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I Only Want to Get Married Once
The 10 Essential Questions for Getting It Right the First Time
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The stories in this book are about real people and their lives. However, all names and some details have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals involved.
By Sharon Slater, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist
Ten years ago, I received a call from a young woman named Dana who had broken off her engagement a mere two weeks before she was supposed to walk down the aisle. The wedding date itself had just passed, and Dana had spent the day in tears, wondering if she would ever find the right man and worrying about making a similar mistake in the future. When she started coming to therapy, it became immediately clear that her decision to end the engagement had been a smart one.
Dana described her relationship with Steve as a whirlwind romance. He was drop-dead gorgeous and had a job in the Secret Service. He was the strong, silent type, someone she could always lean on. He was the only son in a family of daughters and had a close, warm relationship with his parents. Within four months, the couple was engaged.
Then problems began to surface. Although Steve's job sounded exciting on paper, the reality was that he needed to be available at a moment's notice, might disappear for days at a time, and couldn't share any details of his whereabouts. Steve's "manly" demeanor, which was initially so attractive to Dana, made it very difficult for the two to communicate. Steve was quiet and introverted by nature, a man of few words. Although he listened attentively when Dana analyzed and discussed issues at length, he rarely responded and was not particularly in touch with his emotions. Socializing was also difficult because Dana loved making plans with other couples, while Steve preferred quiet nights at home. What's more, as Dana got to know Steve's family, she realized that his "close" relationship with his parents was actually a controlling one. He was incapable of standing up to them. As the wedding date approached, it became glaringly obvious that the relationship was destined for failure, so Dana finally called it off.
What concerned me most after hearing Dana's story was that she had no clear understanding of where she had gone wrong. How did she miss that they were such a poor match? An honors graduate of an Ivy League university, she was obviously very intelligent and she was also socially adept. The problem was that when she started dating, she stopped using her brain. My goal was to help Dana learn to trust her judgment again and to recognize the common pitfalls in relationships.
I've had numerous clients tell me that they stayed in bad relationships despite obvious warning signs. They ignored feedback from family and friends, allowed major problems to slide by without addressing them, and suppressed that inner voice that was yelling, "Break up!" Too many people end up in these damaging relationships simply because they don't have the relationship tools and knowledge to choose a partner wisely. Sadly, some of my clients didn't realize their mistake until it was too late and divorce was the only option.
Chana Levitan has successfully prevented many people from going through this type of heartache. For twenty-five years, she has been educating, mentoring, and enlightening people about how to find real potential in their relationships. Her classes on the topic are standing room only. Chana Levitan has also had countless one-on-one conversations with thousands of single women and men about how to size up their relationships and identify real issues. I've personally worked with numerous couples who, based on her guidance, have reached a decision to marry, or sometimes, to separate and seek other, healthier relationships.
With this book, Chana Levitan is finally sharing her knowledge with a bigger audience. You'll find a smart, clear relationship guide with ten essential questions that need to be asked before—and during—the dating process in order to spot long-term potential. Filled with real-life anecdotes and insightful dating advice, these chapters will help you better understand yourself and what you really need to succeed in building a loving marriage.
There is no rule that heartbreak must be a prerequisite for good judgment. I Only Want to Get Married Once will help you get it right the first time and gain the confidence to steer through the decision-making process of dating.
Love. Everyone yearns for it, yet so few seem to have the opportunity to bask in it, to trust it, to experience it. As Erich Fromm writes, "There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love. If this were the case with any other activity, people would be eager to know the reasons for the failure, and to learn how one could do better, or they would give up the activity."1Over the past twenty-plus years of counseling and lecturing, I've had hundreds of women crying to me about their heartbreak, their disappointments, and their failed relationships. Although seeking love certainly brings trials that make a person constantly grow and change, this pain is in essence a healthy growing pain. Love is not the chaos, heartbreak, confusion, and desperation that we are observing today. This is not love—this is insanity.
