I never thought I was capable of hatred. It was the ugliest human emotion, one my identity loathed to own. Sadness, fear, shame, pain…I could entertain all of them, but anger had no place at the table.
My husband was the first person who gave me permission to be angry. Somehow he knew beneath my rage was a sacred truth howling to be heard.
It was he who gave my hatred dignity, and a voice.
Once, at the height of an escalated fight, he stabbed 3 words straight into my heart, “I hate you”.
Everything stopped. I thought for sure we were over.
“How can you hate me?” I asked, mortified.
“I’m angry…and right now I hate you,” he explained.
I felt him breathe into a sudden softening, “But…” he added, “I love you more than I hate you.”
Could someone actually love me and hate me at the same time? Until that moment they seemed mutually exclusive. All of a sudden they were united and transcended in one sentence.
I’ve long known that True Love is the white light of human emotion; the multi-colored spectrum of all feelings contained inside. Staying in love requires the skillful practice of tuning into the somatic sensations that fund every feeling in our body. Whether it be joy, surprise, sadness, fear or anger -love requires you befriend them all.
My husband & I devised a strange equation to explain our complex, multi-faceted feelings for each other:
True Love = 50% Attraction + 50% Repulsion
At first glance it might seem hard to hold. How can I be attracted to someone as much as I’m repulsed by them? And how could that produce lasting Love?
The best metaphor is our planet spinning around the sun. We all know that gravity attracts the earth towards the sun. Simultaneously the centrifugal force pulls earth outwards, away from the sun. These two forces provide the opposing tension or “tensegrity” that keeps the planet continually rotating in orbit around the star.
If there was more than 50% attraction, the earth would spiral inwards & crash into the sun. If there was more than 50% repulsion the earth would spin out of orbit into space. It’s that perfect ratio of 1/2 attraction, 1/2 repulsion that holds the whole system together.
So too in relationship, the system’s stability persists when it has both pleasure and pain, desire and dislike, happiness & horror. The emergent magic of love comes from the dialectic, when contradicting thesis and antithesis are synthesized. This is the root of true collaboration.
Some couples have too much attraction and burn up early or spiral into co-dependence. Other couples have too much repulsion and spin out of meaningful contact or dissolve in a break-up.
I definitely had moments of disdain and defeat in my early romance. But back then I’d keep them hidden, even from myself. I had it coded that to love is to have only warm, happy thoughts of my partner. It took a man who was utterly unapologetic about his anger to inspire me with the courage to share my darker feelings in real time. And not from a place of punishment but from a genuine desire to expose my inner truth as an act of intimacy.
I remember one poignant moment after an exasperating conflict riddled with mutual but unspoken hate, I broke down in sobs confessing despair to Eben. “I can’t see our future” I cried, raw & heartbroken. It felt as if our relationship was dying.
Something about my honesty moved him. He leaned forward with outstretched arms, “I’m in despair too. Let’s be in despair together.”
We hugged and cried in a heap of hopelessness. Slowly but surely, the despair that had indicated “the end” turned into despair that re-united us.
Love is not just happy, soothing, empowered emotions, it’s mad, brooding, fearful feelings. Love isn’t interested in your happiness, it wants you to feel alive & grow.
When it comes to love, attraction makes sense, but why so much repulsion?
Resistance arises organically when our cherished beliefs are challenged, especially in relationship. Our partner is a bull-in-the-china-shop of our status quo persona. They break important sh*t in their wake.
But we don’t keep partners to conserve our mediocrity. We hire our lover to be foreman for the construction of who-we-really-are from who-we-think-we-are. That can feel scary, painful & repulsive, especially if we identify with our wounds.
When our lover holds up their sacred mirror to reflect both our brilliance and our blind spots, we can despise the messenger or we can heed the gift. If they do their job right, our partner penetrates and conquers the tyranny of our small defended self. But that self doesn’t want to be transcended, it likes running the show, so it defends its territory with hate. Repulsion is a weapon against what’s so.
We only reject in others those parts that are marginalized in our selves. All hate is fundamentally the projection of our own shadow. And the sooner we can admit to our hatred and integrate those lost parts, the more room for love between us and another.
We hate what we fear. True Love is a process of transcending our latest identity with the next, and transcend means include. If we let our disowned hate stop us from dying into the next level of greatness invoked by our partner, then we’re letting fear win over love.
For a relationship to actually last forever, we have to be willing to feel the desolation of darkness and the liberation of light. Attraction & repulsion are partners in love and they must be honored as a couple.
No rainbow worth it’s name has only your favorite colors inside. A rainbow has ALL of them. Take it or leave it. Just like Love.
However, I suggest you take it.