While psychologist Aaron Ben-Zeev thinks that simultaneous love-hate relationships are rare, due to the "cognitive dissonance" they produce psychologically, they must be more common than he thinks, if popular culture is to be believed. Celine Dionne had a hit song a few years ago entitled "I Hate You Then I Love You." I recall that she even snookered Luciano Pavarotti into recording a version of it with her. Love-hate also seems to occupy a good portion of reality television, where characters make nice with, then bash, each other with equal relish, sometimes in the same conversation.
Ben-Zeev discusses several alternative types of "love-hate" relationships, but the type that I think resonates most strongly in the popular imagination is one in which an emotion of love turns to an emotion of hate when one lover hurts the other lover, and although the hurtful act separates the lovers physically (for all practical purposes, it ends the "love affair"), the hurt lover cannot stop experiencing the emotions of both aggrievement or love and the other lover cannot stop experiencing the emotions of both regret and love. Such situations must result in an interesting whip-saw of emotions. In at least one relationship in which I was once involved that ended badly, that was certainly the case. Only time healed those wounds, and eventually, the relationship was placed in a whole new perspective when the lovers eventually reunited and the untold story was finally told.
Having just attended a penitential service last night at my local parish, followed by a toe-to-toe reconciliation ("confession" for us old-school types) session with a priest who was, I swear, no more than twelve years old, I have reflected on forgiveness and reconciliation. One take-away from my meditation is that the reason for much initial conflict that engenders the transformation of love to hate, as well as the continuing inability to abandon the emotion of hate and focus, instead, on restoring the emotion of love, is the inability to separate the human being from his or her acts.
We are all flawed. We all make mistakes. We all are in need of forgiveness. Often, we repeat our mistakes or our dysfunctional behavior. Yet, God forgives us unconditionally, provided we are sincerely sorry for our acts, repent, do penance, and have a sincere intent not to repeat those mistakes. God separates each one us from our acts if we, truly, are sorry for them. It's called unconditional love. It's called redemption.
If you don't recognize the existence of God, the nature of men and women as having been made in the image of God, the reality of good and evil, the fallen nature of human beings, and the constant struggle that each of us undergoes on a daily basis with the good we would do but do not, and the evil that we would not do but do, then all of this is likely baloney to you. Nothing to see here. Time to move on.
To those who do understand or want to try to understand, what I am discussing is certainly a hard nut to crack. In the Lord's Prayer, we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others. If we don't forgive others for their bad acts, we have no right to ask for forgiveness from others, or from God, for our own. We must love our flawed fellow human beings without qualification, and, if they seek forgiveness, to forgive them their trespasses against us. How many times? As many as it takes. As a slasher-and-burner from the cradle, I understand how counter-intuitive this might seem in a society consumed with the concepts of pride, self-esteem, entitlement, privilege, and perpetual aggrievement. It certainly does not appear to be a lesson-plan created by a human being.
I am not advocating that anyone should stay in a dysfunctional relationship with anyone who is not willing to change and to admit that they need to change. Nor am I suggesting that anyone turn off their better judgment and admit anyone back into their lives who they discern is a serial abuser, con artist, or psychopath. What I am suggesting is that hate can be overcome by, and replaced with, love if we begin by recognizing that an "act" may not define a "person," that while there is darkness within us, there is also light, and that, with God's help, as well as with the help of other human beings, the light may overcome the darkness.
Or, you can continue to bathe in pathos of cognitive dissonance that, I have to admit, Emily West expresses so well.