This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Getting the Love You Want" by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Are you unhappy and have no idea why? Are you and your partner drifting apart? Can anything be done to rescue a relationship in a downward slide?
We all have a deep-rooted need to be loved, but often a rift opens between our romantic partners and ourselves. Over time, we may even resent the traits in our loved ones that initially brought us together. The book Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples explores these ideas and offers solutions.
Keep reading for two Getting the Love You Want exercises that will help you apply the book’s principles.
Getting the Love You Want Exercises
In Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, therapists Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt suggest that we unconsciously seek out romantic partners with characteristics that resemble those of the first people we loved—our parents. In essence, our unconscious mind chooses a mate who will help us resolve the wounded parts of our childhood. When our partners fail to meet our unconscious expectations, we grow unhappy without knowing why, and our relationships fall apart.
You can do these two Getting the Love You Want individually or with a group.
Exercise #1: Which Childhood Feelings Drive Your Actions?
Hendrix and Hunt’s underlying premise is that we carry the emotional reactions we learned as children with us into adulthood. Even without knowing, we may react to an event in the present by replaying a scenario from our past.
- Recall a time when you felt angry or hurt as a child. What happened to make you feel that way, and how did you react?
- What specific emotions did you feel? (Name as many as you can think of, whether or not you openly expressed them.)
- Has anything happened to you as an adult that made you feel the same way? If so, what was it?
Exercise #2: Why Is Changing So Difficult?
According to Hendrix and Hunt, making gradual change is essential to growth, and yet it’s the hardest part of any process. They suggest that the most difficult changes to make are ones that contradict the lessons we were taught as children.
- Think of a time when someone (a colleague, friend, or member of your family) asked you to change in a way you didn’t like. What was the change they asked you to make?
- What feelings did the change request bring up? (Name as many as you can think of, whether or not you openly expressed them.)
- Is there a message or value that you may have learned from your caregivers that led you to feel the way you did?
- If so, does this message or value still apply to the present? Why or why not?
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Here's what you'll find in our full Getting the Love You Want summary :
- Why rifts often open between your romantic partner and yourself
- How your childhood defines your future relationships
- How a struggling couple can learn to talk to each other, heal, and grow