We all know the type – can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. Love/hate relationships are one of the oldest romantic clichés in the book – exhilarating, devastating and bash-your-head-on-the-wall frustrating in equal turns. But how did it get to this?
One theory is that, just as all love affairs experience a cooling-off after the head-dizzying excitement settles into the familiar comfort of a long-term relationship, in our quest for the passion we once had, we use anger and shouty tantrums in a subconscious effort to keep the passion alive (after all, there’s nothing quite like the make-up sex, is there, gals?).
Or you might claim that you both have fiery personalities that bring out the best and worst in each other in equal measure – as if that somehow absolves you from taking personal responsibility for how you behave. I have a friend who describes a (not unusual) argument over putting out the rubbish that resulted in her making her sheepish way to Argos the next day to replace the broken iron that (among other things) she threw at his head.
Can anyone honestly justify that as a way to behave? No matter how high your emotions run, I’ll guarantee you don’t act like that with your boss. The shock truth is that reasonable behaviour can be maintained, no matter how ‘passionate’ you believe yourselves to be.
In the yin and yang of emotions, the flipside of love is, by its very nature, fed by the kind of negative feelings that, once they’ve insinuated themselves into your relationship, have a way of refusing to leave. Issues of control, manipulation, jealousy and the like are all classic symptoms of the love-hate relationship. And if they’re not caught early, they will destroy the passion that you’re so eager to protect. Before you know it, you’re stuck tight in an ultimately destructive pattern you can’t seem to break.
Count to 10, see a counsellor – do whatever it takes to make you both learn how to listen honestly to what the other wants and needs. You have to learn how to communicate. Only then will you discover whether you’re really suited and find out if you have a future beyond the shallow see-saw of your emotions.
Of course, you’re still going to argue, but real, grown-up couples use arguments as a means to discover, understand and then resolve their differences, not as an opportunity to maintain emotional distance or – worse still – as foreplay.
Love/hate relationships may be passionate, but it’s time to leave the heightened passion in the bedroom where it belongs. Sharing fun and laughter is more likely to lead to a long and happy life together than balancing every orgasm with an equally climactic row. Health professionals have discovered that a gentle life can mean a long life – two German doctors now claim that we only have a limited amount of ‘life energy’ and using it up too quickly can accelerate the ageing process. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to apply the same rule to relationships; it is quite simply impossible to maintain that level of heightened emotion every moment of every day.