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161 of 165 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best gift you can give yourself as a couple, April 1, 2004
This review is from: Getting the Love You Want Workbook: The New Couples' Study Guide (Paperback)
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, our society looks upon marriage as the prelude to living "happily ever after." When marriage does not lead to this expected happiness, typically we believe that is because we have chosen the wrong person, and that the solution often is to divorce and find Mr. or Ms. Right.
Harville Hendrix does a fantastic job explaining why this approach does not work. In "Getting the Love You Want Workbook," Dr. Hendrix briefly reviews his theory about how couples become attracted-and how this basis of attraction frequently sows the seeds for relationship problems. The meat of the book is a 12-week series of exercises for couples.
If you're not familiar with Dr. Hendrix's Imago theory from either "Getting the Love You Want" (written for couples) and "Keeping the Love You Find" (written for singles), and are considering getting this workbook, you really need to read "Getting" too. (My partner and I started the workbook exercises without having read all of "Getting" but we both were familiar with the Imago from "Keeping" and from previous counseling experiences.)
So what is this Imago and what exercises will you find in the workbook?
According to Dr. Hendrix, we search for partners who embody both the positive and negative traits we experienced from our family of origin/childhood caretakers. By finding a partner with these familiar traits, including traits that we do not have, we compensate for the positive parts of ourselves that we cut out in childhood. We also have a chance to heal childhood wounds in our partner and ourselves. Dr. Hendrix's exercises are designed to help couples develop a "conscious marriage" in which they change to become the person their partner needs in order to heal, and their partner does the same.
The workbook exercises begin by having the couple develop a mutual vision of their ideal relationship. In their second session, the couple works on a mirroring, validating, and empathizing communication technique. The next several sections focus on identifying one's Imago, and learning about the partner's Imago. Further exercises address ways that couples close themselves off to each other, renewing romance, containing anger, and solidifying the changes made during the process.
When I began the Imago exercises, I was startled to discover ways in which my current and former partners-men who I considered to be very different-had a stunning amount of good and bad traits in common with my parents. Of course, that is Dr. Hendrix's point. When you find someone who reminds of you all the positive things you remember from your family of origin, you unconsciously also are attracted to negative traits that they bring with them.
The pacing and organization of the workbook exercises worked really well. Although the workbook is based on the exercises at the end of "Getting," I thought the exercises here are organized much better. The workbook has couples develop better communication skills before identifying their Imago-a change from the book. My partner and I, who were barely speaking to each other the week before we started this workbook, really felt connected after completed the relationship vision exercise. And although we both were familiar with the "mirroring" communication technique, in which you paraphrase the other person's statement, I found that Dr. Hendrix additional steps of validating the statements with comments like "I see" or "I understand" and them emphasizing made me feel really heard when I had touchy issues to discuss and, conversely, made me feel more understanding toward my partner when he had things to tell me that I didn't necessarily want to hear.
Following the exercises in order is important. My partner and his former wife did the anger containment exercise in marriage counseling, without having completed the earlier steps, and found this exercise unhelpful. Doing later-session exercises without first rebuilding connection through developing a mutual relationship vision, building communication skills and acquiring understanding about the wounds the partner needs likely would be harmful to a relationship.
I would recommend "Getting the Love You Want" and the companion workbook to any couple who wants to strengthen their relationship. My one caveat would be that this approach does not seem appropriate for relationships with serious substance abuse and/or domestic violence issues.
By the way, initially I was skeptical about whether we really needed the workbooks, but I am glad we bought them. The exercises are laid out much more clearly, and the amount of time you need to set aside each week is specified at the beginning of each session. Incidentally, the authors recommend purchasing two workbooks, which my partner and I did we do not live in the same city, but a cohabiting couple probably could share one workbook and complete the exercises in separate notebook.
My only criticism is Dr. Hendrix's decision to discuss relationships as "marriages," despite emphasizing that couples in unmarried committed relationships can benefit from his approach. More inclusive terminology would have been welcome.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 6, 2009 3:22:58 PM PST
Wow, excellent review. Very clear and concise, but with attention to detail. Answered all of my questions, except one: did you proceed with the workbook with or without the aid of an Imago-trained therapist? I'm unsure if the workbook can provide enough structure for success.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012 10:20:26 AM PST
Wisdom Shop says:
Good question. I loved the book; have you checked out this book The Couple's Survival Workbook: What You Can Do To Reconnect With Your Partner and Make Your Marriage Work? Also a helpful workbook format, but more focused on couple's who are barely holding it together.
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