I remember one particular story I heard that sums up the experiences of so many others. A savvy, talented young woman, who was struggling through yet another disastrous relationship, told me the following: "My brother was in town visiting, and so we went out for dinner. As we opened up about our mutual relationship train wrecks, we started connecting things back to our parents' horrible divorce. Suddenly my brother turned to me and said, 'You have the same problem that I have. Your fear of getting divorced is greater than your desire to get married.'"
Everyone knows that a car won't get very far if one foot is on the gas and one foot is on the brake. But for some reason, we fail to apply this insight in our relationships.
Someone might have one foot on the brake as the result of having watched a failed marriage, or as a result of being burned from previous dating experiences, or possibly because he or she lacks the knowledge to build a happy marriage…there are endless possibilities. People have lost their confidence—both in their ability to choose an appropriate spouse and to create a loving marriage. Many men and women are afraid to really put themselves out there. However, as the saying goes, "Ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships were created for."
My conviction to help people succeed in building a loving marriage, rather than getting hurt, was the impetus for years of study and research on the subject. This research and my years of counseling led me to develop a series of ten thought-provoking and penetrating questions, designed to reveal the potential in a relationship early on.
The feedback I've received is that these ten questions have been tremendously helpful in directing people to gain clarity in their relationships. Due to the overwhelming response, I felt a desire to share these questions with a larger audience. Although I have had extensive experience counseling couples and individual men, I have had that much more experience counseling women. Therefore, you will find that there are more stories in the book about women. That being said, the information in this book is just as relevant to my male readers.
I hope that this book will help you navigate your way through the dating process toward a truly enriching, loving marriage. It is my sincere wish that your heart will never again be broken.
1The Art of Loving (New York: Harper and Row, 1956; repr. London: HarperCollins, 1995), p. 4.
Love: What You Need to Know
"When we sat down for coffee, I looked into his eyes and I just knew. I know that this sounds strange, but we felt each other's presence. I always felt his presence in a room…"
So, why didn't it work out?
"We tried, but he wasn't that smart. I just couldn't respect him."
"As we were walking through the park one afternoon, I suddenly felt a click. After a while we started talking so intensely that we became oblivious to everyone and everything around us. It was magical…amazing…"
So, why didn't it work out?
"She was on a different path. Eventually, we felt alone even when we were together."
"When we met, we connected immediately. I felt like I'd known him my whole life. I knew he was the one for me."
So, why didn't it work out?
"Oh…even though I was serious about him, he just wasn't ready to settle down."
Sound familiar? It's always a shock when the magic evaporates. You sit there, reflecting back, thinking—how did it all go wrong? How did I not see his wandering eye? Her less than brilliant comments? What made me so blind? There's a reason your vision was impaired: it's called infatuation.
What Is Infatuation?
First of all, what is infatuation? Infatuation is that intense, almost chemical connection you feel with someone. It's sudden and often catches you off guard. It might smack you in the face with someone who wouldn't be good for you in the long run; yet nonetheless, against your will, you feel an attraction. When infatuated, suddenly you don't have an appetite and it's difficult to sleep. You find yourself making foolish choices, unable to think rationally.
According to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, to infatuate is
- to cause to be foolish, deprive of sound judgment;
- to inspire with foolish or extravagant love or admiration.
Why is infatuation so foolish? Because it's not based on anything real; it's filled with illusion.
So why is infatuation so powerful? Because it touches on a deep human need: the need for connection. This book is all about how to get that true, lasting connection, which deepens with time—that which we call love. In order to get there, you need to know how to see through the illusion of infatuation.
There are a few elements common to infatuation. If you can learn to spot them, you'll be able to catch yourself before the "feeling" gets the best of you.
The first element of infatuation is that it is effortless. This is one of the reasons it is so addictive. You don't have to work for it. Infatuation doesn't begin with a conscious decision such as "Oh, he's cute! And my parents would love him…I think I'll be infatuated with him" (though life would be much easier if it worked that way). No, infatuation sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Strangely enough, it is often with the guy or girl that your parents wouldn't like. As a matter of fact, sometimes, you don't even like the person you are infatuated with. Ever think about that one?
