of regret. On the other hand, we have the pathologically insecure emotional leech whose love borders on obsession. She or he cannot move on because they have nowhere else to go and no one else with who to go there.
Question of the day – Do you believe that love can turn to hate? Tell us your story.