Five Books That Can Transform Your Relationship
The amount of books dishing out relationship advice for a buck can be seriously overwhelming. It seems like everyone from TV game show hosts to spiritual leaders with questionable credentials has a theory on how to make relationships work. With advice ranging from mostly benign to potentially harmful, it's important for you to know how to navigate the world of books about relationships and find input that works best for you and your partner.
In my work with couples, I love to provide helpful resources you can use outside of our sessions to help supplement the work we are doing inside of our sessions. From time to time, I like to recommend books written by relationship researchers that can help deepen your understanding of how to strengthen your relationship. I focus primarily on work that is research-based, empirically-validated, and/or written by a licensed, credentialed professional in the field of mental health or marital and family therapy.
Here are five books that I love to recommend to clients:
1) The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert by Dr. John M. Gottman and Nan Silver
If you've been following along with the MHC Blog, you may have noticed that I love the work of the Gottman Institute. Drs. John & Julie Gottman have done more to help couples stay happily married than just about anyone. Their groundbreaking research, presented in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, is as practical as it is necessary. Along with Dr. Sue Johnson's Hold Me Tight, this book should be required reading for all engaged couples.
Other great books by the Gottmans include 10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage, What Makes Love Last?, and Why Marriages Succeed or Fail.
2) Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson
Based in the recent science of attachment theory, Dr. Johnson's work gets to the heart of why we love in the first place. Hold Me Tight explores the meaning of our committed, long-term relationships and unapologetically advocates for commitment, vulnerability, and monogamy. This is another book I recommend for all engaged couples to read before they get married. In addition to providing a great theory of love, Hold Me Tight will also help you and your partner identity unhelpful communication strategies that are getting in the way of feeling close to one another.
Other great books by Dr. Johnson include Love Sense and Created for Connection.
3) Wired for Love: How Understand Your Partner's Brain Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Spark Intimacy by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT
Dr. Tatkin's readable Wired for Love, also based in the science of attachment theory, can help you and your partner identify understand more deeply how your own childhood experiences impact how you give and receive love as an adult. Wired for Love can help you identify how to make your relationship a priority and better understand your own communication style--and how to make the changes you need to build a secure relationship.
4) Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love by Amir Levine, MD, and Rachel S.F. Heller, MA
As you can probably tell from the title, Attached is another great, practical guide to healthy relationships based on the science of attachment theory. Attached can help you identify the things you do in your own life that sabotage your love relationship and help you move toward greater interpersonal security. I also recommend this book for people not currently in relationships who are wanting to explore their relationship style and deepen their self-understanding.
5) The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Dr. Gary Chapman
Many of you are probably familiar with The Five Love Languages, and some of you could even tell me what your love language is! I'm going to be honest--I hesitated to include this book because it is lacking a research-base to back up its theory. However, I decided to go with it because of how helpful my clients have said it has been in their relationships as they seek to better understand their partner and themselves. Although our "love languages" are not as essential to our identity and personalities as the book may argue, Dr. Chapman provides an incredibly helpful way of communicating needs and identifying key differences between you and your partner. With understanding, these differences can enrich and enliven your relationship instead of being a source of conflict and tension.