Relationships can be tricky, particularly when it comes to romance.
Fraught with potential landmines at every step, it would be wonderful if we had a Mr. Wizard-type relationship guru to guide us along the way. In a sense, we do, if you consider all of the highly informative sources users can turn to in the form of books.
Their authors are usually counselors, therapists, and psychologists with years of couples’ counseling under their belts, making it difficult to decide which are the best relationship books out there. Have no fear, because once again we’ve done the digging for you.
Advice from the Pros
There is a lot of reading material on the subject, but one book, in particular, keeps turning up on all of the best-selling lists, and that is entitled “Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” by clinical psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson.
Famous for developing what’s called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, where both the therapist and his or her clients explore patterns in a couple’s relationship and then take the appropriate steps toward creating a stronger bond with greater trust between them.
The primary purpose is to steer the relationship in a healthier direction, and the author offers couples exercises in the text to aid readers in working their way through to more secure attachments.
Fellow author and sex therapist Laurie Watson had this to say about Johnson’s “Hold Me Tight”:
Johnson is also responsible for another bestseller called “Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships,” where she explains to readers the three stages of a relationship and the best ways to make them stand the test of time.
In the book, she also covers things like the intelligence of emotions and the logic of love, along with the physical and psychological benefits of a more secure love.
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Dr. Alexandra Solomon
Psychologist Dr. Alexandra Solomon commented regarding the book:
Dr. John Gottman
Psychological researcher Dr. John Gottman added:
If you’re interested in investigating either, both of these informative relationship books by Dr. Johnson can be found online and through Amazon. Each ranks prominently for best-selling relationship books among clinicians and list high on the topic of marital ties.
But it’s crucial to note that couples don’t have to be married to reap the benefits of one or the other of these popular reads.
The 5 Love Languages
Author of “The 5 Love Languages” series, Gary Chapman has made a successful career of providing advice to those in search of relationship answers.
He has at least seven books in the series, with three of them dealing directly with adult romances, and many others on the subject of family and work.
His “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts” is a #1 bestseller, and as the title suggests, offers readers insights into lasting relationships and how to go about achieving them.
In addition to authoring relationship books, Chapman is a speaker and counselor, as well as director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. He’s also a world traveler presenting seminars across the globe, and his radio programs currently air on more than 400 stations.
Love Languages for Men
One of his books has been written particularly for males. It’s entitled “The 5 Love Languages for Men: Tools for Making a Good Relationship Great,” and provides reliable information for men on cultivating the best possible relationships with their significant other.
According to Chapman himself, “When you express your love for your wife using her primary love language, it’s like hitting the sweet spot on a baseball bat or golf club. It just feels right—and the results are impressive.”
Amazon Book Reviews describes the work in the following as
All of the books in his series are available in paperback, making them an affordable read—not that you can put a price tag on marital or relationship bliss. Chapman’s name is, however, at the top of the list when it comes to relationship advice.
Understanding true self and accepting you the way you are is a common thread among many of these tomes, and author Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., backs that up in her New York Times bestseller “Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life.”
Stemming from a place of research and brain science, the book advises women on their needs and delves into how women’s sexuality actually works. The book has been described as “down to earth” and as unraveling “what women really need in their relationship to heat up sexual desire.”
To add to her qualifications, Nagoski is also a Wellness Education director and lecturer at Smith College, where she teaches a Women’s Sexuality course and has a blog entitled The Dirty Normal.
According to Carol Queen, Ph.D. and founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture:
This book, in conjunction with Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages for Men,” would make ideal couples’ reading for those wanting to strengthen their bonds and/or understand themselves and each other better.
While an oldie but a goodie at roughly 20 years old, the book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert” is another solid guide for romantic relationships.
Co-authored by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver, the book examines the skills necessary for keeping it together, regardless of the length of the union.
Gottman—who offered his insights into Dr. Sue Johnson’s “Hold Me Tight”—and his wife, Julie, are psychologists and founders of the Gottman Method for Healthy Relationships, which is a form of couples therapy based on 40 years of research undertaken by the two.
Together, they are responsible for some of the best relationship books available to this day.
In “The Seven Principals,” Gottman and Silver discuss “the seven principles that guide couples on the path toward a harmonious and long-lasting relationship.”
It’s filled with useful questionnaires and exercises, and is still considered by many to be “the definitive guide for anyone who wants their relationship to attain its highest potential.”
The result of careful detailing, many of their peers view the book and the research that went into it to be of “landmark” importance and “astonishing.”
Another New York Times Bestseller, like the rest of these books, it’s also available on Amazon.
Classic Relationship Advice
And speaking of golden oldies, there are few relationship books more recognizable to the public at large than the classic “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” written by Ph.D. John Gray.
It’s looked upon as one of those tried-and-true sources laymen and women can turn to for sorting the whole male/female mess out in easy, and often humorous, terms. That’s because it was written as a guide for surviving the opposite sex, as the book’s cover tells us.
