No matter how well you get along, how much you have in common, how often you put time and care into your connection—all relationships go through ebbs and flows. And while you might not need therapy, adding new tools to your repertoire can strengthen your bond and bring you closer. One easy way to invest in your couplehood is to read the same advice book and then talk about it. We asked relationship therapists, experts, and gurus, to recommend their top read to create healthier, happier duos in 2022.
Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
“This book offers a unique and refreshing perspective on intimacy, love, lust, and fueling the connection that romantic partners share. Perel focuses on supporting the longevity of relationships. Perel explores the nuances and complexities of sex and intimacy and brings to light what couples can do to live and love passionately. Her real-life examples make this book relatable, while her expertise provides readers with invaluable knowledge and insight. I encourage couples to enjoy this book together or read it separately, but talk about it afterward; share what resonated with you, what surprised you, or what parts of your relationship you were reminded of. This book can help couples begin an honest conversation about intimacy, desires, and their hopes for the life they’ll live together.” —Michelle Felder, LCSW, MA, the founder and CEO of Parenting Pathfinders.
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts by Dr. Gary Chapman
“This book is excellent in helping couples improve the quality of their relationship in many ways. Firstly, you can identify how you and your partner prefer giving and receiving love. These five love languages are acts of service, gifts, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation. This book is also beneficial because it emphasizes that each partner may need love differently than their significant other. And to not automatically give them love based on how they feel loved. By understanding and giving to one another through each partner’s main love language, there can be less likelihood of feeling unappreciated or disconnected from each other. I have found this book and its concepts to be very enlightening for couples to recognize how they have been giving love to each other may actually feel disappointing, confusing, or even cause anger if it’s not been in the ways that mean love to each other partner. When the partners start giving love in the way each one needs it, they can get on the same wavelength and strengthen their relationship by feeling heard, understood, and loved by each other.” —Dr. Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., a Los Angeles-based psychologist.
Selfish Path to Romance: How to Love with Passion & Reason by Dr. Ellen Kenner and Dr. Edwin Locke
“This is the best book I’ve found that covers in-depth how to successfully navigate a romantic relationship from finding a partner that is a good match to nurturing the relationship, to even how to break up if the relationship isn’t working. It is also unique in addressing the moral aspect of a relationship. The word ‘selfish’ in the title means self-valuing and self-respecting, which the authors explain is critical for a happy and healthy relationship. Unlike usual convention, they explain why sacrifice is destructive to a relationship, and instead, each partner must learn how to compromise, so they both are happy and fulfilled effectively. I highly recommend this book to my relationship clients because the deep underlying problems in most relationships stem from sacrifice and build-up of resentment. The authors explain how to prevent this and maintain benevolence and intimacy in a long-term romantic relationship.” —Steve Orma, PsyD, a clinical psychologist.
Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
“Change begins at home, and this book offers a solid foundation for couples that want to create a home culture that values inclusion, challenges biases, and is committed to antiracism. If racism is going to be uprooted, it’s essential to know where it started from; this book reveals the stories at racism’s roots. As you read, I encourage you to share your thoughts and reactions; talk about what stood out to you, how reading it made you feel, and the things you’re left thinking about. Lean into any discomfort you may experience and hold each other accountable for your actions. We all have the power to decide which values are important to us, and this book helps equip couples that want to be intentional about their family passing on honest stories about people and history.” —Michelle Felder, LCSW, MA, the founder and CEO of Parenting Pathfinders.
Love Tactics: How to Win the One You Want by Thomas W. McKnight
“I love this book because although some people think this is a book about playing games when you like someone and are dating, it\’s a book about how to ignite passion in someone and also how not to be taken for granted, which is good for maintaining relationships. It\’s an old book, and some things aren\’t applicable, but there\’s some psychology to the madness and a lot of truth to it. Let\’s face it, someone in a relationship is usually taken for granted, and they wind up acting out. This helps you see your part in establishing this dynamic and moving past it.” —Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and the CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking.
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love by Rachel Heller
“This book provides a lot of psychoeducation and support in navigating commitment and love from the lens of attachment. Attachment roles and systems are huge for navigating relationships and helping people find peace and harmony in their long-term commitments. This book can be used to gain insight into why you feel the way you do and your needs for intimacy in a relationship. It also provides ways to remedy common arguments or experiences in relationships and clearly outlines healthy communication and connection skills.” —Lily Ostler, LMSW, a licensed psychotherapist with Forward in Heels.
The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D.
“This book is based on longitudinal research done by the primary author who studied many couples for many years to determine what factors were responsible for creating happier and healthier long-term relationships. His work is highly respected and groundbreaking. Dr. Gottman found ways to help couples show more appreciation and respect for one another and change their negative behaviors in how they interacted with each other. Ultimately, he discovered that a key reason couples were happy in long-term relationships was that they had a solid friendship together. This book incorporates much of these findings from Dr. Gottman, along with exercises and questionnaires for couples to work on to better understand themselves and their relationship and ways to improve it together.” —Dr. Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., a Los Angeles-based psychologist.
Feeling Good Together: The Secret to Making Troubled Relationships Work by David Burns
“This is the best relationship book out there for learning and understanding the dynamics that cause all conflict in relationships. Then he provides detailed methods and skills for resolving conflict, including what he calls the ‘five secrets of effective communication.’ The book also paradoxically addresses relationship conflict by having people look at their reasons for not wanting to fix the problem. This is quite common, and sometimes people see advantages (whether they’re aware of them or not) to maintaining conflict. And this causes resistance to resolving it.” —Steve Orma, PsyD, a clinical psychologist.
Loving Bravely: Twenty Lessons of Self-Discovery to Help You Get the Love You Want by Dr. Alexandra Solomon
“This book allows you to process your patterns in relationships and your wants and needs. It urges you to consider your history and understand how it impacts you and your partner. The author is an incredibly informative relationship psychology professor and writer and offers insights into how our own expectations can cause issues in relationships and how to build boundaries and expectations healthily.” —Lily Ostler, LMSW, a licensed psychotherapist with Forward in Heels.
The Couples Guide To Thriving With ADHD by Melissa Orlov and Nancie Kohlenberger LMFT
“People I am sure have married and divorced not understanding what went wrong. Dealing with ADHD is pretty common in relationships, but most people don\’t even realize this and its impact on their partner or relationship. Maybe you have a sloppy partner or a partner who never finishes projects you ask. Don\’t get mad. Think of ways to help and different strategies beyond realizing their issues. Lots of built-up anger can impact relationships, and it helps you get past the anger and see this from another lens so that you can communicate effectively and feel happier in your day-to-day relationship.” —Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and the CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking.