By Laura Silvestein, LCSW, Certified Couples Therapist
One of the main questions I answer as a couples therapist is “What can we read together to start improving our relationship?”
There are so many self-help books available, and it’s hard to know where to start. I am a strong believer in evidence-based advice. Many well-intentioned writers give advice about things that may have worked for them, or perhaps they have a good theory about what will lead to relationship happiness, but their ideas aren’t grounded in research.
How to Know Which Authors to Trust
When it comes to relational wellness, there is not just one way to have a successful relationship, When you are taking advice from an author, it’s important to know that the recommendations come from large sample sizes and longitudinal studies.
It’s so hard to narrow down my recommendations, but I am recommending three books with three different angles for you to start off with.
My first recommendation is The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert
This has been on the New York Best Sellers list for decades for a reason. It’s a practical guide and a quick read for you and your partner.
You will be guided through the 7 core elements that make or break a relationship with real-life examples and interactive exercises for you and your partner to complete together. It’s based on forty years of researching over 3,000 couples.
My second recommendation is Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson.
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
Dr. Johnson is famous for applying attachment theory to adult relationships. The simple way to put this is that it’s not just small children who need a primary person in their lives who will be there for you through thick and thin.
This book will help you go deeper in your understanding of concepts such as connection, trust and emotional awareness and expression.
My final recommendation is Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, by Daniel Goleman.
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
This book is different from my first two recommendations because it is not written specifically for couples who want to improve their relationships. This book explains why emotional intelligence is so important.
We know from Dr. Goleman’s research that emotional intelligence is twice as important as cognitive ability and technical skill combined.
If someone asked me to narrow down the one most important thing you can do to improve your relationships, the clear answer would be to practice empathy. It’s a surprisingly simple skill, but it requires getting out of your own way to do it effectively.
This book illustrates the science behind emotion. Many of his examples are used in a business context which is a helpful reminder that emotions are about strength and success, not weakness.
Answer these Questions to Decide Which Book is Right for You
I recommend reading all three of these for a well-rounded approach, but if you’d rather start with one, answer the questions below:
- Do you want concrete skills to improve your relationship?
Yes: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert
- Do you feel your communications skills are pretty good, but want to go deeper in your understanding of relationship wellness?
Yes: Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
- Are you scientifically oriented and want to understand how and why emotions are so crucial to success in all different kinds of relationships?
Yes: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
Hope this article helps you decide what to put in your shopping cart. This article contains affiliate links so Main Line Counseling Partners receives a small percentage of your purchase.
Other Resources to Improve your Relationship
Do you want help with Conflict Management?
There are 3 effective conflict management styles. Understanding your conflict management style will help you understand how and why you get into fights without even realizing it.
Take this Conflict Style Quiz to find out your preferred conflict management style:
Do you want to take a course together with your partner?
If you’ve read the books together but need a little more guidance and practice with the skills, this course might be a good next step.
Start with a free preview to the Happy Couple – Virtual Retreat