I love my husband but he says he hates me, now what?

I often hear from people who have reached a very explosive or troubled period within their marriage. It’s common for me to hear from someone whose spouse has just admitted to hating the other spouse or the marriage. I heard from a wife whose marriage had been struggling in part due to money problems. Her husband had lost his job and every time the wife bought something that was not absolutely necessary, a big fight would break out. The wife had bought a new heater for her mother, but did not tell her husband. Needless to say, when the husband saw the credit card bill, he exploded. The wife said: “He held up the note and followed me around the house asking me if I was trying to destroy us financially. I tried to explain to him that my mother’s house was freezing and I really had no choice and he was like ‘are you made up your mind? Take us? bankrupt with your spending and your lies? I hate you at this point. I can’t even stand to look at you. It’s like you’re constantly going behind my back and trying to sabotage our life. I don’t think I can take this anymore. I didn’t know how to respond. Sabotaging comments have happened before, but hearing him express pure hatred towards me is almost more than I can take. How should you respond when you love your spouse but they tell you they hate you?” I tell you my opinion on this in the next item.

Many times, your spouse really means that he or she hates your behaviors or actions instead of hating you: Probably about 99% of the time, the person who contacts me tells of a situation where the couple is fighting or in a very stressful situation when the comment “I hate you” comes at a very volatile time. There is usually a fight and hurtful words are exchanged. I’m not trying to excuse your spouse’s hurtful words or to imply that they meant nothing to the sentiment behind the words. But it’s important to understand that usually when you hear words like this, it’s because tensions are running high.

Your spouse often reacts out of frustration, and if you are honest when you calm down, you will sometimes admit that while you may hate your actions or behavior, you really don’t. There is a big difference between hating what a person has done and hating the person himself. But none of this means you shouldn’t pay close attention to what your spouse has said and wonder if your concerns have any validity.

How to respond when your spouse says they hate you: The worst thing you can do is reply that the feeling is mutual when this is anything but true. It’s also not a good idea to retaliate with a hurtful response that will only make the fight worse or perpetuate the disagreement. I know the words are hurtful, but try to stay calm. The best response is usually something like, “Well, that hurts, but I understand that you’re angry and frustrated. I don’t hate you. I love you and I want to work this out. Can we talk about this when we both have a chance to calm down? I really want to.” to figure this out, but now is probably not the best time. Let’s calm down, regroup, and address why you’re so upset.”

I know it is asking a lot to defuse the situation when the person you love has just expressed the emotion that is the exact opposite of love. But sticking around and continuing to discuss or debate the point when emotions run so high is usually not the best idea. If you can make it clear that, despite a great deal of frustration, you still love your spouse and want to make things right, this can usually bring about a quicker resolution.

Once all the “I hate you” wears off, understand that you still need to examine the underlying cause of the words: Usually, once everyone calms down, they sometimes apologize, or at least both people try to just move on. It’s normal not to want to talk about what happened because it’s so painful that no one wants to think about it. But it’s important not to just sweep this under the rug. Because if you don’t solve the problem that led to the “I hate you” outburst, the problem is likely to come up again and again, and sometimes it will get worse and worse. In the example above, the money problem would still exist even after the husband calmed down. So while the goal was to get past the hurtful comments, this couple needed to come to an agreement on finances they could both live with or this probably wasn’t the first time this topic was going to cause serious problems.

The conclusion is the following. Often your spouse doesn’t mean it when they say they hate you, but are desperately trying to get your attention. It’s in your best interest to listen before things get worse and your marriage continues to be damaged.

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