Happy Relationships Blog

Getting The Love You Want, A Guide For Couples by Harville Hendrix, PhD Book Review

Posted on: February 2, 2009

Getting The Love You Want, A Guide For Couples
By Harville Hendrix, PhD. 


Another relationship book that has sold extremely well is Getting The Love You Want, A Guide For Couples by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. Dr. Hendrix has been a featured guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She introduced him as the best marital therapist she has ever known. So does the esteemed Dr. impart some wonderful wisdom that really helps relationships overcome their difficulties? Well, yes and no.

The first statement he makes in his book that is yet to be understood in mainstream psychology is the position of the therapist in therapy. Because of Freud’s ego the therapist has maintained a position of status over a patient that has yet to be rescinded. If the industry were to understand this notion, then the path would be cleared for understanding the objective of therapy, balancing the ego. Dr. Hendrix’s wife actually realizes what their concept does when she states “you’re shifting the emphasis to the relationship between the couple, not the relationship between the client and the therapist.” Way to go Helen! Freud is probably turning over in his grave. To him, the individual patient was insignificant.


So what major breakthrough does he offer the reader? To his credit, Dr. Hendrix fully understands the impact parents have on the individual. He realizes that if one or both parents were either too loving or too remote then the child grows up to be a wounded adult, the personal history of the individual is the cause of the trouble in the marriage. What he does with this knowledge unfortunately does not help the reader other than pointing out this fact. Dr. Hendrix is also blinded by his heritage, the heritage of Sigmund Freud.

He, too, falls into the biology trap. “…we instinctively select mates who will enhance the survival of the species. Men are drawn to classically beautiful women…Women select mates…with pronounced ‘alpha’ qualities, the ability to dominate other males and bring home more than their share of the kill.” He does at least admit, “We select mates who are more or less our equals.” This, though, is the last you read about equality.

To him, the process of the relationship is nothing more than biological. He defines the processes as romantic love, the power struggle, transformation, and “spontaneous oscillation.” What is “spontaneous oscillation?” Friendship! Yes, the objective of the relationship, according to him, is not love and happiness, but friendship. Argue until you become friends.

At least he is not pontificating a dulling of the emotions. He even explains romantic love from a biological perspective, and what changes romantic love. “Scientists can’t explain the release of these potent chemicals [that are released in our brains when we fall in love], or what causes them to diminish.” Jung would call them the psychic energy called the anima and the animus. Falling in love is not a biological phenomenon.

And how does he develop his theory of childhood development? He argues we develop biologically, of course. He states that as children we develop our “old brain” as children, which causes the problems as adults. Does he then explain the only way to overcome our childhood traumas is by forgiving them? No, we cannot change our biological makeup.

What he does explain is that when we reach adulthood and find a mate we unconsciously choose someone who has the same negative character traits as our negative parents.

Unfortunately, here is where the logic becomes illogical. He does state when we find a mate we hide our insecurities. We reveal our “false selves” in new relationships when we have insecurities. “One bit of make-believe in which virtually all lovers engage is trying to appear to be more emotionally healthy than they really are.” What is so illogical about this point in the relationship is that because people with insecurities hide their insecurities until they become comfortable enough to expose them is, “how do you know that the person you fell in love with had the same insecurities that your parents had?” You don’t! The insecurities are not revealed until the arguments begin. Dr. Hendrix rationalizes arguments by stating you were looking for them in the first place!

How does he tiptoe around the subject? “It’s impossible to define precisely when the [power struggle] stages occur.” This is another perfect example of a cop-out for trying to resolve the arguments in the first place.

Harville doesn’t seem to grasp the objective of the positive relationship is to behave equally, not letting the relationship degrade into the power struggle. This “stage” is the figurative fork-in-the-road; you either take the road to happiness or the road to unhappiness, which is paved with the power struggle.

In an example of the illogic of a psychologist, Dr. Hendrix makes a statement about his patients using the term always and never by saying this is a “clear indication that [the patient] was in a regressive state,” which he then follows by stating his belief that “all people have a dark side to their nature, a part of their being that they try to ignore.” How does he know that everyonehas a dark side?

Until we explain the cause of anger we will not resolve the problems in our relationships. Does he explain the psychology behind the relationship? He doesn’t need to explain our relationships from a psychological perspective. In his mind, we are simply biological beings.


2 Responses to "Getting The Love You Want, A Guide For Couples by Harville Hendrix, PhD Book Review"

Nice blog and excellent book reviews, Tim! Wish you the best for your book.

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Thanks for the comment. I have already connected with Facebook.

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