A successful couples’ counselor, lecturer, and syndicated columnist, Gray published the book back in 1992—a full seven years before Gottman and Silver—establishing himself among the ranks of self-help gurus.
His work has not been without controversy, however. He has been criticized for “limiting human psychology to stereotypes” and bashed for his somewhat controversial comments on feminism as recently as 2014.
All of that said, the best-selling book and other offerings from Gray have been extremely well received by the masses. He has published 23 books to date, all of which focus on relationships and healing, except for one.
Self-Exploration for Couples
Described as “less about couples, and more about exploring yourself and what you need and want,” author Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., provides insights into building a relationship with your partner in his classic “Getting the Love You Want” (Revised & Updated).
Chock-full of quizzes and activities for the two of you to work on together, it gives readers a chance to determine for themselves what it is they need in a partnership and how to constructively go about getting it.
Originally published in 1988, for over 30 years its various incarnations have assisted millions of couples in attaining more deeply satisfying relationships filled with love and support from one another.
The updated version is said to contain extensive revisions with a new chapter and new exercises to partake in, along with a foreword explaining Hendrix’s updated philosophy on eliminating negativity from the daily interactions couples experience.
Hendrix, in partnership with his wife, Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D., are the founders of Imago Relationship Therapy (practiced by 2,000 therapists globally), which is a healing process for established couples, prospective couples, and even parents.
The duo is said to have in excess of 30 years of experience as educators and therapists, and their works have been translated into more than 50 languages.
Called “brave,” “provocative,” and “refreshingly counterintuitive,” “Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence” comes from couples’ therapist Esther Perel, who has been referred to as “one of the world’s most respected voices on erotic intelligence.”
The book’s exploration of “the paradoxical union of domesticity and sexual desire” explains to readers “what it takes to bring lust home,” and in it, Perel discusses the complexities of sustaining desire.
Using various case studies and animated discussion, the psychotherapist shows readers how “more exciting, playful, and even poetic sex is possible in long-term relationships.”
One of the best relationship books to date, it provides a straightforward look at modern unions that many couples will find useful in maintaining and promoting intimate partnerships and relations.
State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity
Perel is also the author of “The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity,” a 2017 bestseller with a focus on cheating that has received high praise and made the list for NPR’s Guide to 2017’s Greatest Reads. It’s said to be a must-read for anyone undergoing a breach in their marital commitments.
The U.K.’s “The Guardian” observed that “[Perel] deals with the mess and pain of fractured relationships with searing honesty, astute observations and compassion… If your marriage were in trouble, you’d want her help.”
Best Relationship Books
There is seemingly no end to the list of books published on the subject of romantic relationships, so it’s challenging to narrow it down to the 10 best. While we dug deep to bring you the most popular from both the past and the present, there are others worthy of mention.
Here is a list of 11 other good reads to consider, in case you need more inspiration on the subject.
- “Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find — and Keep — Love” by authors Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A. Considered groundbreaking, the book aids readers in determining what attachment style they and their mate (or potential mate) follow.
- “Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs reveals the secret to couples meeting each other’s deepest needs in order to have a successful relationship.
- “Hidden Keys of a Loving, Lasting Marriage” by speaker and author Gary Smalley shares the principles of strong marriages and points out the common problems between married couples.
- “Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship” by Stan Tatkin, Psy.D., MFT. Termed “innovative,” it examines closeness and is said to “finally make sense out of chaos and pain.”
- “Modern Romance: An Investigation” is a research book written by American actor and stand-up comedian Aziz Ansari and American sociologist and New York University professor Eric Klinenberg. Published in 2015, it provides research on the changes in societal romances over the past decade.
- “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered” by Lysa TerKeurst. It shows readers how to live more assured when life doesn’t turn out the way they expected.
- “Love for a Lifetime: Building a Marriage that Will Go the Distance” by Dr. James Dobson, founder and president of Focus on the Family. The book gives men and women powerful and biblical insights for building lasting marital harmony.
- “Deal Breakers: When to Work On a Relationship and When to Walk Away” by Dr. Bethany Marshall, Ph.D., Psy.D., MFT. A book about emotionally unhealthy men for women who have questions about their relationships with them.
- “Why Him? Why Her?: Finding Real Love By Understanding Your Personality Type” by relationship authority Helen Fisher, Ph.D., dives into the question “Why do you fall in love with one person rather than another?” and goes on from there.
- “The Truth About Men: What Men and Women Need to Know” by best-selling author and Hollywood producer DeVon Franklin. While Franklin has a number of candid relationship books out, this one speaks openly about why men behave the way they do and what everyone—men and women alike—need to know about it.
- “Getting to ‘I Do’: The Secret to Doing Relationships Right!” by Dr. Patricia Allen is a self-help book for getting to the altar or keeping the marriage you already have with defined roles for men and women that many readers swear by.
So There You Have It
Out of the 21 we’ve supplied, you should be able to find something suitable for your situation. And if you can’t find some pearls of wisdom or mine nuggets of truth out of any of these self-help books, you might try discussing the issues you seek answers to with a trusted relationship counselor, for a better understanding of your problems.