One of the best ways to navigate relationships is to read relationship books from the experts. Reading relationship books will help you learn about your attachment style, nourish long-term relationships, and gain a deeper understanding of what makes healthy relationships work so well.
Below are the best relationship books for couples that are designed to help readers improve their romantic relationships. Great for both new romantic partners and married couples, these books give practical advice to readers about solving relationship problems, improving relationships, and identifying relational patterns that may need to be changed.
Keep reading to learn more about each insightful book and how they can help you improve your relationships and communication.
1. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman is a New York Times best-selling book. This relationship book teaches readers how to have a successful marriage by explaining the seven principles that make a strong marriage.
By learning these seven principles from John Gottman, you’ll become better at resolving conflicts, spending quality time with one another, and utilizing a common-sense approach toward each disagreement. If you want to improve communication with your partner and improve intimacy, this book is a great tool for you!
Key Topics and Themes
- Love Maps: Gottman introduces the concept of Love Maps, which are the part of your brain where you store all the relevant information about your partner’s life. Couples with detailed love maps of each other are far better prepared to cope with stressful events and conflict.
- Fondness and Admiration: This principle emphasizes the importance of maintaining a climate of mutual respect and appreciation. Gottman suggests simple exercises to help revive affection and ward off contempt, a major relationship killer.
- Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away: According to Gottman, acknowledging your partner’s small moments in everyday life creates a sense of connection and positive feelings.
- Let Your Partner Influence You: This principle encourages sharing power and decision-making, which contributes to a more balanced relationship. It suggests valuing your partner’s thoughts and opinions.
- Solve Your Solvable Problems: Gottman differentiates between solvable and perpetual problems. He provides a five-step model for tackling solvable problems, involving softening the start-up, learning to make and receive repair attempts, soothing yourself and each other, compromising, and being tolerant of each other’s faults.
- Overcome Gridlock: For perpetual or recurring problems, Gottman suggests moving from gridlock to dialogue. He emphasizes understanding the underlying dreams and symbols behind each partner’s stance and learning to live with unsolvable problems.
- Create Shared Meaning: The final principle encourages creating an atmosphere that incorporates each other’s beliefs and narratives. This involves understanding important visions, narratives, myths, and metaphors about your relationship.
- The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Gottman identifies criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling as major negative behaviors or “horsemen” that predict divorce and provides strategies to overcome them.
- The Importance of Trust and Commitment: Gottman emphasizes these two ingredients as essential elements for a successful relationship.
2. Crucial Conversations
Crucial Conversations is a book about how to communicate with your partner or friend when the stakes are high. If you want to improve your long-term relationship and communication with one person, this book is the perfect relationship book for you!
This best-selling book draws conclusions from emotionally focused couple therapy and personal experience about communicating with others. More specifically, this book explores the most effective ways to transform anger into useful dialogue and create a safe space for talking with your partner.
Key Topics and Themes
- Crucial Conversations: The book defines a crucial conversation as one where stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong. The authors point out that how these conversations are handled can have a significant impact on the quality of one’s life and relationships.
- Start With Heart: This principle emphasizes the importance of knowing and focusing on what you really want out of the conversation. It encourages individuals to stay focused on the desired results and not get sidetracked by emotions.
- Learn to Look: The authors suggest developing awareness and learning to look for signs that a conversation is becoming crucial. These signs include physical, emotional, and behavioral indicators such as a faster heart rate, anger, or defensive actions.
- Make it Safe: When conversations become crucial, people often feel threatened and react by either fighting or fleeing. Making a conversation safe means creating an environment where people can share their opinions and feelings without fear of negative consequences.
- Mastering the Stories: This principle refers to the idea that our emotions and actions are influenced by the stories we tell ourselves about what’s happening. By mastering our stories, we can better control our emotional reactions and behavior during a crucial conversation.
- STATE Your Path: The STATE method is a tool for expressing your views in a non-confrontational way. STATE stands for: Share your facts; Tell your story; Ask for others’ paths; Talk tentatively; and Encourage testing.
- Explore Others’ Paths: This principle encourages curiosity and genuine interest in the other person’s perspective, and advises against turning conversations into debates.
- Move to Action: The final principle emphasizes the importance of clearly deciding who does what by when and how follow-up will occur.
