Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples (20th Anniversary Edition)

Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples (20th Anniversary Edition)

by Harville Hendrix Ph.D.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429923934
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 12/26/2007
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 81,889
File size: 419 KB

About the Author

Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., has more than thirty years of experience as an educator, public lecturer, and therapist. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages and Imago Therapy is practiced in thirty countries. Hendrix and his wife, Helen LaKelly Hunt, are the co-creators of Imago Relationship Therapy. They have six children and live in New Jersey and New Mexico.

Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., is the author of Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, a New York Times bestseller that has sold more than two million copies. He has more than thirty years’ experience as an educator and therapist. He specializes in working with couples in private practice, teaching marital therapy to therapists, and conducting couples workshops across the country. Dr. Hendrix is the founder/director of the Imago Institute for Relationship Therapy. He lives in New Jersey and New Mexico.

Read an Excerpt

Getting the Love You Want

A Guide for Couples

By Harville Hendrix, Helen Lakelly Hunt

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2008 Harville Hendrix
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-2393-4



The type of human being we prefer reveals the contours of our heart.


WHEN COUPLES COME to me for relationship therapy, I usually ask them how they met. Maggie and Victor, a couple in their mid-fifties who were contemplating divorce after twenty-nine years of marriage, told me this story:

"We met in graduate school," Maggie recalled. "We were renting rooms in a big house with a shared kitchen. I was cooking breakfast when I looked up and saw this man — Victor — walk into the room. I had the strangest reaction. My legs wanted to carry me to him, but my head was telling me to stay away. The feelings were so strong that I felt faint and had to sit down."

Once Maggie recovered from shock, she introduced herself to Victor, and the two of them spent half the morning talking. "That was it," said Victor. "We were together every possible moment for the next two months, and then we eloped."

"If those had been more sexually liberated times," added Maggie, "I'm sure we would have been lovers from that very first week. I've never felt so intensely about anyone in my entire life."

Not all first encounters produce seismic shock waves. Rayna and Mark, a couple ten years younger, had a more tepid and prolonged courtship. They met through a mutual friend. Rayna asked a friend if she knew any single men, and her friend said she knew an interesting man named Mark who had recently separated from his wife. She hesitated to introduce him to Rayna, however, because she didn't think that they would be a good match. "He's very tall and you're short," the friend explained; "he's Protestant and you're Jewish; he's very quiet and you talk all the time." But Rayna said none of that mattered. "Besides," she said, "how bad could it be for one date?"

Against her better judgment, the friend invited Rayna and Mark to an election-night party. "I liked Mark right away," Rayna recalled. "He was interesting in a quiet sort of way. We spent the whole evening talking in the kitchen." Rayna laughed and then added, "I suspect that I did most of the talking."

Rayna was certain that Mark was equally attracted to her, and she expected to hear from him the next day. But three weeks went by, and she didn't hear a word. Eventually she prompted her friend to find out if Mark was interested in her. With the friend's urging, Mark invited Rayna to the movies. That was the beginning of their courtship, but it was never a torrid romance. "We dated for a while, then we stopped for a while," said Mark. "Then we started dating again. Finally, three years later, we got married."

"By the way," added Rayna, "Mark and I are still married, and the friend who didn't want to introduce us is now divorced."

Those contrasting stories raise some interesting questions. Why do some people fall in love with such intensity, seemingly at first glance? Why do some couples ease into a love relationship with a levelheaded friendship? And why, as in the case of Rayna and Mark, do so many couples seem to have opposite personality traits? When we have the answers to these questions, we will also have our first clues to the hidden psychological desires that underlie intimate love relationships.


IN RECENT YEARS, scientists from various disciplines have labored to deepen our understanding of romantic love, and valuable insights have come from each area of research. Some biologists contend that there is a certain "bio-logic" to courtship behavior. According to this broad, evolutionary view of love, we instinctively select mates who will enhance the survival of the species. Men are drawn to classically beautiful women — ones with clear skin, bright eyes, shiny hair, good bone structure, red lips, and rosy cheeks — not because of fad or fashion but because these qualities indicate youth and robust health, signs that a woman is in the peak of her childbearing years.

Women select mates for slightly different biological reasons. Because youth and physical health aren't essential to the male reproductive role, women instinctively favor mates with pronounced "alpha" qualities, the ability to dominate other males and bring home more than their share of the kill. The assumption is that male dominance ensures the survival of the family group more than youth or beauty. Thus a fifty-year-old chairman of the board — the human equivalent of the silver-backed male gorilla — is as attractive to women as a young, handsome, virile, but less successful male.

