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Full Title: Finding The Love of Your Life
Author(s): Neil Clark Warren, Ph.D.
Publishing / Edition: Focus on the Family Publishing, 1992
Purchase; Read: Borrow the eBook from Internet Archive. It seems like there are several different copies, so if this one is already borrowed, you can probably find another one if you search for the title!

Content Review

Neil Clark Warren is a psychologist, a theologian, and one of the co-founders of the dating website, eHarmony. [He has even appeared in some of the commercials for it. Haha!]

It is not too surprising then that several of his books deal with the topic of relationships. As the title indicates, this one in particular covers the idea of mate selection (i.e.: things to consider when choosing a marriage partner).

While it might seem geared towards those who are not yet married, there are some important lessons for everyone within the book. Neil's writing is relaxed, both straightforward and enjoyable to read. It is also a fairly short book at 163 pages, so a handful of leisurely-paced reading sessions should finish it up.

Each chapter title is a principle that will most likely lead to a lasting relationship when implemented. The contents of said chapters give psychological and anecdotal evidence to back them, as well as some practical methods on how to accomplish them.

Let's explore them a little bit. [Please note that these lists are nearly verbatim from the book.] Click a link to jump to it...

Principle #1: Eliminate the Seven Most Common Causes of Faulty Mate Selection
Principle #2: Develop a Clear Mental Image of Your Ideal Spouse
Principle #3: Find a Person to Love Who Is a Lot Like You
Principle #4: Get Yourself Healthy before You Get Yourself Married
Principle #5: Find a Love You Can Feel Deep In Your Heart - and Express It Carefully
Principle #6: Let Passionate Love Mature before You Decide to Marry
Principle #7: Master the Art of Intimacy
Principle #8: Learn How to Clear Conflict from the Road of Love
Principle #9: Refuse to Proceed Until You Can Genuinely Pledge Your Lifelong Commitment
Principle #10: Celebrate Your Marriage with the Full Support of Your Family and Friends

Principle #1: Eliminate the Seven Most Common Causes of Faulty Mate Selection

So, what are the seven most common causes?

1. The Decision to Get Married Is Made Too Quickly
2. The Decision Is Made at Too Young an Age
3. One or Both Persons Are Too Eager to Be Married
4. One or Both May Be Choosing a Mate to Please Someone Else
5. The Experience Base Is Too Narrow (i.e.: they haven't seen each other in a variety of different situations yet)
6. The Couple Has Unrealistic Expectations
7. One or Both May Have Unaddressed Significant Personality or Behavior Problems

These are pretty self explanatory, but the studies cited and the stories told do a good job of explaining their importance in brief.

Principle #2: Develop a Clear Mental Image of Your Ideal Spouse

This chapter focuses in on knowing ourselves, and from that solid foundation, choosing the qualities that we would appreciate most within a partner. The author gives a list of ten areas to think about:

1. Personality
2. Intelligence
3. Appearance
4. Ambition
5. Chemistry
6. Spirituality
7. Character
8. Creativity
9. Parenting
10. Authenticity

Even though I have simply listed them in the same order that they are given within the book, we are actually supposed to put them in order of personal importance after taking some time to assess what each one means to us.

Principle #3: Find a Person to Love Who Is a Lot Like You

This chapter is about figuring out the similarities and differences which can "make or break" one's relationship. While we will never find a copy of ourselves, we can be complementary in the ways that matter most and learn to be adaptable enough to handle the rest. There are some comments on a few important aspects, such as:

• Intelligence
• Values
• Intimacy
• Interests
• Expectations about roles

...and things that could potentially lead to conflict if they differ too strongly:

• Energy level
• Personal habits
• Use of money
• Verbal skills and interests

There is also a more general list of 50 items to review at the end of the chapter.

Principle #4: Get Yourself Healthy before You Get Yourself Married

By "healthy" the author is referring to mental-emotional stability. Are you at peace with yourself? Relationships cannot "fix" us, nor will they "solve" any of our problems. If anything, a relationship will bring all of those things to the fore.

There are issues that one must handle within oneself, and be mindful of within other people, before considering marriage:

• Neurosis = anxiety + problem-avoidant behaviors
• Sociopathy = lack of conscience + impulsive behaviors
• Anger Mismanagement = unable to control anger
• Narcissism = "excessive admiration of oneself"
• Manic-depresive = "alternating periods of [extreme] elation and depression"
• Addictions (e.g.: problems with alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc.)
• Parental Issues (e.g.: no reasonable/clear boundaries, family intrusions into private areas of married life, etc.)

I like that the author takes some time to define what it means for a person to be "mentally-emotionally healthy":

• They have a sense of inner security (e.g.: they do not need to be "right" all of the time; they allow others to make their own decisions).
• They have a respect for solid decision making.
• They carefully collect and weigh all information.
• They are authentic.

