Love and hate: Why do some relationships fail?

When it comes to the matters of the heart, we can easily become irrational, impulsive, crazy and stupid as the saying goes. Love can turn into hate as quickly as it sparked and what was once a beautiful, blissful romance shifts into a dark and messy break up.

I see this daily in my practice – parents, who were once happily in love, grow to hate each other; children of divorcing parents, disillusioned with dreams shattered, all hopes for happily ever after vanished in an instant. Divorce lawyers, mediation, separation, arguments, fights…

How is it that something so special like the love between two people can so easily turn into a black hole of hatred, anger and despair? Isn’t love supposed to conquer it all? 

There is a lot that goes into the psychology of love and when it comes to relationships no one-size fits all. People come to counseling to try and work things out but by the time they make the first appointment, it’s sometimes way too late to salvage the relationship. I wish I could sit here and write that counseling can solve it all and make things all better but unfortunately relationships do not always end with “they lived happily ever after.”

In fact, making a relationship work is precisely that, work. A willingness to look into oneself and one’s flaws, past and present; one’s fears, hopes and feelings in the presence of another, and forgive, accept, embrace and trust this other for who they are and for whom they want to become.

Lucie Cantin, a psychiatrist and teaching psychoanalysts at the Freudian School of Quebec in Canada, says that “when you are in love, you are in love with the image you think the other has for you, the image reflected by the other. When you are in love, you have found someone to reinforce the good image of yourself.” 

What Lucie Cantin is talking about concerns the first stages of being in love – that wonderful, euphoric feeling of happiness, jittery butterflies and excitement during the first couple of years of a relationship. As time goes by, people get to know the real person in front of them, not the idealized, wonderful man or woman you first met.

Eventually, “when the image (the image that you think the other has for you and vice versa, the image that the other has for themselves in relation to you) is broken, and you encounter the real other, sometimes there is divorce” or a break up.

When this shift happens, people change the way they see themselves in the relationship and consequently, they change their behavior towards one another – love can easily become hate, indifference, sometimes even disgust. Keep in mind that a relationship between two people is never just between those two people – each one brings with them their history, their family, their past relationships. Counseling can sometimes help, but sometimes it doesn’t.  It’s sad, especially when there are children involved…

I wish I could say otherwise but the truth is, we can’t always make it work. We can only move forward and hopefully, we are not alone.

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