3. Love & Respect
Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs focuses on the premise that women desire love and men desire respect. Based on scientific research about intimacy & couples therapy, this book gives the readers good advice about giving your partner what they want the most.
Whether you’re a married couple or someone in a new relationship, this life-changing book will change the way you communicate. In turn, you’ll be able to avoid relationship problems and tough times in the future.
Key Topics and Themes
- The Love and Respect Connection: Eggerichs introduces the basic concept that in most cases, a wife’s most basic need in marriage is to feel loved, while a husband’s most basic need is to feel respected.
- The Crazy Cycle: This is the pattern Eggerichs identifies where the absence of love (from the husband) prompts a reaction of disrespect (from the wife), which in turn prompts a reaction of unlove, leading to a destructive cycle of escalating conflict.
- The Energizing Cycle: Eggerichs proposes a solution to the Crazy Cycle in the form of the Energizing Cycle. He advises that a wife can do her part to avoid the Crazy Cycle by unconditionally respecting her husband, while a husband can do his part by unconditionally loving his wife.
- The Rewarded Cycle: Even when a spouse does not respond to efforts to stop the Crazy Cycle, Eggerichs advises individuals to continue showing love and respect, asserting that they will be rewarded for this behavior by God, even if the spouse does not change.
- The Power of Unconditional Love and Respect: Eggerichs emphasizes that these positive actions of love and respect should be offered regardless of how the spouse is acting – they should be unconditional, not contingent on the spouse’s behavior.
- Practical Applications: The second part of the book provides practical advice on how to implement these principles in different aspects of the marital relationship, such as communication, conflict, and intimacy.
4. Mindful Relationship Habits
Co-written by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport, Mindful Relationship Habits gives readers 25 practices that will help them grow intimacy, feel closer to their partner, and communicate by using the five love languages.
Even though divorce is on the rise and the world is busier than ever, these authors distill in the reader that mindful relationship habits are all we need to have a happy marriage. By drawing conclusions from emotionally focused therapy, couples therapists, and other marriage books, Mindful Relationship Habits helps many readers enter a world of personal growth and closeness with their partner.
Key Topics and Themes
- The Power of Mindfulness in Relationships: The authors discuss how mindfulness — the practice of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — can greatly improve relationships. They emphasize the importance of actively paying attention to one’s partner and the relationship.
- Habits in Relationships: Davenport and Scott propose that couples can intentionally create positive habits in their relationships, replacing patterns that lead to distance, misunderstanding, and conflict.
- Communication Skills: The authors delve into the crucial role of effective communication in a relationship. They provide specific strategies for improving communication, such as active listening, expressing empathy, and clear, open discussions about feelings and needs.
- Conflict Resolution: The book presents mindful strategies to address and resolve conflicts in a respectful and constructive manner. It discusses how to manage emotions during disagreements, communicate without blame, and find compromise.
- Building Intimacy: Davenport and Scott discuss various ways to deepen the emotional connection between partners. This includes spending quality time together, practicing gratitude, and showing regular physical affection.
- Understanding and Meeting Your Partner’s Needs: The authors emphasize the importance of understanding your partner’s love language — the specific ways they feel most loved and appreciated.
- Maintaining Relationship Boundaries: The book highlights the need for personal boundaries to maintain respect and understanding in a relationship.
- Cultivating Shared Meaning: The authors suggest building a shared sense of purpose and meaning in the relationship, which can include shared goals, values, and traditions.
- Self-Care and Personal Growth: The authors note the importance of maintaining individual self-care and personal growth alongside nurturing the relationship.
5. Relationship Goals
Written by Michael Todd, Relationship Goals is a great book about creating a lasting relationship with the one that’s perfect for you. Based on the author’s own experiences, research about love languages, and attachment styles, this book focuses on progress instead of perfection. Whether you want to improve intimacy, sex, or your marriage, this book will help you reach those relationship goals.
Key Topics and Themes
- Purpose of Relationships: Todd emphasizes that the primary purpose of romantic relationships, from a Christian viewpoint, is to glorify God.
- Singles and Dating: Todd provides advice for single individuals, encouraging them to focus on developing themselves and their relationship with God before seeking a partner.
