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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What are the most important quotes from Getting the Love You Want? How can these quotes help you heal your childhood wounds?
According to Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, you can engage your conscious mind to take control of your relationship. You can do this by becoming aware of the subconscious needs that drive what you expect from your significant others.
Read below for insightful Getting the Love You Want quotes with explanations.
Getting the Love You Want Quotes
Hendrix and Hunt have many stand-out Getting the Love You Want quotes. Let’s take a look at a few you should remember.
“Generally speaking, there are two simplified categories that parenting falls into: intrusive or neglectful caretaking. Parents were either overinvolved—telling us what to do, think, and feel—or they were underinvolved—physically or emotionally absent. These challenges are across the spectrum from subtle to severe. As a response, we become anxious and self-absorbed, losing our capacity for empathy.”
Many people are survivors of traumatic childhoods, having suffered abuse, physical hardships, or the loss of parents or siblings. However, Hendrix and Hunt point out that the events that warped your childhood need not be dramatic or overt to have lasting effects. All childhoods are imperfect, because parents are human, with unmet needs and flaws of their own. Usually, when a parent says or does something that inadvertently hurts their child, the emotional wound will heal over time; but if the hurting is repeated and persistent, it leaves lasting damage that is carried into adulthood.
Hendrix and Hunt state that in seeking out romantic partners, your unconscious mind is searching for someone who closely resembles the traits of your parents. For example, a person whose father prioritized work over family may be drawn to someone who’s career-driven, with the unspoken agenda of getting their partner to make them their life’s focus, and not their job instead. In other words, your subconscious wants to recreate your childhood, with the intention that “this time, you’re going to get it right.”
“He thought he was in love with a person, when in fact he was in love with an image projected upon that person. Cheryl was not a real person with needs and desires of her own; she was a resource for the satisfaction of his unconscious childhood longings. He was in love with the idea of wish fulfillment and–like Narcissus–with a reflected part of himself.”
Hendrix and Hunt state that during childhood, your subconscious creates a blended image of all the people responsible for your care—parents, grandparents, foster parents, older siblings, and so on. The authors call this imaginary gestalt “the Imago.” Your own Imago is an idealized image that closely resembles the people who raised you, with all their positive and negative traits, while also making up for your repressed desires and feelings.
Hendrix and Hunt suggest that whether we know it or not, this parental image is the template we use when evaluating potential romantic partners—and the more closely a potential mate matches your unconscious parental image, the more you feel attracted to them. While we may think we know why we find certain people attractive, this process is entirely unconscious and can take place very quickly.
“There is a concept informally called woundology, where couples spend too much time dwelling on the past, which should be avoided. Nonetheless, spending some time sharing your childhood experiences is vital because it gives you a better understanding of your partner’s inner reality and helps you shift from judgment to curiosity and empathy.”
As we can now see, unconscious needs bring couples together, while unconscious reactions drive couples apart. To bridge the rift, you both have to bring your needs and reactions to the forefront of your conscious, rational minds. To enable this, Hendrix and Hunt created a structured way for couples to communicate, called the “Imago Dialogue.” As a scripted format, this dialogue embodies mirroring your partner’s statements to ensure that you’ve understood them correctly, validating their point of view, and responding with empathy for their emotions.
(Shortform note: The skills employed in the conscious dialogue script match those involved in active listening, a practice that’s not only useful in relationships, but in any part of life that requires clear communication. Although the elements of active listening vary from source to source, it generally involves listening without interrupting, reflecting on what someone says back to them, validating their thoughts, and speaking to the core emotions they express. For this process to be fully effective, you and your partner must commit to using this method for conscious communication.)
“Each person is a unique individual ablaze with potential. One is just as important as the other, and each has a unique and equally valid view of the universe. Yet, together, they form a greater whole, kept connected by the pull of mutual love and respect. They mirror the interconnected universe.”
This last Getting the Love You Want quote shows that even through hard times, couples can make it through. Though Hendrix and Hunt’s process begins with a couple in crisis making a time-limited commitment, if you’re able to bridge the divide that’s grown between you and your partner, then the cycle of growth and change will never stop. The endgame of Imago Relationship Therapy is not to produce a perfect “happily ever after,” but to change the way you and your partner interact so that you may continue to evolve and support each other over the years to come.
Over time, the stilted, artificial nature of the communication tools in Imago Relationship Therapy will start to become ingrained and habitual. In time, you may find that you no longer need to follow the full script to address a touchy subject or request a behavior change. You may also discover that the tools of conscious communication—mirroring, validation, and empathy—carry over into other parts of your life.
Our unconscious drives will always be with us, but Hendrix and Hunt insist that by bringing our unspoken needs into the open within the safety of a conscious, loving relationship, we can empower ourselves to at last grow beyond them.
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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