There are many theories as to why you might be attracted to a particular person. Is it just desire? Is it, perhaps, because the person you're attracted to enhances your self-esteem or self image? Is it, as Dr. Harville Hendrix writes in his book Getting the Love You Want, that you have some unfinished business from your childhood, which seems to correlate to the personality and/or issues of the person you like?2 Whatever the case, it is clear that you can even have feelings of attraction for someone you don't like; for someone you don't respect; for someone you don't want to have chemistry with. Yet, the feelings are so strong and compelling that it's hard to walk away.
Infatuation is very image oriented. When infatuated, you get caught up in who you think the person is, or more precisely, who you want him or her to be. The spell is often broken when you learn more about the person. But until then, you are able to remain in a state of ecstasy, or perhaps one should say, imagined ecstasy.
Infatuation is simply short-lived. Erich Fromm makes this point very clear in his book The Art of Loving:
If two people who have been strangers, as all of us are, suddenly let the wall between them break down, and feel close, feel one, this moment of oneness is one of the most exhilarating, most exciting experiences in life. It is all the more wonderful and miraculous for persons who have been shut off, isolated, without love…However, this type of love is by its very nature not lasting. The two persons become well acquainted, their intimacy loses more and more its miraculous character, until their antagonism, their disappointments, their mutual boredom kill whatever is left of the initial excitement. Yet, in the beginning they do not know all this; in fact, they take the intensity of the infatuation, this being "crazy" about each other, for proof of the intensity of their love, while it may only prove the degree of their preceding loneliness.3
How long might infatuation last? An hour? A day? (Sometimes it lasts until the object of your infatuation opens his or her mouth.) Some social scientists say six to eighteen months. According to Helen Fisher in her book Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Adultery, Monogamy and Divorce, "Alas, infatuation fades…At some point, that…magic wanes. Yet there does seem to be a general length to this condition. Psychologist Dorothy Tennov measured the duration of romantic love, from the moment infatuation hit to when a 'feeling of neutrality' for one's love object began. She concluded, 'The most frequent interval, as well as the average, is between approximately 18 months and three years.'"4
Fisher also draws a parallel between this three-year max and the common year couples divorce. She says, "Hoping to get some insight into the nature of divorce, I turned to the demographic yearbooks of the United Nations. Divorce generally occurs early in marriage—peaking in or around the fourth year after the wedding—followed by a gradual decline in divorce as more years of marriage go by."5 She notes, interestingly, that the American divorce peak is somewhat lower than this four-year peak. It may be connected to our American "instant gratification" society. But whatever the reason, it is clear that infatuation has proven itself to be a weak and undependable element in assessing the potential of a relationship.
Controlled by Imagination
A fourth element of infatuation is the unleashing of the imagination through obsessive daydreams and fantasies. You find yourself replaying pictures and scenes in your head. The daydreams are often about someone unattainable. Some people experience a fantastical roller-coaster ride. It feels really good. But it also feels scary to be out of touch with reality. The fantasies take over and you become aware that you've left reality behind. And that is precisely one of the prices you pay for infatuation: you're not controlling your imagination; your imagination is controlling you. At moments such as these, people almost feel enslaved. This struggle of infatuation is the theme of many songs in popular culture. A few examples are Beyoncé's "Crazy In Love," Kelly Clarkson's "Addicted," and Maroon 5's song, which is actually called "Infatuation." The themes of these songs and so many others are:
- feeling and acting like a fool
- the "spinning out of control" of your fantasies and thoughts
- the feeling of "I'm not being me…," almost as if you were possessed
- the inability to see the object of your infatuation for who he or she is
- the realization that in order to grow, you have to give up the object of your infatuation
- On Sale
- Jun 11, 2013
- Page Count
- 192 pages
- Grand Central Life & Style