If you are married (or hope to be one day) get ready for a game-changer. Marriage is one of the most challenging and confusing journeys you’ll find. For 30 years I’ve been living it, studying it, writing about it, and counseling others crazy enough to try it. Recently I was asked to name the three marriage books that most changed me.
So, to celebrate the month of Valentine’s Day, I’m going to synthesize and share them with you. These books unlocked the secret code of marriage for me and can guide us to make marriage a heroic and mind-blowing adventure. This week I introduce you to the original game-changer: Dr. Harville Hendrix and his first book, Getting the Love You Want (GTLYW).
In 1989 a Catholic nun gave me and Karen a copy of Dr. Hendrix’ just-published GTLYW as a wedding gift. I loved it so much I found a way to research and write my doctoral dissertation under his mentorship. Our research demonstrated that Hendrix’s unconventional approach not only saved an unprecedented number of marriages, but also activated massive personal growth for both partners.
Since then, not only has his approach become standard training in graduate schools, but he has become Oprah’s favorite marriage therapist; she calls him the “marriage whisperer”! (Can’t get much better than that!)
Here’s Hendrix’s game-changing discovery: We unconsciously fall in love with people who resemble our childhood caregivers. Sure, we are attracted to qualities we are aware of (i.e. “She’s hot and loves the Rolling Stones, just like me!”). But we only fall in love if there are unconscious similarities (i.e., “I can’t explain it, I just feel connected, like she’s my soul mate!”)
This also means that we will unwittingly pick people who will wound us in the same way our caregivers did. Marriage, then, becomes a perfect opportunity to heal our childhood wounds. Unfortunately, this growth is excruciatingly painful.
Put another way, marital conflict is growth trying to happen.
Hendrix, a former pastor, believes that marriage is a sacred spiritual pathway, a crucible that purifies people unlike any other relationship. And, when we heal our marriages, we simultaneously repair childhood wounds, break generational curses, and raise emotionally healthier kids. In short, healing marriages is the foundation of changing the world!
How can we use our marriage as a spiritual path of transformation? Try this:
Identify the most frequent and/or painful repeated frustration you have with your partner. Then journal about it, using this prompt: “One way this is similar or not similar to the way I used to feel as a child is…” For now use this as a way to reflect on your own pain.
Next week I’ll show you how to translate this discovery into a total marriage makeover. If you do this you can expect less conflict, more passion, and better sex than you’ve ever imagined. So stay tuned!