Every relationship goes through rough patches. Sometimes you’re happy; sometimes you’re miserable. Both of those states are totally normal.
But if you’ve ever gotten to the point where you feel like you actually hate your husband, it’s probably given you pause. Hate is such a strong emotion — and one that we’re taught isn’t supposed to pop up in a marriage. But it does, all the time. “Considering at some point in the therapeutic process my clients report they hate their husband, this is a familiar statement,” says Kelly Kitley, LCSW.
So what exactly are you supposed to do if you’re for the person you promised to love all the days of your life? We spoke to four relationship therapists to get their take.
Focus on What You Do Like
Kitley says that people tend to use the word "hate" as a blanket statement to talk about their general unhappiness in a situation. “Usually they are saying it out of frustration, or as a way to magnify the situation,” she says. And while some folks may mean it and might be contemplating divorce, Kitley says that "hate" tends to be a reactionary word.
Her advice: Focus on the things you know you like about your spouse. “Nothing is all good or bad,” Kitley says. Considering your husband's positive qualities allows you to reframe the situation is less black-and-white terms. And if the good outweighs the bad, it will likely make your situation feel a lot less dire
Figure Out Your Part in the Matter
According to Megan Stubbs, a sex and relationships expert, feelings of hatred and resentment often arise when there's a breakdown in communication — not just between you and your partner, but between you and yourself. “Before pointing fingers, do a self-check-in,” she says. “Have you talked to your partner about the issue? Do you play a part in this problem?” Stubbs is quick to point out that this doesn’t mean you’re definitely the one in the wrong — “This is just to gain perspective,” she says — but the check-in can help you acknowledge that maybe you haven’t been communicating your displeasure to your husband, which is why the issue (and feelings of resentment) have only intensified.
But if during your self-check-in you realize you have been trying to express yourself, then now’s the time for him to step up. If you feel like a broken record and he still hasn’t made any effort to improve, that can be the signal you need. If he hasn't changed his behavior, "Create a plan for how to end the relationship,” Stubbs says.
Identify What’s Actually Going On
Sometimes, we’re so blinded by this perceived idea of hate that it’s hard for us to uncover what’s actually going on. “I may want to inquire if what [my client] is experiencing is anger towards her husband,” says Dr. Amie Harwick, MFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in West Hollywood. “If we can establish that the emotion is anger, then we would be able to attempt to understand where this anger came from and what this woman sees as a potential solution.”
It’s very rare that hate sprouts up without a specific catalyst, Harwick says. And identifying where that emotion comes from is the first step in figuring out how to move forward. “It is vital to be able to recognize what this anger is before taking action in the relationship,” she says.
Work to Uncover Your Other Emotions, Too
It is very, very rare for somebody to feel singular hate, so it’s important to identify what else is going on inside you besides anger. “What I often find as a therapist is what’s behind hate is anger, and what’s behind anger is hurt,” says Rachel Sussman, LCSW. “What hovers next to hurt is sadness and disappointment. So let’s speak in terms of figuring out your journey to how you got here.”
Sussman also notes that women are socialized not to feel hate or anger, so experiencing those emotions might actually be the first step towards realizing there's a problem and finding a solution for it. “Women are taught to be pleasant and happy, and that can squash what they’re actually feeling inside,” she says. So don’t fret over intense emotions, but don’t let them eat you, either. Hate is only scary if you don’t do something to figure out how you got there. And working through it is the the easiest way to see where your relationship stands, clearly and objectively.