There are phrases you hear in life that stick with you, and this is one of them. I remember distinctly laughing when I heard the term, thinking, yes, I know exactly what that means. I have felt it, nursed the feeling, pushed it away, and let it pass. After twenty eight years of marriage, I know what it means, and I am equally sure that my husband does too. I talk to couples about it every time I see them, because I want to assure them that it's OK, it is normal, and it will pass if you let it go.
So what is it? Normal marital hatred can happen just because your partner had the audacity to breathe! It's the day in, day out nature of relationship that makes us irritable or bored. It's when we are feeling disconnected or just in a bad place and your person is there, in the cross-hairs of your mood. I always know when my husband feels it. It goes like this: Me: "Are you upset with me?" or "I'm making up that you are mad at me. Are you?" Him: "Yes, but I'll get over it." Stop right there! I used to get all activated and ask why, what did I do, what's going on until I realized that it's on him, he knows it, he's working through it and I don't have any responsibility to do anything at all. The other piece of that is that is that when I am experiencing normal marital hatred, I am irritated, I am mad and I will get over it. I just have to breathe and remember that this will pass, and it is up to me to not nurse the feeling but remind myself all of the reasons why I don't want to fight, that I am not perfect either and that my truest desire is to be in relationship.
But what about normal marital hatred when you are in an argument and the feeling inside you burns a hole in your stomach and at the moment you truly feel hatred towards your partner? Then what? Here's truth: Feelings are just feelings and they should not dictate what you do. Here's an example. I am driving on 45 and someone cuts me off and I have to slam on my brakes and the grocery go flying in the trunk. I feel rage. So what? Who cares?! What I do is what separates me from animal instinct and responsible adult. I do not allow myself to salute him or her with my middle finger. I do not spew violent language. I remind myself that there is a possibility that the person in the other car may be on their way to a hospital to see a dying family member. Or maybe that person is dangerous and I want to be safe. Again, who cares? It is up to me to choose what to do with it. So back to arguing with my husband. I do feel hatred in the moment. And it is again, up to me to decide what to do with it. In my best days, in my most relationally healthy days, I breathe, step back and remember that I really want to be in a good relationship. I remind myself that I am no picnic to live with at times either. I remember that crossing a line in arguments leads to shame, and I hate that feeling worse that I hate my husband at the moment. I remind myself that this will pass, and I have felt this hundreds of times over 28 years of marriage, and I will again, and I have a choice to give into feelings, or give into relational health. There is a fine line between love and hate, or so the saying goes. Let it go, take a deep breath, it's going to be OK. After all, it really is normal.