If we can put aside, for a moment, our indignity at having our attractiveness to the opposite sex reduced to our breeding and food/money-gathering potential, there is some validity to this theory. Whether we like it or not, a woman's youth and physical appearance and a man's power and social status do play a role in mate selection, as a quick scan of the personal messages in the classified ads will attest: "Successful forty-five-year-old S.W.M. with private jet desires attractive, slim, twenty-year-old S.W.F.," and so on. But even though biological factors play a key role in our amorous advances, there's got to be more to love than this.

Let's move on to another field of study, social psychology, and explore what is known as the "exchange" theory of mate selection. The basic idea of the exchange theory is that we select mates who are more or less our equals. When we are on a search-and-find mission for a partner, we size each other up as coolly as business executives contemplating a merger, noting each other's physical appeal, financial status, and social rank, as well as various personality traits such as kindness, creativity, and a sense of humor. With computer-like speed, we tally up each other's scores, and if the numbers are roughly equivalent, the trading bell rings and the bidding begins.

The exchange theory gives us a more comprehensive view of mate selection than the simple biological model. It's not just youth, beauty, and social rank that interests us, say the social psychologists, but the whole person. For example, the fact that a woman is past her prime or that a man has a low-status job can be offset by the fact that he or she is a charming, intelligent, compassionate person.

A third idea, the "persona" theory, adds yet another dimension to the phenomenon of romantic attraction. The persona theory maintains that an important factor in mate selection is the way a potential suitor enhances our self-esteem. Each of us has a mask, a persona, which is the face that we show to other people. The persona theory suggests that we select a mate who will enhance this self-image. The operative question here is: "What will it do to my sense of self if I am seen with this person?" There appears to be some validity to this theory. We have all experienced some pride and perhaps some embarrassment because of the way we believe our mates are perceived by others; it does indeed matter to us what others think.

Although these three theories help explain some aspects of romantic love, we are still left with our original questions. What accounts for the intensity of romantic love — as in the case of Maggie and Victor — those feelings of ecstasy that can be so overpowering? And why — as in the case of Rayna and Mark — do so many couples have complementary traits?

In fact, the more deeply we look at the phenomenon of romantic attraction, the more incomplete these theories appear to be. For example, what accounts for the emotional devastation that frequently accompanies the breakup of a relationship, that deadly undertow of feelings that can drown us in anxiety and self-pity? One client said to me as his girlfriend was leaving him: "I can't sleep or eat. My chest feels like it's going to explode. I cry all the time, and I don't know what to do." The theories of attraction we've looked at so far suggest that a more appropriate response to a failed romance would be simply to plunge into another round of mate selection.

There is another puzzling aspect of romantic attraction: we seem to have much more discriminating tastes than any of these theories would indicate. To see what I mean, take a moment to reflect on your own dating history. In your lifetime you have met thousands of people; as a conservative estimate, let's suppose that several hundred of them were physically attractive enough or successful enough to catch your eye. When we narrow this field by applying the social-exchange theory, we might come up with fifty or a hundred people out of this select group who would have a combined "point value" equal to or greater than yours. Logically, you should have fallen in love with scores of people. Yet most people have been deeply attracted to only a few individuals. In fact, when I counsel single people, I hear again and again that "there just aren't any good men (or women) out there!" The world is littered with their rejects.

Furthermore — and this is a curious fact — those few individuals that people are attracted to tend to resemble one another quite closely. Take a moment and think about the personality traits of the people that you have seriously considered as mates. If you were to make a list of their predominate personality traits, you would discover a lot of similarities, including, surprisingly, their negative traits.

From my vantage point as a relationship therapist, I see the unmistakable pattern in my clients' choice of relationship partners. One night, in a group-therapy session, I was listening to a man who was three months into his second marriage. When his first marriage broke up, he had vowed to the group that he would never be involved with a woman like his first wife. He thought she was mean, grasping, and selfish. Yet he confessed during the session that the day before he had "heard" the voice of his ex-wife coming from the lips of his new partner. With a sense of panic he realized that the two women had nearly identical personalities. It appears that each one of us is compulsively searching for a mate with a very particular set of positive and negative personality traits.