He also suggests a few things that can help one to become more mentally-emotionally healthy:

• Find a source of unconditional love.
• Learn to love yourself.
• Find someone who will regularly encourage, inspire, listen to, and challenge you.
• Cultivate relationships with people who will help you to take a stand, be authentic, and feel secure in your positions.

Principle #5: Find a Love You Can Feel Deep In Your Heart - and Express It Carefully

This one deals with the bodily sensations of attraction, what they mean and how to handle them effectively. Generally, do not get overwhelmed by passion and jump straight into sex without carefully considering the long-term effects that it will have upon yourself and the other person. The strong feelings involved can blind one to the reality of the situation, and the binding nature of such acts can make it hard to move on when one realizes that there is no lasting compatibility beyond the physical. This is why patience and discernment are so important!

Principle #6: Let Passionate Love Mature before You Decide to Marry

In complement to the previous chapter, the author offers the idea of "companionate love" as something that we should try to transition into from "passionate love". If we don't, it can negatively impact or end a relationship. He describes several reasons why some couples never make this transition:

1. Some people are addicted to all of the excitement that is present in the early phases of the "passion period".
2. Some people simply don't want to move on to the next stage.
3. Some people simply don't know how to move to the next stage.
4. Sometimes passionate love fails to develop into a deeper love because one or both people recognize their relationship is just not right.

He tells a story about how fear and fantasy can lead couples to "perpetuate a dead-end relationship". Then, he describes the characteristics of companionate love so that we can avoid this trap:

• Enduring love involves an unselfish commitment to your lover's happiness.
• Companionate love compels you to enjoy what your partner enjoys.
• People who love each other deeply recognize the value of developing three spaces in their relationship - one for him, one for her, and one for them.
• People who love each other in a mature and enduring way seem to recognize the importance of finding individual wholeness, and they know this usually comes during periods of quietness and solitude.
• Genuine love provides the freedom to share your real, authentic self with your partner.
• Companionate love requires trust - and trust requires trustworthiness.
• People who love each other well have shared dreams and plans for reaching them.

The chapter ends with a description of the attitude that we should adopt in order to develop companionate love, using a woman named Marnie Fredericksen as a living example. This is probably one of my favorite sections. There are a lot of helpful insights, not only for creating a strong relationship, but also for learning how to be a person of integrity.

Principle #7: Master the Art of Intimacy

Here, the author uses the word "intimacy" in the sense of sharing one's innermost thoughts, feelings, dreams, fears, and joys. He points out three reasons why it doesn't happen that often:

1. It's not a skill that most families teach their children during the developmental years.
2. Society is relatively blind to the importance of intimacy.
3. Intimacy requires a careful exploration of one's own inner world.

He gives some ideas for self-exploration (e.g.: therapy, journaling, etc.), and then points out the qualities that allow for intimacy:

• Interest
• Commitment
• Camaraderie
• Participation

There are also some tips about the settings / conditions that are conductive to being intimate:

1. When plenty of time is available
2. When you're away from routine
3. In times of crisis or pain
4. When couples are regularly involved in reflection and introspection

Principle #8: Learn How to Clear Conflict from the Road of Love

This chapter is very practical. The core idea is that, when two people respect both themselves and each other, they are usually capable of working together toward resolutions instead of getting stuck in angry arguments. Rather than trying to avoid conflict and repress emotion, he gives five ways of handling it with grace:

1. There must be a basic agreement that both people have a legitimate right to feel and think the way they do.
2. Both persons need to be fully heard by their partner, and they need to know they have been accurately understood.
3. Your points of disagreement need to be specified carefully, and then agreed upon.
4. An attitude of "give and take" greatly facilitates resolution.
5. When you resolve a conflict with your partner, congratulate each other.

"Conflict" in this sense should lead to more intimacy, not division and isolation!

He mentions some ways that conflict is mismanaged:

• Denial
• Nonengagement
• Anger explosion
• Manipulation (such as Guilt, Flattery, Threats, Blackmail, Subtle Deal-making, and Blatant Pay-offs)

The last part of this chapter contrasts couples who are torn apart by conflict and those who are drawn closer to one another through it:

