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Why the couple that hates together stays together

By Dolly Alderton ( China Daily ) Updated: 2017-04-08 10:23:24

Long walks on the beach, holding hands in front of the fire, the smell of freshly-cut grass - we all know the hackneyed things people say they love when they're looking for a romantic partner - but that may all be about to change. Last week, a new dating app called Hater launched, to match people on account of their pet peeves as opposed to their passions.

The app, billed as "helping you meet someone who hates the same stuff as you" offers the user a selection of thousands of things for which they can register their love, indifference or downright hatred. These range (widely) from Donald Trump to socialising with colleagues, via investment bankers, Lady Gaga, tofu, zumba, complaining, Downton Abbey and Linkedin.

The app then builds a profile based on those answers to match you with like-minded users. Its 29 year-old creator, former Goldman Sachs employee Brendan Alper explained: "What we hate is an important part of who we are, but it's often swept under the rug in our public persona."

There's even science to back it up - in 2006, Jennifer Bosson, a social psychologist at the University of South Florida, led a series of studies that examined how people bond via shared negative attitudes toward others.

Why the couple that hates together stays together

"There's something really powerful about the discovery of shared negative attitudes," she said, calling the mutual antipathy a "third entity" that is often more trivial than it is universal - a celebrity, for example; or a type of food. She summised that when people reveal something they dislike to a fairly new acquaintance, it creates a form of intimacy. Anyone can share pleasantries - it is taking the risk of sharing something negative that establishes a certain level of trust in a new relationship.

Bonded by disinterests

Journalist Esther Walker tells me that she and her husband Giles are "entirely bonded" by their common disinterests: "I know for a fact that Giles fell in love with me when I once did a very cruel impersonation of a Eurotrash banker saying how much he loves his Lexus, because we both hate Eurotrash," she explains.

"I fell in love with Giles when he revealed that he hates festivals - the very principle, the associated fashion, the kind of people who go". Their other joint dislikes include "Game of Thrones, Italy, horror films, 4x4s in London, being late, late people, eating after 8.30 pm," and "Patek Phillipe watch adverts".

These shared irritations can signal an entire belief system. Helen, 29 tells me that she and her partner Ross's shared hatred of square plates key into a much broader outlook on the world: "they remind us both of a kind of tedious Home Counties snobbery," she says.

"We hate affectation and people who put no thought into what they do, so I think our mutual hatred of square plates, drinks in jam jars, the overfriendly labels on Innocent Smoothies or artisanal cafes that sell bread for 10 per loaf mean something more than a knee-jerk dislike of the actual thing. Our shared hatred says something about our values and what we think is important in life."

Hater philosophy

Despite the app being made by an American, Hater embodies a philosophy that at the heart of British mentality. We are a proud nation of complainers. There is a down-in-the-trenches camaraderie that links us all; as strangers, as colleagues and as friends and family. Whether it's grumbling to a similarly red-faced passenger on a delayed tube or ranting by the watercooler about a difficult boss in a fractious office, we've always had the hots for getting hot and bothered.

A.A. Gill observed in his book about the English, The Angry Island, "collectively and individually, the English are angry about something. The pursed lip and the muttered expletives, the furious glance and the beetled brow are England's national costume."

It was only a matter of time before someone tried to access this bonding mechanism for romance.

Shared grievances may not only be binding, but practical. My parents Barbara, 61, and Tony, 72, have been married for 28 years and and share a passionate hatred for skiing. Mum says this particular gripe meant it was always easy for them to plan a holiday: "a lot of our friends go on skiing holidays and we've always made elaborate excuses together," she tells me. "We both like the apres ski but neither of us want to dress up like Nanook of the North to go up a hill, then go down it, only to go back up it again."

When I ask my friend Meg if she and her fiance Henry, both 29 - who were university sweethearts, before taking a break then reuniting many years later - have any joint dislikes she answers: "We love each other because we hate the thought of being in love with anyone else. We both tried it, we both hated it. That's why we ended up back together and getting married."

Who knew hatred could be so romantic? Loathe is the answer, and you know that for sure.

Why the couple that hates together stays together

(China Daily 04/08/2017 page21)

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