FOR THIS HIGH degree of selectivity to make any sense, we need to understand the role that the unconscious mind plays in mate selection. In the post-Freudian era, most people have become quite adept at rummaging around in the unconscious for explanations of daily events. We talk knowledgeably about "Freudian slips," analyze our dreams, and look for ways in which the unconscious might be influencing our daily behavior. Even so, most of us vastly underestimate the scope of the unconscious mind. There is an analogy that might give a better appreciation for its pervasive influence. In the daytime, we can't see the stars. We talk as if they "come out" at night, even though they are there all the time. We also underestimate the sheer number of stars. We look up at the sky, see a smattering of dim stars, and assume that's all there is. When we travel far away from city lights, we see a sky strewn with stars and are overwhelmed by the brilliance of the heavens. But it is only when we study astronomy that we learn the whole truth: the hundreds of thousands of stars that we see on a clear, moonless night in the country are only a fraction of the stars in the universe, and many of the points of light that we assume to be stars are in fact entire galaxies. So it is with the unconscious mind: the orderly, logical thoughts of our conscious mind are but a thin veil over the unconscious, which is active and functioning at all times.

Let's take a brief look at the structure of the brain, that mysterious and complex organ with many different subdivisions. For simplicity's sake, I like to use neuroscientist Paul McLean's model and divide the brain into three concentric layers.

The brain stem, which is the inner and most primitive layer, is that part of the brain that oversees reproduction, self- preservation, and vital functions such as the circulation of blood, breathing, sleeping, and the contraction of muscles in response to external stimulation. Located at the base of the skull, this portion of the brain is sometimes referred to as the "reptilian brain," because all vertebrates from reptiles to mammals share this portion of the anatomy. For the purpose of this discussion, let's think of the brain stem as the source of physical action.

Flaring like a wishbone around the top of the brain stem is the portion of the brain called the limbic system, whose function seems to be the generation of vivid emotions. Scientists can surgically stimulate the limbic system of laboratory animals and create spontaneous outbursts of fear and aggression. In this book I use the term "old brain" to refer to the portion of the brain that includes both the brain stem and the limbic system. Think of the old brain as being hard-wired and determining most of your automatic reactions.

The final area of the brain is the cerebral cortex, a large, convoluted mass of brain tissue that surrounds the two inner sections and is itself divided into four regions or lobes. This portion of the brain, which is most highly developed in Homo sapiens, is the site of most of our cognitive functions. I refer to the cerebral cortex as the "new brain" because it appeared most recently in evolutionary history. Your new brain is the part of you that is conscious, alert, and in contact with your daily surroundings. It's the part of you that makes decisions, thinks, observes, plans, anticipates, responds, organizes information, and creates ideas. The new brain is inherently logical and tries to find a cause for every effect and an effect for every cause. To a degree, it can moderate some of the instinctual reactions of your old brain. By and large, this analytical, probing, questioning part of your mind is the part that you think of as being "you."


IN SHARP CONTRAST to the new brain, you are unaware of most of the functions of your old brain. Trying to comprehend this part of your being is a maddening task, because you have to turn your conscious mind around to examine its own underbelly. Scientists who have subjected the old brain to this kind of scrutiny tell us that its main concern is self-preservation. Ever on the alert, the old brain constantly asks the primeval question: "Is it safe?"

As it goes about its job of ensuring your safety, your old brain operates in a fundamentally different manner from your new brain. One of the crucial differences is that the old brain appears to have only a hazy awareness of the external world. Unlike the new brain, which relies on direct perception of outside phenomena, the old brain derives its incoming data from the images, symbols, and thoughts produced by the new brain. This reduces its data to very broad categories. For example, while your new brain easily distinguishes John from Suzy from Margaret, your old brain summarily lumps these people into six basic categories. The only thing your old brain seems to care about is whether a particular person is someone to: (1) nurture, (2) be nurtured by, (3) have sex with, (4) run away from, (5) submit to, or (6) attack. Subtleties such as "this is my neighbor," "my cousin," "my mother," or "my wife" slide right on by.

The old brain and the new brain, different in so many ways, are constantly exchanging and interpreting information. Here is how this takes place. Let's suppose that you are alone in your house, and all of a sudden, person A walks through the door. Your new brain automatically creates an image of this creature and sends it to your old brain for scrutiny. The old brain receives the image and compares it with other, stored images. Instantly there is a first observation: "This humanoid is not a stranger." Apparently encounters with this creature have been recorded before. A millisecond later there is a second observation: "There are no dangerous episodes associated with this image." Out of all the interactions you have had with this mystery guest, none of them has been life-threatening. Then, rapidly, a third observation: "There have been numerous pleasurable episodes associated with this image." In fact, the records seem to suggest that A is someone who is nurturing. Having reached this conclusion, the limbic system sends an all-clear signal to the reptilian brain, and you find yourself walking toward the intruder with open arms. Operating out of your new brain, you say, "Aunt Mary! What a pleasure to see you!"


