What's the word for something that you don't want to do when you're doing it but you want to do it when you're not doing it?

To give a longer explanation, a word for an activity that you're like "I really do want to do this" when you're doing it, but when you're done with that activity, you reminisce about doing it, wanting to do it, and you go back to doing it.

For example, studying would be like that for me. When I'm studying, I'm like "man, I really do want to do this." However, after I'm done studying, I constantly reminisce about studying, not because I feel an obligation to do it but rather because I want to do it (no connotation of compulsoriness included).

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    Both of your examples, state that you "do want to do this" while you're doing it, which doesn't match the title question. Oct 7, 2021 at 11:19
  • Some might say, “marriage”. ;-)
    – Jim
    Oct 7, 2021 at 14:13
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    I can't think of a word for this. It's kind of like the idiom "the grass is always greener on the other side"
    – Barmar
    Oct 7, 2021 at 23:52
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    There are less specific terms such as "ambivalence" but they don't exactly fit. Mar 8, 2022 at 21:27
  • 'What's the word for ...' beg the question in that they assert that there is such a word. This is a risky assumption; English has many known lacunas (semantic gaps). Mar 9, 2022 at 12:38

2 Answers 2


This alternation of feelings is seen in some love–hate relationships. When you think about the job/task/activity you long for and remember fondly the enjoyable/rewarding parts, but when involved in the activity itself, you are all too aware of the aspects you don't enjoy, especially if you are feeling frustrated.

A love–hate relationship is an interpersonal relationship involving simultaneous or alternating emotions of love and hate—something particularly common when emotions are intense.

The term is used frequently in psychology, popular writing and journalism. It can be applied to relationships with inanimate objects, or even concepts, as well as those of a romantic nature or between siblings and parents/children. Wiki

"I made one of them chuckle when I was asked 'Why do you choose infantry as your first choice?' I replied, 'Well, sir, it's a sort of love-hate relationship. When I'm out in the cold I hate it, but when I'm back in the warm I'm proud of it'. Gay Holden; Brother in Arms

As a result, I have a love-hate relationship with golf. Jerry Moore; Golf is More Than Your Score

"Sometimes it's a love-hate relationship. I love the chance to make a difference, but hate some of what I have to go through to get the chance. I've had my moments, but honestly, I'm having a ball," Sutt said. "There's a lot of wacko stuff, but that's what keeps it fresh..." Nicholas J. Pace; Reality Calling: The Story of a Principal's First Semester

I've got this love/hate relationship with food—love eating food, hate the weight I gain. Nita Jackson; Standing Down Falling Up


A word that could be used to refer to the kind of phenomenon described in the title might be "obsession", especially when you realize you've got a problem with that activity.

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Mar 9, 2022 at 5:13
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    Your second paragraph should be deleted because answers should answer the question and not digress into irrelevant speculation and opinion about the way the site works. Your first paragraph might be justifiable if you give meanings of obsession and illustrate how it is used in ways relevant to the question.
    – Anton
    Mar 9, 2022 at 8:02
  • And "obsession" carries a different meaning - the property the OP is asking about is not even implied.
    – Joachim
    Mar 9, 2022 at 12:52
  • Hi, Nqabutho! Your user profile shows you as new to the site. Sorry for the brisk welcome, but this Stack is a bit persnicketty about answers. Take the comments here as pointers, not attacks; they are from reviewers who are instructed to give you helpful comments. Do give some time to take the tour when you can, and check out how to answer for a few of the things that make an answer "good" (but keep in mind that even the best answerers are sometimes downvoted). Anyhow, cheers, and I hope you'll stay!
    – Conrado
    Mar 9, 2022 at 21:26
  • Sorry, I'm a "new contributor" and I didn't realize you separate answers from comments. The question asks for a word that could describe an activity, rather than a word that describes a feeling about an activity. Let me try to clarify my reason for offering 'obsession' by offering an example. Let's say you have a gambling problem, and you're bothered by it. When you're doing it you say to yourself, "This is no good, I wish I could stop", but when you watch the sports shows the excitement catches you again and you feel a strong urge to do it. 'addiction' is a little off because it refers to a
    – Nqabutho
    Mar 10, 2022 at 2:17

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