Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples

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I BEGAN AN intense exploration of love relationships in 1975 in response to a question from a student in a marriage and family therapy class that I then taught. I remember the day clearly. It was a Tuesday morning, and I was twenty minutes late. I had just come from the county courthouse where I had been granted a divorce. I was hoping the students would have wandered off by the time I arrived, but when I opened the door I saw that they were all there. I had no choice but to stand in front of them, a living testimony to all that I did not know about marriage.

As it turned out, the students knew where I had been, and they greeted me with a surprising amount of compassion. I learned they had spent the last twenty minutes talking about their own relationships, something they had never done before in class. Three of them had already married and divorced, three had never had a serious love relationship, and the remaining six were in troubled relationships. At the end of the class, a recently divorced student asked me this question: “Dr. Hendrix, why do couples have such a hard time staying together?” I thought for a moment and then responded. “I don’t have the foggiest notion.

That is a great question and I think I’ll spend the rest of my career trying to find out.” Two years later I met Helen, and we began a conversation about this question that has lasted to this day. After thirty years of being immersed together in the study of relationship dynamics, we have learned a great deal. Many of our insights can be found in this Twentieth-Anniversary Edition of Getting the Love You Want. These pages summarize what we have gleaned from our collaboration, intensive reading, work with thousands of couples in private practice and workshops, and conversation with other psychologists and Imago therapists. Although this edition brings some very significant additions to the book, which I will discuss later in this essay, much of the basic text is the same as the 2001 revised edition.

On the whole, our ongoing research has supported rather than challenged the book’s main premises. We have also amassed plentiful evidence that the book “works” in the real world. To date, several millions of couples worldwide have read Getting the Love You Want, and thousands of them have taken the time to share their experiences with Helen and me.

Recently, a couple told us that they had been edging toward divorce, but decided to give their marriage one last chance. They rented a remote beach cabin, took along enough food and supplies for seven days, and packed a copy of Getting the Love You Want. They vowed to read the entire book to each other and practice all the exercises. By the end of the week, they felt closer to each other than they had in ten years. Ultimately, they decided to stay together and create a conscious partnership. Five years later, they continue to enjoy a mutually satisfying relationship. They said, “Your book was exactly what we needed. It saved our marriage and turned our lives around.”

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