To Read or Not to Read:
Our Review of the Best Relationship Books – by Haleigh Scherma, MS, NCC, LPCC
Couples counseling is a great way to quickly identify and work through that stuck point you keep hitting in your relationship. We also see many couples really start to understand their partner’s feelings and build close and strong relationships once they’ve been to couples counseling with us.
However, for some, your first choice might be to try to tackle the issues on your own. A great way to do that can be to read a relationship book together.
With so many self-help books on the market it can be challenging to know which ones are worth your time and money. More importantly, which ones will help your relationship?
Knowing what to look for can be daunting, especially if this is your first step into the world of relationship self-help.
While a book alone might not be the cure for you and your partner, it’s a great first step to increase communication, understanding and connection.
Leading researchers in the couples therapy field like Drs. John Gottman and Sue Johnson will always be valid and trusted sources, based upon the latest couples research.
Here are a few of our favorite books of theirs as well as a few others that will help you better navigate relationship conflicts and complement your couples counseling sessions.
1. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John M. Gottman, Ph.D.
Predicting divorce with 91% accuracy: “I can predict whether a couple will divorce after watching and listening to them for just fifteen minutes…”
“Once your marriage gets set at a more positive level, it will be harder to knock off course.” John M Gottman, Ph.D.
Written by one of the leading scientists in attachment theory, John Gottman, this book uses years of research on couples to narrow down a few guidelines to create a successful marriage.
With read-a-long quizzes for you and your partner and a thorough explanation of negative relationship cycles, this book allows you to identify and assess the tough spots in your relationship. It provides key warning signs to look out for and debunks common marriage myths.
One of the best parts is seven exercises you can do together to help you tackle some of the most common couple difficulties.
Both knowledgeable and interactive, this book would be great for couples eager to dive in and heal their relationship. It also comes in audio for those who would like to listen on their daily work commute!
Readability: 5 | Helpfulness: 4
2. Love Sense, Dr. Sue Johnson
“Grounded in science, it reveals that love is vital to our existence. And far from being unfathomable, love is exquisitely logical and understandable. What’s more – it’s adaptive and functional.” Dr. Sue Johnson
For those partners who are skeptical of couples counseling and tend to take the logical, more rational approach to relationship issues, this is the book for you! Written by the founder of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, which we do here at Thrive, it explains this most effective, evidence-based approach to couples counseling.
Using science and research, the somewhat mystical concept of adult love is explored and explained. This book makes the sometimes-foreign world of emotions a little more accessible if you are someone who prefers logic and facts.
This thorough explanation of attachment, bonds and the process of love can help even the most rational, engineering-minded person step a little closer to the benefits of creating emotional vulnerability with your partner.
This book is sure to help you and your partner sharpen your “love sense” to improve your relationship.
Readability: 3 | Helpfulness: 4
3. Hold Me Tight, Dr. Sue Johnson
“This drive to emotionally attach—to find someone to whom we can turn and say “Hold Me Tight”—is wired into our genes and our bodies. It is as basic to life, health and happiness as the drives for food, shelter or sex.” Dr. Sue Johnson
Endorsed by the American Psychological Association, with results yielding a 75% success rate and 86% of couples feeling happier in their relationships, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is the way to go if your relationship needs help!
This book for couples written by EFT co-founder Dr. Sue Johnson, guides you on the path to a more secure bond with your partner. Contrary to other popular approaches, it encourages putting aside homework and unrealistic communication rules, as the research shows they simply don’t result in lasting change for couples.
Instead, Hold Me Tight gets straight to the core of what does work by teaching you to get in touch with your emotions and focus on your attachment needs.
Challenging our culture’s misguided belief in independence as an ideal, this book focuses on the beneficial strength of an effective dependence on your partner.
With seven guided conversations, you can explore your attachment with your partner and work to create a space that fosters safety and responsiveness.
Readability: 5 | Helpfulness: 5
4. An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples, Veronica Kallos-Lilly and Jennifer Fitzgerald
“Read, Reflect Discuss. Readings help couples look at their relationship through an attachment lens, walking them through the step by step process of creating a secure relationship bond.”
Frequently my go-getter couples ask me for homework and activities to do in between sessions. This is an amazing introduction to Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy that will complement the work you are doing with your therapist.
Not only does this easy-read workbook explain attachment theory in an accessible way, it also guides you with activities to explore with your partner.
Step-by-step instructions are given to get to the core of your issues is and uncover your deeper fears and needs are included in each chapter. Scattered throughout are real life case examples to normalize some of the common struggles couples face.
Some relationship self-help books offer unrealistic solutions and exercises that are nearly impossible to re-enact in the heat of the moment.
This book takes time to validate common roadblocks to effective communication. The encouraging and easy to apply exercises and thought provoking relationship analysis questions can help couples start to see the negative cycle at the root of their issues.
With the help of 33 guided reflections, couples work together to create a more secure engaging relationship, and break free of their negative patterns.
Readability: 5 | Helpfulness: 5
5. When Two Become Three, Mark Crawford
“Several studies indicate that having children can, in fact, be a stressful transition and can actually result in decreased overall marital satisfaction.”
If you’re a new parent trying to navigate the ups and downs of family roles, sex and personal time, then this is the book for you!
Right up there with What to Expect When Your Expecting, this book is a go-to for couples who have just brought a little one into the world.
When Two Become Three contains a comical and accessible explanation of common struggles parents face adjusting to their new family structure.
Dabbled with bits of attachment science, case examples and practical suggestions, it’s sure to leave you feeling more positive and prepared to navigate the changing roles in your family.
Particularly helpful is its separate chapters for moms and dads, which validate and explore the process of bonding with your child, while keeping your marriage alive.
With encouraging and practical excerpts on how to navigate a declining or changing sex life post baby, this book has been validating for many new couples struggling with the loss of desire and their once hot and heavy sex life.
Read this and put an end to your “starve the marriage, overfeed the kids” cycle that’s been affecting your relationship.
We believe the greatest gift you can give your child is an example of secure and harmonious partnership. Learn how to put your marriage first to create the best environment for your child.
Readability: 5 | Helpfulness: 4
There are many self-proclaimed “amazing” self-help books out there that fall flat in practicality when the big relationship storm hits, leaving you feeling hopeless and discouraged. Take some time to review your choices. Your relationship will thank you!
Do you Need More than a Relationship Help Book?
We always encourage couples to start looking at and talking about how things are feeling in their relationship. Sometimes, a relationship self-help book can make having those conversations easier, and help you delve deeper into your relationship.
However, sometimes a book isn’t enough because you try and still get stuck in disconnection and arguments.
Perhaps you aren’t sure whether you need help or can do it on your own. Check out some of our resources to help you assess if your relationship needs professional help.
We know it can feel scary to seek counseling – but don’t wait if there’s trouble!
Facing your relationship problems head-on takes courage. Even though you know conflict seems unavoidable and you haven’t found a way to get relief, it can be hard to take the first steps to get help.
For many, the idea of confronting the negative cycle the relationship has become trapped in can be almost as scary as the reality of the problem itself.
You might be feeling some of these very common worries:
“What do we do? Where do we even start? Does our relationship stand a chance?”
A sure-fire way to success involves complementing these resources with therapy sessions from trusted Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist in your area! This investment in your future is sure to help you and your partner thrive.
Can we help your relationship go from struggling to thriving?
Call us today at 303-513-8975 for a free 20 minute phone consultation to help you decide if your relationship needs counseling.
Ready to start making lasting changes now? Schedule your first appointment today? We are specialists in relationships and would love to help you create the love of your dreams. Schedule Appointment