- Healthy Dating Practices: The author discusses dating practices that align with Christian principles, such as maintaining sexual purity, setting boundaries, and focusing on character rather than appearances.
- Understanding Love: Todd explores different forms of love as defined in the Bible, and how these can guide individuals in their relationships. He particularly focuses on agape (unconditional) love.
- Marriage and Commitment: Todd underscores the sanctity of marriage and encourages couples to approach it with seriousness, commitment, and readiness to make sacrifices.
- The Role of Sex: Todd discusses sex within the context of a committed marital relationship, outlining its purposes for procreation, intimacy, and pleasure.
- Handling Conflict: The author provides advice on dealing with conflicts and disagreements in a relationship, promoting open communication, forgiveness, and understanding.
- Importance of Community: Todd emphasizes the role of community in supporting and guiding relationships, highlighting the value of wise counsel from friends, family, and spiritual leaders.
- Relationship with God: Throughout the book, Todd reiterates the importance of each individual’s relationship with God as the foundation for successful relationships with others.
6. The Science of Happily Ever After
In The Science of Happily Ever After, author Ty Tashiro teaches readers about what matters most in the search for love. Even though there may not be a specific formula for how to have a healthy relationship, The Science of Happily Ever After draws from science and teaches readers how to thrive with the love of their life. If you want to learn more about romance, sex, marriage, and divorce, this book is perfect for you.
Key Topics and Themes
- Three Wishes: Tashiro starts the book with the premise that if people could only get three wishes for traits in their life partner, they should choose wisely. These choices will heavily influence their long-term happiness and satisfaction in a relationship.
- Wish Wisely: Tashiro encourages readers to prioritize traits that research shows contribute most significantly to long-term relationship satisfaction. These might include emotional stability, kindness, and commitment, rather than more superficial qualities.
- Understand Your Biases: The book discusses how people’s choices are often influenced by psychological and societal biases that don’t necessarily contribute to long-term happiness.
- Psychological Research and Findings: Tashiro discusses various research studies on love and relationships, explaining how certain factors contribute to the longevity and happiness of a relationship.
- The Role of Chemistry: While chemistry and physical attraction are important, Tashiro points out that they may not be reliable predictors of long-term relationship success.
- The Importance of Emotional Stability: Emotional stability and mental health are significant predictors of relationship success. Partners with emotional stability are less likely to exhibit negative behaviors such as hostility and emotional withdrawal.
- Value of Kindness and Loyalty: The book highlights kindness and loyalty as highly valuable traits that can foster a positive, supportive, and secure relationship environment.
- Compatibility and Shared Values: Tashiro underscores the importance of compatibility and shared values, suggesting that these are stronger foundations for a long-term relationship compared to shared interests.
- Improving Selection and Decision Making: Tashiro provides practical advice to improve partner selection and relationship decision making. He encourages readers to become more aware of their needs, biases, and potential pitfalls in their partner selection process.
7. Making Marriage Simple
Co-written by Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix, Making Marriage Simple explains ten relationship-saving truths that will help you foster growth in your relationships. Based on marriage counseling and other research about marriage, this book is the ultimate guide for building a strong marriage in today’s world.
Written by an expert relationship therapist and clinical psychologist, Making Marriage Simple helps readers improve their relationships by understanding just ten truths about marriage. By reading this book, you may realize that conflict is growth trying to happen.
Key Topics and Themes
- The Unconscious Marriage: The authors suggest that individuals often unconsciously seek partners who reflect the positive and negative traits of their caregivers. Understanding this can help couples work through their issues.
- Zero Negativity: Hendrix and Hunt argue that negativity is the primary destroyer of marriages. They propose a Zero Negativity policy to eliminate all forms of negativity, criticism, and judgment.
- Romantic Love is a Temporary Stage: The book explains that the intense feelings of romantic love eventually fade, and this is a normal part of a relationship’s evolution.
- Marriage is a Spiritual Journey: The authors view marriage as a spiritual and emotional journey where two individuals support each other’s personal growth and self-actualization.
- Re-romanticizing, Re-sentimentizing, and Re-structuring: The authors offer techniques to help couples restore the feelings of love and affection in their relationships, address pent-up resentment, and change negative dynamics.
- The Space Between: Hendrix and Hunt emphasize that the quality of the relationship is determined by the “space between” the two partners — the quality of interactions and mutual respect.
