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How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy: Is He "the One" or Should You Run? A Guide to Living Happily Ever After Paperback – May 4, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

ANNE MILFORD has been a freelance writer and editor for over 20 years. In 1992 she canceled her wedding, but has never looked back. She now has three children and has been happily married for 15 years.
JENNIFER GAUVAIN is a licensed clinical social worker whose primary focus is working with couples and families. She is married to a great guy and the mother of 8-year-old twins.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


It was 5 p.m. on a warm Sunday in July and my fiance was scolding me for being late. He was upset that I was not going to have time to pack our picnic dinner for the concert that night. He stood there in a bathrobe, unshaved and unshowered, after a full day spent in front of the television. Time slowed while I reflected on my day of travel: two hours in the car to the Orlando airport, rental car return, baggage check, tedious tram ride and the cattle call for the wide-body L-1011 aircraft jam-packed with 250 passengers. Then the whole process in reverse when I arrived in Chicago, including an hour in traffic getting back to his house. (Note to self: Don’t most couples in love pick each other up at the airport?) I can still picture him lecturing me about how I “would never have time to go to the store and get what we need for dinner.” The whole situation was so crazy that I didn’t bother to mention three key things that seemed to escape him: There are no stores at 35,000 feet; there was nothing I could have done to make the plane fly faster; and what the hell had he been doing all day?

I once heard a therapist use the analogy of a beach ball. She said your problems are like a beach ball that you keep trying to hold under water. You can try to ignore them, but eventually those problems, just like a beach ball, are going to pop up out of the water. This was the day that my beach ball finally popped out of the water. Five days later, I called off the engagement and moved back home. It was the Fourth of July — Independence Day.

When I was 28, I became engaged to a man who was completely and utterly wrong for me. For reasons that remain unclear, I fully participated in a relationship that was doomed from the start, contrary to all my gut feelings, and covered with red flags. Fortunately, I found the courage to call off the wedding before I got myself into a bigger mess.

After I called off the wedding, I moved back to my hometown, found a new job, and got an apartment. My sweet friends were worried about me and went out of their way to make sure I was doing okay. While I felt somewhat embarrassed by my poor judgment, I was so happy to be free that my joy at being back home and out of that unhealthy relationship outweighed any shame or sadness. The hardest part was facing up to the situation and making the tough call to get out.

As I talked to other women about my unfortunate engagement, I started hearing the same comments over and over. First, I was surprised by the number of women who admitted they wished they had the courage to call off their own wedding. I even had several women (and men!) admit to short-lived first marriages that no one knew about. I also began to see a pattern develop as they started to ask me the same questions about my relationship. What were the signs? How did I feel? How did I have the courage to call it off? How did my fiance react? I quickly realized that in many cases, they were really questioning their own relationship or pending marriage. After a while, I had mentally catalogued a collection of personal stories about doomed-from-the-start marriages and faced another gut feeling — this needs to be a book. As a freelance writer, an avid reader, and a person who spends hours in bookstores and libraries, I couldn’t help but notice shelves filled with rows and rows of books about how to plan a successful wedding. Countless books promise to help women “hook a man,” or “find your soulmate in thirty days.” It drove me crazy to see some of these books — women are so much smarter than this! They deserve better. What they really need is a book that helps them step back and evaluate what they want and need in their relationship.

I could have used such a book; it would have saved me a lot of heartache. That’s when I had my epiphany. Who better to tell you how to extricate yourself from a dead-end relationship than a woman who has done time in one? No one is better informed about unhealthy relationships than a woman who has learned the hard way. That was it! I realized that my experience of calling off a wedding could really help other women. And I could uncover what a woman needs to know about marrying the right guy by talking to women who had married the wrong one! So I set out to find answers to the following:
·  Why do women stay in relationships that they know are all wrong for them?
·  Why do smart, talented, successful, worthy women consciously get engaged to the wrong guy?
·  Why do they walk down that aisle even though they already know it is a mistake?
The first step was finding women to interview. Each woman I talked to had to meet one standard prior to being interviewed: Did she know she was making a mistake BEFORE she walked down the aisle? That way I knew I would be interviewing women who:

1.  Settled for a ho-hum (or even destructive), less-than-fulfilling relationship, and then . . .

2.  Went through with her wedding even though she knew it was a mistake.
It didn’t take long to find the first 30 women who fit the profile. I sent out a mass e-mail to my friends, relatives, neighbors, and colleagues explaining this project along with a questionnaire. I got a big response and started receiving completed questionnaires or e-mails indicating that a person was willing to be interviewed. I got even more responses from those I sent the e-mails to saying they knew someone who fit the criteria, but were afraid to contact them for fear of prying or being insensitive.

The amazing thing is that I didn’t have to travel more than a few “degrees of separation” to find qualified candidates to interview. This told me I was on to something. In all cases, these women agreed to revisit these very personal and often painful memories to help someone else. Every single woman said something to the effect of, “If I can help prevent someone else from making the same mistake, it is worth reliving these painful memories.”

At this point in the research, I had the great fortune to begin my collaboration with Jennifer K. Gauvain, MSW, LCSW. Jennifer is a licensed therapist whose primary focus is helping couples and families. With over 15 years’ experience in private practice, she helped me interpret the stories I gathered and address the issues revealed by those who forged ahead with a mistaken marriage. She also shared the wisdom she and her husband of 15 years gained while on the marriage prep team at St. Francis Xavier College Church. 

