11 Oct 5 Books For Better Relationships
If you believe in the power of a book to change your life, you may also believe in the power of a book to save your relationship. It actually pains me to think of where I’d be if I had never picked up any of the books on this list.
Reading about love has helped me to not only understand why it is that love has always been so challenging for me, but it has also reassured me that I am not alone.
I have spent the past few years exploring love and although I still find it quite difficult at times, I can’t help but think it is because of the knowledge in these books that I’ve been able to find security and safety in a primary love relationship.
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love — Sue Johnson
I am putting this one first because if I could only pick one book to read, it would be this one. It speaks to attachment theory, safe emotional connection, and contains exercises for couples to explore deep levels of intimacy. It’s also a great one to read together.
This book outlines the most common patterns that many couples find themselves in. For me, it has always been a push and pull dynamic, or as Johnson calls it, “the protest polka.” I was able to see that at the heart of this exhausting and incredibly frustrating pattern is simply a need for emotional connection.
“If I appeal to you for emotional connection and you respond intellectually to a problem, rather than directly to me, on an attachment level I will experience that as “no response.— Sue Johnson, Hold Me Tight
The Power of Attachment by Diane Poole Heller
I really loved this book. I don’t typically tear through non-fiction like I might a book of fiction, but I couldn’t put this one down. If you are at all interested in attachment theory and how it applies to the development of safe and secure relationships, this book is where it is at.
Understanding my anxious attachment style has been a bit of a journey for me and although this book did not introduce the concepts, it definitely changed my perspective. Heller’s empathetic and gentle voice helped me to reframe my attachment style in a positive way, which led to an acceptance of parts of me I had always resented.
Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-Commitment — Gay Hendricks, Kathlyn Hendricks
This book is written by a couple that met in January of 1980 and who see relationship as a path to awakening; the creation of a partnership where each person has more energy, creativity, and happiness. It is a different kind of commitment and it has left me yearning and working towards a more conscious kind of love in my own relationships.
They teach couples how to let go of the need for control, to balance closeness and separateness, increase intimacy, and welcome a deeper and more enduring commitment into our primary relationship. It is a bit more spiritual in nature so if you’re open to that, or looking for how to integrate your relationship into your spiritual practice, you may find this book gives you exactly what you need.
Co-Commitment is defined by Gay and Kathleen Hendricks here:
“Co-commitment is made possible when two people deal with their sense of responsibility and integrity. Being alive to the full range of your feelings, speaking the truth at the deepest level of which you are capable, and learning to keep agreements: all of these actions are required to master a co-committed relationship. When these three requirements are met, the real intimacy begins to unfold. A co-committed relationship may look like magic, but it really is composed of tiny moments of choice. Choosing to tell the truth. Noticing that you are projecting, and finding the courage to take responsibility. Choosing to feel rather than go numb. Choosing to communicate about a broken agreement. Choosing to support your partner as he or she goes through deep feeling. Ultimately, once these skills are practiced and internalized, the relationship flows effortlessly. Once your nervous system learns to stay at a high level of aliveness and does not need to numb itself by lying, breaking agreements, and hiding feelings, the creativity starts to flow.”
Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic — Esther Perel
I had to include this one because I remember left me more open than I was before I read it. I began to question my deeply held expectation that when I met the right person I would be able to have a long-term, domestic partnership and enduring sexual desire. It was this book that provided me the wake up call I needed and that left me approaching relationships with a very different perspective.
I read this book when I was single and it completely changed how I approached dating. It left me questioning my beliefs and values when it came to love and sex. The idea of erotic intelligence was a game-changer for me because it gave me hope that it is possible to keep eroticism alive in long-term partnership.
“Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness.” — Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity
The Course of Love — Alain de Botton
Although all of the other books on my list are, expectedly, written by psychologists, this one is written by Alain de Botton, a philosopher. He illustrates beautifully these universal yet somehow hidden aspects of love that will be sure to leave you feeling a little bit less alone.
I first heard about this book on the On Being with Krista Tippett podcast: The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships. If a book of essays isn’t your thing, I highly recommend the podcast episode as a place to start. You may just fall in love with him and order his book that same day just as I did.
“It’s profoundly counter-intuitive for us to think of ourselves as mad. We seem so normal and mostly so good — to ourselves. It’s everyone else who is out of step… And yet maturity begins with the capacity to sense and, in good time and without defensiveness, admit to our own craziness. If we are not regularly deeply embarrassed by who we are, the journey to self-knowledge hasn’t begun.” — Alain de Botton, The Course of Love
These are the books that I have found spoke most to me. However, the path to fulfilling and secure relationships, should that be a path you are on or wish to be on, is going to be unique to everyone.