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What's your favorite (most helpful) relationship book?

I have a reading problem - I love reading, especially about psychology and relationships. I think it may come from growing up in a dysfunctional family and having parents who have 12 marriages between them. Nope, not kidding. :) Anyhow.... I have found several books that I tend to give to newlyweds who read. I just found a new one this weekend, so I thought maybe I'd see what other people find helpful.

1) Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson. Emotionally-Focused Couple Therapy ( is based not just on anecdotes, but on scientific studies about attachment relationships in adults. It used to be that attachment theory focused purely on parent-child relationships, but new studies have applied it to our relationship with our spouse. The book (and therapeutic technique) focuses on teaching people how to have safe conversations enhancing emotional connection to their spouse. I'm not the best person to explain the whole thing, not having read it yet, but I went to a marriage retreat this weekend based on it, and it was great. One lady in our small groups said after the third exercise we did that 'This is what I've been wanting from my husband for 10 years'. I know our practice at having safe conversations, even about scary things or big mistakes, has helped us get through some very rocky points. This book helps to name some of the things we'd been doing, and help others get out of bad relationship patterns into safe connection again. It is the newest addition to my 'newlywed bundle'.

2) The 7 Principles of Making Marriage Work by John Gottman. This one is also based on scientific studies, and makes some claims that may sound wild - like that Gottman can study a couple fighting for five minutes and predict with over 80% accuracy whether they'll be divorced in five years. But when I read it, and he ticked off the warning signs for divorce.... he was dead right, based on watching my parents with all their spouses! So I think the 'what you need to do to avoid divorce' is also very accurate. It focuses on fighting in ways that are not so damaging to your friendship and emotional connection, how to increase your friendship and positive feelings, etc. Good stuff.

3) The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This one is all about the fact that what makes YOU feel loved and appreciated may not be what makes your spouse feel loved and appreciated. Finding out what does work for your spouse and doing it - even if that's not what works for you so it seems silly - is the key to maintaining a 'positive emotional bank balance'. It's very simply written, but with some religious overtones. Overall, good stuff, though I've only read the original - can't speak for the various offshoots, like the version for men, for singles, etc.

4) The Relationship Cure by John Gottman. This one is not just about marital relationships - it is about all your relationship. It ties in to Dr. Johnson's work because it notes that we often make 'repair attempts' when in a fight or to ease tension - some attempt to lessen the tension or reconnect or turn the tide. Ignoring those repair attempts can be even more destructive than attacking them - in the eyes of Dr. Johnson, probably because ignoring increases the emotional disconnect where at least attacking engages you with the other person. But that's my applying one person's theory to another. All in all, it's a book that inspires you go get along with the hot-button people in your life (read: mothers, mothers-in-law, etc!)

So, what about you? What do you think about these books? Got ones that have really helped you and your spouse?

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