Is hatred in marriages normal?
Recently Terry Real (@terryreal) published his book: Us, Getting past you and me to build a more loving relationship. He mentions “normal marital hatred” in the book, a statement that has been picked up widely by the press and discussed by many. Brittany Wong (@brittanylwong) of the HuffPost (@huffpost) asked me and a few other therapists what we thought of the idea of hatred in marriage being normal. You can read the entire article here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/marital-hatred-normal_l_633c6898e4b0b7f89f45702c .
This was my opinion on the matter that was published in the article:
“First, I would like to say that I am a big fan of Terry Real’s approach and philosophy for couples. I would say he and I are usually 99.9% aligned. In this particular case, I differ slightly.
Although I have not yet finished his book US, I feel that his quote of “normal marital hatred” is being taken a bit out of context in the media. While it is a great sound bite, I believe that this deep feeling encountered in a committed relationship, such as marriage, is complex. We can experience moments of very strong feelings in relationships. Although I do believe that “hatred” can be experienced in relationships, if it is more than a moment or two, more than a passing feeling, then there is serious trouble. I believe that anger is the more prevalent emotion in relationships and that anger is very normal, dare I say healthy if managed correctly. Anger can pass, sometimes very quickly. Hatred on the other hand seems to have a permanence, or let us say depth, that I believe is not healthy. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Certified Anger Management Specialist, I believe that defining the difference between anger and hatred is very important. Anger is triggered when one’s expectation is broken or challenged and can usually be linked to a specific event or action. I can love you, or at least like you, yet be angry with you. Now hatred on the other hand, seems to get to the core being of the individual it is directed at. Once I hate you, it is very difficult to turn back. This is why I feel that hatred may not be accurate for what Terry has been quoted for as normal. I agree with him that anger is very normal, especially as an automated coping response to developmental trauma. Hatred on the other hand in marriage, well, that feels like it should not be considered normal, in my opinion”.
I do highly recommend Terry’s book. It is not only accurate for the needs in coupled relationships, it also highlights dynamics at play in any and all relationships, in particular, our cultural obsession with being so individual that we cannot bend to anyone else’s needs. More on this at a later date.