Relationships take a lot of work.
While the good times feel easy and wonderful, there are times of conflict in every relationship. And, there are a lot of things about relationships, boundaries, compromising, and communicating effectively, that most of us just don’t learn. (Until we have to learn them the hard way.)
Sometimes we need outside help. Whether that’s seeing a therapist with your partner, or seeking advice elsewhere, there is nothing wrong with asking for help when your relationship needs it! So we’ve put together this list of books on relationship conflict, communication and intimacy to help.
For self reflection to improve your relationships:
Relationships thrive when we are able to show up, 100%. This means that to have healthy relationships, part of the work has to be on ourselves first.
Deal Breakers: When to Work On a Relationship and When to Walk Away by Bethany Marshall:
“A deal breaker is a boundary that smart people set for themselves because they know that falling in love can make them do stupid things. Through case studies, deal breaker scenarios, and suggested courses of action, Deal Breakers expertly guides frustrated women. By defining your deal breaker, you hold all the power to create the happiness you deserve.”
When the Past Is Present: Healing the Emotional Wounds that Sabotage our Relationships by David Richo:
“In this book, psychotherapist David Richo explores how we replay the past in our present-day relationships—and how we can free ourselves from this destructive pattern. We all have a tendency to transfer potent feelings, needs, expectations, and beliefs from childhood or from former relationships onto the people in our daily lives. Whether they are our intimate partners, friends, or acquaintances. When the Past Is Present helps us to become more aware of the ways we slip into the past so that we can identify our emotional baggage and take steps to unpack it and put it where it belongs.”
Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship by Mira Kirshenbaum:
“Mira Kirshenbaum provides expert guidelines that are the key to making all your choices, concrete steps that you can implement right now, and the ultimate way to determine your personal bottom line—what you need to be happy.”
For increasing connection & strengthening intimacy:
It’s normal for passion in a relationship to fluctuate: when you first get together it’s probably very strong. After a while, you may know each other better and surprise each other less. But that doesn’t mean that connection and intimacy are less. Learning to recognize how connection and intimacy show up in all stages of a relationship (and how you & your partner feel intimate and loved) can help keep your connection strong, no matter what stage you’re at in your relationship.
The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships by John Gottman:
“In The Relationship Cure, Dr. Gottman: Reveals the key elements of healthy relationships, emphasizing the importance of what he calls “emotional connection”; introduces the powerful new concept of the emotional “bid,” the fundamental unit of emotional connection; provides remarkably empowering tools for improving the way you bid for emotional connection and how you respond to others’ bids; and more!”
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman:
“In the #1 New York Times international bestseller The 5 Love Languages, you’ll discover the secret that has transformed millions of relationships worldwide. Whether your relationship is flourishing or failing, Dr. Gary Chapman’s proven approach to showing and receiving love will help you experience deeper and richer levels of intimacy with your partner—starting today.”
Mindful Relationship Habits: 25 Practices for Couples to Enhance Intimacy, Nurture Closeness, and Grow a Deeper Connection by SJ Scott:
“With the relationship advice outlined in this book, you will get insights and lessons learned from a variety of relationship and mindfulness experts — all backed by scientific research. Each habit presented offers a clear explanation of why it’s valuable to the health of your relationship and instructions on how to make the habit a natural part of your interactions with your partner.”
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find–and Keep– Love by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller:
“Attached guides readers in determining what attachment style they and their mate (or potential mates) follow. It also offers readers a wealth of advice on how to navigate their relationships more wisely given their attachment style and that of their partner. An insightful look at the science behind love, Attached offers readers a road map for building stronger, more fulfilling connections.”
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman:
“Packed with practical questionnaires and exercises, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is the definitive guide for anyone who wants their relationship to attain its highest potential.”
Couple Skills: Making Your Relationship Work by Matthew McKay:
“Couple Skills, Second Edition, revised and updated from the therapist-recommended classic, will show you how to work smarter in your relationship. You’ll learn to improve communication, cope better with problems, and resolve conflicts with the one you love in healthy and creative ways. Each chapter teaches you an essential skill that supports greater relationship satisfaction and deeper intimacy.”
Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel:
“Drawing on more than twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, Perel examines the complexities of sustaining desire. Through case studies and lively discussion, Perel demonstrates how more exciting, playful, and even poetic sex is possible in long-term relationships. Wise, witty, and as revelatory as it is straightforward, Mating in Captivity is a sensational book that will transform the way you live and love.”
For handling & resolving conflicts:
Avoiding conflict often means ignoring feelings, neglecting needs, and being dishonest. Instead, couples can learn to “fight fair” and handle conflicts productively in their relationships, to honor their own needs, and the needs of the relationship.
Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstanding by Aaron T Beck:
“With eloquence and accessibility, Dr. Aaron T. Beck analyzes the actual dialogue of troubled couples to illuminate the most common problems in marriage–the power of negative thinking, disillusionment, rigid rules and expectations, and miscommunication.”
Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In by Laurie Puhn:
“In Fight Less, Love More, readers will learn how to identify the bad verbal habits, instinctive responses, and emotional reasoning that can cloud judgment and ultimately lead to the deterioration of otherwise healthy relationships. With exercises, examples, and sample scripts, Puhn’s modern voice presents simple 5-minute strategies create immediate, positive changes and provide long-lasting communication skills that couples can continually employ when faced with conflict.”
Talk to Me Like I’m Someone You Love by Nancy Dreyfus:
“This revised edition features two new sections—one on making love and another on deepening trust—containing over 25 new “flash cards for real life,” written statements that hold the power to express what we wish we could say to the person we love but for which we can’t find either the right words or the right tone in which to say them. Each of the statements in this book is accompanied by “field notes” from the author that explain when, why, and how to use the statement, as well as real-life stories from the author’s practice.”
Ask for help when your relationship needs it:
If you can’t find common ground or resolve the conflict on your own, that doesn’t mean that hope is lost. Sometimes we need an outside perspective to help us get to a more honest and natural understanding of our relationship and our partners. If working on the issue on your own isn’t working, consider taking the conversation to couples therapy.