Destructive Conflict Constructive Conflict
1. One or both persons grew up in a home in which conflict was handled poorly or never handled at all. 1. There is a strong commitment to harmony, but only if it involves openness and authenticity on the part of both individuals.
2. They believe conflict is dangerous, that it is better left unacknowledged. Or when they try to deal with it, they are awkward or harsh, and always ineffective. 2. Both persons have a deep respect for themselves and for their partner.
3. There develops a commitment to keeping peace by denying individual differences. 3. Both persons expect there to be differences between them, and they welcome them.
4. There is a sense on both their parts that the relationship should be kept superficial. There is a fear that they should not "venture into the deep". 4. There is a high appreciation for the uniqueness of the other person and an understanding of the importance of listening and hearing accurately.
5. When these people do have to confront conflict, they both feel ill at ease. They simply do not feel safe in the relationship when they are different from each other. 5. Each person has a strong sense of comfort in the relationship.
6. Because they each feel insecure, they tend to talk far too much and listen far to little. 6. There is a determination to deal with conflict, not ignore it.
7. Without even knowing it, they become committed to "winning" rather than "resolving" a conflict. 7. Both people are able to admit when they are wrong.
8. They each regularly feel misunderstood, stifled, and disrespected. This reinforces the belief that conflict is bad for their relationship. 8. There is a lack of defensiveness - an absence of competition and the desire to win.
9. They tend to keep more things inside, to hide themselves from their partner. 9. There is an eagerness on both their parts to congratulate each other when differences are resolved happily.
10. As differences build between them, their first response is denial. If that succeeds, their relationship becomes more superficial. But if that fails, they become engaged in a manipulation battle with one another. When that fails, they either get outside help, or their marriage flounders - or ends 10. There is a recognition that the road to love needs to be kept clear of conflict and resentment, and there is a willingness to spend the time required to get this done.

Principle #9: Refuse to Proceed Until You Can Genuinely Pledge Your Lifelong Commitment

It seems that many people underestimate the type of commitment that they are making when getting married. The author analyzes the traditional wedding vow and points out how you are literally promising to unconditionally:

1. Love your mate until one of you dies.
2. Honor your mate until one of you dies.
3. Cherish your mate until one of you dies.
4. Not be involved with any other "substitute mate".
5. Perform all of the duties of a spouse until one of you dies.
6. Be loving and faithful through every kind of circumstance for as long as the two of you live.

He describes how marriage has been trivialized (e.g.: by being treated as "outdated", "irrelevant", "too idealistic", etc.), and how commitment has been misunderstood (i.e.: it is a lot more than just one's physical presence). It takes great willpower to overcome difficulties that might seem to undermine that promise, and we must think about these things seriously before we ever consider it.

He emphasizes the unconditional nature of marriage by showing how it differs from a business deal, and then gives a short Q&A about some tough situations. It is only two pages long, but it might be one of the most "raw" parts of the book. [However, please keep in mind that it does not cover extreme circumstances like abuse.]

Finally, there is some discussion about the benefits of commitment:

• Commitment holds a couple together during three difficult periods in their relationship...
1. During the first two or three years
2. During "the flat places" (i.e.: slow growth, less excitement, boredom)
3. During the relational "snags" (i.e.: uncertainty, illness, parenting demands, etc.)

• Commitment significantly eases the fear of abandonment.
• Commitment makes trust and intimacy possible.
• On the basis of commitment, you can soar together on the wings of unnegotiated love.

Principle #10: Celebrate Your Marriage with the Full Support of Your Family and Friends

What is the role of one's friends and family in mate selection? The author gives five general guidelines:

1. Every bride and every groom need to make their own decision about marriage, one that they can live with for the rest of their lives.
2. The wisdom of the decision depends on the depth and accuracy of their knowledge about themselves and their potential mate.
3. For parents and friends, there is a fine line between being overly intrusive and being genuinely honest and helpful.
4. Parents and close friends can sometimes be too demanding (i.e.: standards are so high that no one is "good enough" for you).
5. When it comes to getting married, a bride and groom need to maintain a careful balance (i.e.: seriously consider the validity of other's opinions when it comes to the relationship in addition to your own).

Sometimes our friends and family can see things that we cannot, and will offer advice because they sincerely care about us. A good support system can also help to keep the relationship together during stressful times.

In the case of remarriage (whether due to divorce or death), it is important to involve any and all stepchildren in the process. The merging of two families can be complex for everyone.

If one is sure but family and friends disagree with their choice, the author suggests these steps:

1. Remain as open and receptive as you can.
2. Take your time!
3. Find the right time to sit down with the objecting friends or family and hear them out.
4. Carefully compare their observations with your own.
5. If there are major differences between their analysis and your own, and if you are left unsure or confused, seek some help from other friends and relatives.
6. Don't be afraid to seek professional counseling.

Above all, do not marry to appease others or if you are uncertain about the decision personally.

Related Resources

How to Find the Love of Your Life
This is a humorous talk that Neil gave at Saddleback Church as part of their "Awesome Relationships" series.

Relationship Articles
Neil's personal website is now defunct, but you can still access the archive of it. This page has several articles about relationships.