Ah, the love-hate relationship. Intense emotions are often blamed for the infamous “love hate relationship.” Have you ever come across a couple who are so passionate about each other and sometimes it’s hard to tell if they love or hate each other? This tends to be the cliché romantic comedy where the guy and the girl are always fighting and bickering, and then they fall in love, creating the idea that a relationship based on hate can turn into love. However, this is not usually the case in real life, just in Hollywood.
In reality, unfortunately, love sometimes turns into hate. As evidenced by the ever skyrocketing divorce rate, there are many couples that start off loving each other, and then somehow years later, they are full of hate towards one another. How does this happen?
While we all want love in our lives, sometimes feelings of hate come easier to us. This is often the case in non-romantic relationships as well.
On Tisha B’av, the Jewish people mourn the Temple’s destruction. Once the center of Jewish communal life and ritual practice, the Temple was destroyed thousands of years ago. It’s famously said that the destruction was due to sinas chinam — baseless hatred.
Why is it so easy to hate? How can we avoid this happening and how can we ensure a loving relationship? Here are a few points about love and hate to ponder as we head into Tisha B’av:
- It is much easier to point out negative qualities than it is to focus on the positive!
Nowadays there are so many relationships that don’t get off the ground or that fail before they begin because people notice the bad before they notice the good. Do you find it easier to remember what you didn’t like on a date versus what you liked? Are you having a hard time seeing past someone’s negative qualities on a dating profile so you don’t even get to a first date?
Unfortunately, complaining comes naturally to many people, and expressing gratitude and having an ayin tov — “good eye” — requires a lot more effort. Hate is easier than love. Love requires one to give – the word for love “ahava” stems from the root “hav” which means to give. That means making a commitment to give in order to love someone.
My clients ask me how they know if the person they are dating is the “one”. The answer is that with time and effort they will give to each other and they will recognize this relationship as the primary and most important relationship to pursue. The reason is that giving will develop your connection and bond with the person. Real giving comes through commitment, dedication and practice. Love is only really developed once two people are giving to each other on a daily basis, rather than asking what the other person has done for them lately. Within a relationship, one has to continue to give in order for the love to continue to grow.
- We have to work hard to keep the love flowing.
We all know couples that, once filled with love for one another, eventually became full of hatred towards each other. How does that happen? We all wonder and fear how quickly love can become hatred. When it comes to gratitude, we must make a concerted effort to point out the positive, see our spouse in a positive light, appreciate them and all that they do, convey this appreciation, express gratitude to them, and in general, push ourselves not to take them for granted. Sounds like a lot of work right? It is! Marriage is hard work. So it is much easier to hate rather than love because love takes effort. Love requires giving the benefit of the doubt, recognizing the blessings that one has from this person, and working hard to keep the love flowing despite the constant desire to point out the negative.
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T….It all starts with respect.
Why is respect so important in a relationship? The popular idea is that one must look for chemistry. While chemistry makes the relationship more desirable at first, attraction can ebb and flow, and chemistry may fade with time, if the basic foundation of respect isn’t there. If you find someone that you are attracted to, but you aren’t sure if you respect them, that is a red flag. Respecting your partner is the foundation for a healthy and happy marriage. Being able to speak respectfully to someone, look up to and admire their positive traits, and express gratitude and appreciation rather than complaining, ensures that there will always be a flow of love, even during difficult times in a relationship.
- Pick your battles.
Minimize the criticism, and maximize what builds the relationship. Our society encourages being honest with our feelings, but how honest is too honest? Is it normal to tell a stranger in a restaurant that their table manners are lacking or their chewing is too loud? If not, why is it okay to point out and criticize those we are close to? It is easy to criticize what we do not like. However, every word of criticism in a relationship chips away at the love. Whether it is raising your voice or disapproving of something your partner does, the negative interactions need to be minimized. Most relationship experts advise a 5 to 1 ratio of bad interactions to good interactions. This means that every negative comment requires 5 positive comments to counteract it. A healthy relationship requires some thought into what deserves to be pointed out, and what can be ignored.
Every Tisha B’av, we are reminded to choose love. It is an active decision that requires effort from us. Love means hard work — recognizing and focusing on the positive, expressing gratitude, and acknowledging and appreciating the other person.
May you find the one you are inspired to appreciate and be grateful for, very soon!