Excerpted from Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix, Helen Lakelly Hunt. Copyright © 2008 Harville Hendrix. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Foreword to the Twentieth-Anniversary Edition of Getting the Love You Want,
Preface to the 2001 Edition,
Introduction to the 1988 Edition,
In Appreciation of Jo Robinson,
Seeking Professional Help,
About Imago Relationship Therapy,
Imago Contacts,
Meetings with Harville - Living a Life of,
About the Authors,
Copyright Page,

Customer Reviews

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Getting The Love You Want 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I looked at this book from a different perspective than most readers. I didn't read it as a person in need of relationship advice. Rather, I read it as a person who has been happily married for 22 years. My question was, how closely did the advice in this book match what I was doing successfully?

A bestseller since 1988, the book is separated into 3 sections:

-the first part talks about how unmet childhood needs can affect your future relationships.

-the second part talks about a marriage that can fulfil your unmet childhood needs in constructive ways.

-lastly, part three is the exercises. Here you'll be taken through a series of exercises that you can do at home that have been actually used in the author's practice. They're easy to do and involve writing.

Well, that's a rough synopsis that should give you a little bit of a feel as to how the book is set up- and what its about.

So how closely did the advice in this book match what I have been doing all this time to create a successful 22-year marriage? Perfectly- both the book and I promote the idea that you have to work at your marriage to make it work!