After conducting the interviews and poring over the data, something remarkable occurred. No matter what the women’s background, age, education level, or religious affiliation, they all gave startlingly similar reasons for why they remained in their unfulfilling relationship or went ahead with a mistaken marriage. While they were very different in many ways, they all echoed the same advice: “Listen to your gut,” or “Pay attention to that little voice inside of you.” They talked about their gut feelings over and over so we decided to look further into this concept of gut feelings.

Jennifer and I also decided to track down women who did listen to their gut — women who had canceled a wedding and ended a dead-end relationship. When we set out to find them, something interesting occurred as well. We quickly realized that it was much harder to find women who had called off a wedding. And many people that we did find ultimately declined to speak about this time in their life. They did not want to “go there” again and dredge up all of those painful memories. It took us a while, but we eventually conducted interviews and again found common themes and patterns in their stories. The difference was that they were somehow able to dial in to their inner wisdom and find the courage to act on these feelings. They called it off

By presenting real-life stories, coupled with research and professional insight, we hope that a potential bride who is headed down the aisle to disaster will recognize herself in one of these stories and stop short before she makes a life-altering mistake. We also want to reach the woman who is enmeshed in an unhappy relationship simply because she doesn’t want to be alone. As one woman said about her 26-year-old assistant, “I wish I could bottle up all the feelings I had during my mistaken marriage and give them to her so she could see where she is headed in her own unhealthy relationship. I have talked to her until I am blue in the face about how wrong her fiance is for her but she doesn’t want to ‘waste the six years’ invested in the relationship!”

The good news is that everyone in this book went on to a happy and fulfilling Act II — after they ended their marriage or engagement. It wasn’t the lonely and dismal future they envisioned when they were in the middle of the storm. By sharing these real stories, we hope to spare others the anguish, guilt, and sadness of a failed marriage.

We also hope that someone who is in a potentially unhealthy or unfulfilling relationship identifies what it is she is really looking for and establishes a way to find it. As Robert Frost eloquently said, “The best way out is always through.” The stories you are about to read are true. Our hope is that by reading them, a part of you will recognize yourself and be triggered to act. That part of you that has been longing to be heard. This is your opportunity to finally listen to what you already know is true. Through these stories, you will find your way out.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307718751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307718754
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Annie Kaszina on March 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
Anne Milford and Jennifer Gauvain are to be congratulated on writing this precious book.

Like a lot women who rush, dewy-eyed and hopeful, into marriage, I didn't think I needed help, advice, or the benefit of other people's experience. Love was all I needed; or so I thought. I didn't know about the importance of red flags or gut feelings; so I learned about them to my cost. Just like many, many other women, who silence their doubts, focus on the positives, and hold on to their dream of Living Happily Ever After for dear life. Years - sometimes decades - later, they are, finally, forced to admit to themselves that they wasted so much time, energy and emotion on a slow, painful learning curve.

How much misery can this book spare loving, unduly trusting women? Massive amounts.

As the authors rightly observe, running before (or even at) the wedding is bound to be thoroughly unpleasant, but it sure beats the alternative. Too many women stay for far too long in loveless, lifeless marriages because they don't feel they matter enough to hold out for better.

Not only does "How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy" tell you how to avoid the bad choices, it also tells you how to recognize the good guys. It should be obligatory reading for every woman, and girl, who has ever made excuses for a man like: "He's got so much potential. He had a difficult childhood/he's working so hard/he doesn't mean the things he says...", or married someone she thought needed healing.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Amy Wood on January 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
As a psychologist, I recommend How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy to the many women who come to me with the eternal question: Is he "the one" or should I run? This immensely practical and valuable book helps women cut through confusing emotions and get right to the heart of the matter. Had this book been around when I was dating, I would have kicked many losers to the curb with much greater efficiency and confidence and gotten to Mr. Right A LOT sooner. If you're even remotely unsure about a romantic relationship, you owe it to yourself to read this book, make an informed decision, and, if you determine you are with Mr. Wrong, cut the cord and get on with your life -- before it's too late.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Chicago Book Addict TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 13, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As you might expect, How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy is all about helping women realize when they may be about to marry the wrong person. I first picked it up when it was mentioned in a TV segment about divorce and was curious what it might help me learn from my past failed relationships. It covers the top reasons women date the wrong guys, red flags, reasons women stay in the wrong relationships, jitters, why women say yes when the wrong guys pop the question, why women get married even when they are having doubts, whether you're better off alone than with the wrong guy, how to call it off, and how to choose the right spouse.

Overall, I think there is a lot of great wisdom in this book. It seems like there are so many books advising women on how they can get a guy to pop the question without ever stoping to consider whether that person is really the right one that it is nice to have a book that the counter perspective. I also like that the book was peppered with stories and quotes from real women as well as the advice of a licensed social worker.

However, this book was far from perfect for me. I think the biggest issue was that a lot of the content, for me, felt very repetitive from chapter to chapter. At times I felt the authors were really stretching to make it a full book, when it probably could have been drilled down to a magazine article.

It also felt a little too singular. The authors make it seem like every woman who has ever walked away has been better for it and I question whether that is really the case. Clearly there have to be at least a few women who dropped a guy because they thought he was the wrong one, only to regret it later. Personally I think including these stories as well would have provided a sense of breadth.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By AIDA BERBER GUTIERREZ on January 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's a nice book to remind yourself to trust your intuition in the area of dating. It basically tells you to follow your hunch, but it doesn't really teach how to tell the difference between a hunch and a protection layer. I enjoyed reading it, so it's okay, in general.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bexxa on August 4, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was really good! I am engaged and was feeling a little nervous, so I ordered this book. I am glad I did! The real stories were helpful. It also made me realize that I am with a GREAT guy and I have nothing to be nervous about!
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