- Partnership is the New Marriage: The authors suggest that a successful modern marriage is a partnership where both individuals have equal power and value.
- Your Brain on Love: They delve into the science of love, explaining how a loving relationship can enhance brain activity and overall mental health.
- Connect Through Full-Body Hugs: The authors suggest that physical contact, like full-body hugs, can help couples reconnect and promote a positive relationship dynamic.
- Safe Conversations: The book introduces the “safe conversations” dialogue process to help couples communicate effectively, ensuring that both partners feel heard and understood.
8. The Five Love Languages
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is one of the most popular relationship books out there. In this, Gary Chapman explains the secrets to making love last. This secret is learning your partner’s love language and showing them affection in that way.
By learning your partner’s love language, whether it’s quality time or physical touch, you’ll be able to improve your connection and marriage. Furthermore, you and your partner will be able to understand each other on a deeper level.
Key Topics and Themes
- Introduction to Love Languages: Chapman proposes that there are five primary ways people express and experience love: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.
- Words of Affirmation: This love language uses words to affirm other people. Compliments, words of appreciation, verbal encouragement, and frequently saying “I love you” are all important for people with this love language.
- Quality Time: This involves giving someone your undivided attention. For people with this love language, spending time together without distractions and engaging in meaningful conversations or shared activities is the most impactful.
- Receiving Gifts: For some people, what makes them feel most loved is receiving a gift. The thought, effort, and love behind the gift are what matter most, not the cost of the gift.
- Acts of Service: For these people, actions speak louder than words. They value when others do things like cooking a meal, doing the laundry, or picking up a prescription for them — tasks that require thought, time, and effort.
- Physical Touch: People who speak this love language thrive on any form of physical touch: hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love.
- Discovering Your Own Love Language: Chapman emphasizes the importance of understanding one’s own primary love language, explaining that this can help individuals express what they need most from their partners.
- Understanding Your Partner’s Love Language: It’s equally important to understand your partner’s love language to effectively express love in a way they best understand.
- Applying Love Languages: The book provides practical advice and examples of how to apply these love languages in everyday life to strengthen relationships.
9. Hold Me Tight
Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson reveals the seven conversations for a life of love. Known as one of the best-selling marriage books out there, Hold Me Tight teaches readers how to improve their marriage by having more meaningful conversations.
By reading this book, you’ll learn how to preserve your adult attachment bond and create a safe space in all of your relationships, including your marriage.
Key Topics and Themes
- Attachment Theory: The book is rooted in Attachment Theory, which posits that the need for secure attachment is not just characteristic of child-parent relationships but also remains crucial throughout one’s life, especially in romantic relationships.
- Understanding Love: Johnson explains that love is an attachment bond, similar to the bond between a parent and a child. She posits that emotional responsiveness and accessibility are the defining elements of a loving relationship.
- Recognizing Demon Dialogues: Johnson identifies patterns of negative interactions that couples fall into, which she refers to as “demon dialogues.” These include “Find the Bad Guy,” “The Protest Polka,” and “Freeze and Flee.” Recognizing these patterns is the first step towards breaking them.
- Creating a Safe Haven: The book discusses the importance of creating a secure emotional connection between partners, which can serve as a safe haven for both parties.
- Revisiting a Rocky Moment: This conversation helps partners discuss a point of conflict from a place of understanding, instead of from a place of attack or defense.
- Forgiving Injuries: Johnson talks about how to repair and forgive emotional injuries. She emphasizes that this is not about forgetting, but about accepting and integrating the injury into the relationship’s narrative.
- Bonding Through Sex and Touch: The book explores the complex relationship between emotional intimacy and physical intimacy, explaining how they can reinforce each other.
- Keeping the Love Alive: The final conversation focuses on how to maintain the connection and intimacy over time, which is crucial for the relationship’s longevity.
Final Thoughts: Best Relationship Books for Couples
These relationship books will help you improve all of the romantic relationships in your life. Whether you just got into a new relationship or you want to improve your long-term marriage, these books are great guides to help you along the way.
Since these relationship and marriage books are written by expert psychologists and researchers, they’ll be the perfect stepping stone toward improving your relationships. More importantly, your life, and your partner’s life, will be improved along the way.