And perhaps that's the best piece of advice of all: find constructive ways to make you marriage better- and that's one thing this book most certainly succeeds at.
dorayogi More than 1 year ago
there is a error in the NOOK version and 10-13 words or less are shown per page. This is apparently a publisher's error and B&N customer service cannot fix it. This book is impossible to read on the NOOK version.
JDT018 More than 1 year ago
I bought this book at the recommemdation of my marriage counselor. At the time, my wife and I could barely stand to be in the same room, let alone function in a relationship. Divorce was imminent. Having not had much luck with relationship self-help books, my hopes were not too high. By the time I was 100 pages in, things were already starting to get better. My view of my wife and our relationship completely changed. The methods described in this book, which center around the concept of thinking about what you're not putting into a relationship instead of dwelling on what you feel you aren't getting out of it, made an instant impact. Also, some of the principals taught in this book can be cross-applied other relationships beside marriage. I highly recommend it to any couple in pain and contemplating divorce. I have been enthusiastically recommending it to all my friends. If your marriage or relationship seems irretrievable or like a lonely, miserable death march to the grave, read this book before you make any permanent decisions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recently renewed my acquaintance with a book that¿s had a significant influence on my life--Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, the classic relationship handbook by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. This book remains an essential addition to the library of couples who want to create loving, fulfilling, joyful and enduring relationships. The exercises in Part III of the book are themselves invaluable and can empower willing couples to deal with the challenges that arise in every relationship and, perhaps, eliminate repeated visits to the marriage counselor. First published in 1988, I first came upon this book in the early 1990s. My second marriage had just gone down the tubes, and I was struggling to understand why. How could my former wife have left me when just a few short years ago, she was so totally in love with me? It was not until I read Getting the Love You Want, that I realized I was relying on her to take care of me, to somehow make me whole, responsibilities she had not signed up for, needs that were impossible for her to satisfy. So I began a process of deep introspection: How did I help create the breakdown of my relationship and, ultimately, how I could go about initiating a more conscious relationship the next time around? A few years later, a number of Harville¿s exercises included in Part III of Getting the Love You Want played a significant role in forming the foundation for my romantic partnership with the woman who I would later marry, including: (1) Creating a joint vision for the relationship--Being clear about what each of us envisioned for our relationship (2) Mirroring--Learning to really hear what my partner is saying and letting her know I have done so and (3) Re-romanticizing--Sharing specific information with one another about what pleases me, what pleases her and agreeing to perform those acts of pleasure regularly. Today as I was re-examining Getting the Love You Want to write this review, I came upon the final exercise in the book--Visualization of Love. I instinctively began following the instructions--visualizing Shonnie as a whole spiritual being, who like all of us, has been wounded. And I imagined that the love I was sending her at that moment was healing her wounds. Finally I imagined the love I¿d sent her coming back to me and healing my wounds. Afterwards I sat for a few moments in quiet gratitude--for my life, for Shonnie, for Harville and for the wisdom that he so readily shares with us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book. My first inclination was to give copies to my boyfriend, mother, friend- anyone in a relationship. It gives me new hope that relationships do not have to end in frustration. I felt like the authors were writing about me- it was very insightful and deep. I couldn't put it down. The exercises are very difficult at times, but well worth the effort.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book helped open our eyes to why we chose each other and the problems inherent in our relationship. Once we obtained an understanding of how our actions make our partner feel, we were better prepared to start working things out in our relationship. We have also purchased the workbook that goes with this book so that we can better follow the step-by-step process of learning and listening to one another. We are very excited about this process and for the first time, are looking forward to living a passionate friendship together with the right tools!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is an easy and enjoyable read. I gleaned great number of pearls of wisdom and revealing insights about my marriage, myself and the reasons I do those things that make my spouse irritated. The author presents 16 exercises, which you can do together with your spouse to work on your relationship. They are interesting and practical, blended in a very readable format. Keep in mind however that this is not a quick fix book full of easy answers. In it, Dr. Hendrix introduces the imago model, which he developed as a tool for understanding relationship problems. His approach is quite interesting to read as you will discover the 'roots' of some of your marriage problems and will gain greater insight. I found this book valuable and directly applicable to my life. It gives you the tools to understand yourself as well as your partner. From that, you can start resolving long standing problems. It really helps you to get below the surface problems and deal with underlying issues. Near the end you are presented with two couples where everything you have learned is applied to show how situations can go from bad to blissful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book. Definitely makes you look deeper into your relationship, while finding and maintaining balance. The exercises stimulate conversation and open communication between you and your partner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book saved my marriage and made it everything I wanted my marriage to be. It helped me understand why we were always fighting....always on each other last nerve...and why our fights emotionally hurt so deeply. If you are really interested in a lasting relationship with your partner, this book can make it possible. But you and your partner have to BOTH be willing to read the book and follow it.
nandadevi on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I have some reservations about Hendrix, his endlessly multiplying books, and the Imago Therapy industry that has grown up around them. Having said that - and I will come back to it later - it must be said that there is a great deal of substance to his theories and these books. His basic premise is that there is an unconscious element to romantic attraction. There is no controversy here. What Hendrix has done - based on extensive couple therapy - is to peel back the layers of behavior and motivation to get at a workable hypothesis of what is really going on. He notes that people entering into a romantic relationship (or failing to do so) often seem to have a sense that the other party has (or had) the potential to heal or complete something that was damaged or absent in themselves. Hendrix´s particular genius was to realize that this could be true and not true at the same time. True in the sense that the other person is the key to healing or completion; but not true in the sense that they will provide it to you by simply being there or by giving it to you as a gift. Hendrix´s theory is that you might unconsciously select someone whose makeup/personality is perfectly suited to ´pressing all those buttons´ that are linked to issues inside yourself that your unconscious would like you to address. So the job of the other person is to press buttons (and you to press theirs), and the job of each person is to address their own issues. Hendrix´s therapy essentially involves stepping back from seeing the other person as the one with the problems, or the one causing the problem, or the one who is going to (or should) give you the solution to the problem. He suggests that you treat the irritations of a connected life (once that blind romantic stage fades) as pointers (and a motivation) to do work you need to do on yourself. Which involves a lot (a very great many) of exercises that can by very uncomfortable. And like physical exercise it is easy to fail to do it properly and give up. But like physical exercise it is often easier to do it together with other people (not necessarily your partner), and if you persist with it my experience is that you will see at least some benefit.What don´t I like about Hendrix? He has a conversational style of writing, rather than an academic one. Which is great, but sometimes I feel that it is a rather rambling conversation and I yearn for some dot points. I´d love to see Hendrix say in less than ten thousand (or a hundred thousand) words, ´This is the essentials of what I´m talking about.¨ His analogies are great, his case studies support his arguments, and I have no argument with him expressing his strong Christian faith. It is just that they make reading him an effort, which I find wearying, knowing that the exercises he prescribes will be arduous enough. That said, he has set himself the challenge of trying to get across an abstract idea that is a little counter-intuitive to an audience that have hugely varied experiences, belief systems and appreciation of the workings of the unconscious. Which explains the multiple books, and the effectiveness of the group seminars where facilitators can ´bring people along´ with the theory and exercises.What else don´t I like? Most of all that Hendrix says this only works in deep romantic (love) relationships. I don´t think he has an issue with same sex relationships, but the books of his I have read (and this one) don´t give them any focus. As a theory it would be more interesting if he had looked at long term friendships and even our relationship with animals, with inanimate things and ideas, and with work and our position in society. Essentially his theory pins everything on the unconscious, and provides (apparently) useful exercises to satisfy it, but does not wrestle with what is going on in the unconscious - the way it represents the external world and it´s capacity for confusion, self-deception and displacement. And last of all, wh
Amethyst26 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Simply put: a must. Everyone- married, engaged, or even single- should read (no, study) this book. It will inform and enrich the reader's life, giving an understanding where there had been before.
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Now, because of this book, my girlfriend loves me.
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Don't bother reading my review just get the book...
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