Where Exactly Is the “Thin Line” Between Love and Hate?

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Love and hate are polar opposites. When you love someone, you want the ultimate best for him or her. When you hate someone, you want bad things to happen to them.

That’s why love-hate relationships are so strange. Can you actually love and hate someone at the same time? Let’s walk the thin line between the two.

How the brain processes love and hate

It’s hard to wrap your head around the concept that love and hate can coexist. So, let’s unpack it a bit. Research has looked at this seemingly strange connection in a study called Neural correlates of hate.

Here, scientists had study participants look at pictures of people they loved or hated. While they looked at these images, the researchers scanned their brains.

From the brain imaging, researchers noted that when people looked at images of those they hated and loved, the same brain regions were activated.

One of the activated regions was insular, which decides A) how intensely you feel an emotion, and B), how intensely you feel this emotion toward something or someone.

Now, here’s the thing, the insular region of the brain doesn’t make the moral decision that the emotion you’re feeling is good or bad, positive or negative, acceptable or unacceptable. It just feels it.

But here’s where things get tricky. Since the neural processing for strong emotion can move in either a positive direction (love) or negative direction (hate), it’s possible for one to overpower the other.  This is why love can turn into hate so quickly.

Can you love and hate a person at the same time?

Here’s the thing, you can’t really love someone at the same time that you’re hating them. But it’s possible to move between the two pretty rapidly, especially if the conditions are right. So, what does it take to move from love to hate?

Unreciprocated love

If you desperately love someone, and they will not love you back, you can continue to love them, but also hate them for not loving you. Why? Because they are both a source of intense pleasure for you, as well as a source of intense pain.

Lack of freedom

When you are in a committed relationship with someone, there should always be a healthy bit of give-and-take. That is, there should be compromise and cooperation. You can’t always have things the way you want, and you do have to make personal sacrifices in order to support those you love.

Well, there are a couple ways this can lead to a loss of freedom. For example, if one partner is overbearing and controlling, you can find yourself in a dysfunctional, abusive relationship.

So, even if you love the person on some level, you can hate them for taking away your personal freedom and limiting your life to such an extreme.

Another situation that can occur is when the relationship is balanced, but one partner simply doesn’t like losing their personal freedom for the sake of the relationship. However, if they stay in the relationship, they can become resentful and bitter – making it easy for them to oscillate between love and hate.

Vulnerability scares you

When you’re with the one you love, he or she tends to be the one where you can be your truest, most authentic and raw self. You don’t have to put on an act, pretend your someone else, or try to impress him or her.

However, this vulnerability can be downright scary. First of all, you allow your partner to see your true colors – you can’t hide them anymore. Secondly, the more vulnerable and open you are, the greater the chances are of you getting hurt.

This vulnerability is the result of love. However, sometimes the consequences can hurt, and depending on how hurt you are, you can start to feel some hatred toward your partner.

You hate someone because they’re “bad”

Sometimes, hate is something we use to protect ourselves from a “bad” person. They might not be all that bad, but your mind says they are. This way, you have a good reason to hate them. Sometimes, hate masks the fact that you feel helpless and weak around that person.

What you love about your partner is what you hate about them

Remember when you first started dating your partner, and you were crazy about him or her for certain reasons? Well, guess what? Those same reasons can easily be the things that now drive you crazy (in a negative way).

In a nutshell, it’s pretty common that what you love about your partner can actually be the same thing you hate about them.

Maybe, your partner is a social butterfly and you love that quality because you’re not. But this can be a cause of tension when you want to stay home, and he or she invites people over for dinner without asking you.

Maybe you first loved how your partner always saw the silver lining in everything and always found a way to make people smile. He or she is just light-hearted and enjoys making people smile. But sometimes that can backfire in a big way.

Why? Because you wish he or she would take things seriously, or that they would stop and listen to you and understand that you’re being serious.

These are simple scenarios, but they’re definitely reflective of what can happen in relationships where love and hate fluctuate.

Can you tell the difference between love and hate?

Well, researchers certainly can. In this study, scientists found that when individuals are feeling hatred, brain activity is distinct from love.

When individuals are “loving” significant areas of the cerebral cortex (the brain region responsible for planning and organizing) are turned off. In hate, on the other hand, smaller areas of the cerebral cortex are turned off.

What does this mean in practical terms

Well, when people are in “love” mode, they tend to deactivate their negative judgments. But if you’re feeling hate, you lose your ability to reflect on yourself, your feelings, and how you interact with the other person.

Yes, there’s a thin line between love and hate. If you find yourself moving between the two, it’s time to ask why. Feeling love is infinitely more productive and healthy than feeling hate – both for you and your partner.

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