“How can I love her one minute and dislike her so much the next?”

“I feel he’s my soul mate, so why do we constantly fight?”

Sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. Most “love relationships” turn into love/hate relationships, where feelings of love can turn into drama—hostility, attack, or withdrawal of affection at the flick of a switch. This duality of pleasure and pain is considered “normal.” Many people believe that if you love the person it will all “work out.” Sadly, this is not the case. The reality is that the relationship will probably get worse. Other areas of your life will begin to be affected: you snap at your children more or fight in front of them, you withdraw from your friendships, or you are distracted at work. You’ll keep the cycle going for a while until it grows so destructive that the relationship finally collapses.

You are trapped in an impossible addiction that maintains a destructive game: It makes you feel so good, and at the same time it is eating you alive.

It might seem “normal,” but this is not what you want, is it? Normal is not an aspiration to strive for. If you want to stop the love/hate cycle you need to know why it happens and how to make changes before the relationship drives you crazy or ends.

First, let’s look at why the drama begins. The path of a typical relationship: You’re “in love.” You feel alive. Your life feels more meaningful—someone needs you, wants you, and makes you feel special. You feel whole. The feeling can be so intense that the rest of the world fades into insignificance.

It feels as though you are healed—your pain is gone. (Although in reality it is just temporarily covered up.) It feels great until your partner fails to meet your needs or expectations in some way. You develop a feeling of neediness and clinging. You are addicted to the other person (or rather, to the euphoric feelings you experience due to the chemical reactions and hormones produced by your brain when you are “in love.”) He or she is like a drug.

You are on a high when the drug is available, but even the possibility that it might not be there for you can lead you to feelings of fear, abandonment, and rejection.

The pain you had before this person entered your life reemerges, but this time you mistakenly believe your partner is the cause. This is when the drama begins. You both may begin to feel jealousy or resentment, and you take offense to practically everything your partner does and says. You become possessive and controlling, you withdraw, demand, argue, criticize, judge, blame, and attack. And why do you do these things? Deep down you believe that somehow this will convince your partner to change his or her behavior and go back to meeting your needs.

So, you begin the love/hate cycle—switching back and forth between love and affection and hate and attack. However, now you’re not just addicted to the love, you’re addicted to the drama cycle too. It makes you feel alive.

Research shows that relationships that are full of drama can be more addicting than most drugs.

How can this be true? Well, the simple answer is that when you fight your body has an adrenaline rush. This adrenalin eventually crashes and you calm down. Have you ever heard the phrase, “There is nothing like making up after a fight”? The reason the make-up period is great is because when you come down from the “high” you are usually apologetic and “loving”—so you both swing back into the positive-feeling addiction (and the brain releases other chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin), making you feel happy and euphoric once again.

Unfortunately, this state is short lived because, like with all drugs, your body will start looking for that “high” (adrenaline rush) all over again. Eventually the rush loses its strength, and as a result, you have to keep increasing the dose or look for alternatives to fuel the addiction. In other words, the more of a routine it becomes to fight the more adrenaline you are going to need, and so you find yourself fighting more often and with greater intensity. Maybe the make-up period continues to feel good to you—that is, if you are looking to experience a roller coaster ride in your relationship.

What are the warning signs? If you find yourself getting in arguments and you don’t know why or if either of you tend to pick a fight for no apparent reason, it may be a sign that you are experiencing these addictive tendencies. Does this mean your relationship is doomed? Not necessarily. If both partners are willing to make a conscious effort to stop the addictive behaviors there still is a chance to have a great relationship.

The key is to recognize warning signs that lead to fights before they happen.

Because the fighting only perpetuates the addiction—the cycle of pleasure and pain, love and hate. Below are some of the warning signs that a drama cycle may be beginning. Arguments tend to progress in this order. Keeping your eye out for these behaviors in yourself or your partner can help prevent escalation.

Warning Signs:
1. Changes in body language (slouching, looking down, fast breathing, fidgeting, pacing)
2. Changes in voice and language (raising the voice, negativity, being short, using harsh words)
3. Negatively interpreting what the other is saying
4. Invalidating what the other is saying
5. Bringing the past into the conversation
6. Using terms such as “you always” or “you never”
7. Using words and comments intended to hurt the other person

Initially it will be difficult to become aware of the cycle and stop it; just like any addiction it will take a time to break through the patterns. Don’t beat yourself up if you catch yourself in the act—this is the goal! What matters is that you become more aware of these behaviors as they begin so that you can stop yourself before that addictive dose of adrenaline kicks in. The more you can stop yourself, the less frequently you will find yourself engaged in that insane drama.

Once you become aware you are doing it, the cycle loses its power.

Next month I will offer communication strategies that DO work, so that when you recognize a negative cycle beginning you can use a new technique to avoid the pain of hurtful and harmful arguments. Until then, remember that:

At our core the only thing that we truly want is to love and be loved.

Author's Bio: 

Joeel A. Rivera, M.Ed., Ph.D. (ABD) holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and is currently completing his dissertation for his Ph.D. in Psychology. Joeel’s extensive career as a relationship coach includes certifications in P.R.E.P, a 30-year research-based program for couples, Nurturing Father’s curriculum, and Parenting 21st Century. Joeel is now taking a select number of Life, Relationship, and Entrepreneurship Coaching clients. Contact Joeel at joeel@transformationservices.org