The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work – John Gottman
I love research-based personal development books, and this one is incredibly empirical. With 3,000+ couples studied, the author shares useful tools, conversation templates, and frameworks for keeping a relationship healthy and what to do when things get difficult. You don’t have to be married to benefit from this! I read it when I was single to prepare for a relationship, after all finding the right partner starts with finding the best you.
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
This book isn’t explicitly about relationships, but it is the best book on communication I’ve ever read. Most relationship issues come from miscommunication, so learning how to listen better and how to be understood better is critical. Once you have these tools it will benefit personal relationships, but also all the other interactions you have. These tools are especially helpful when dealing with difficult people.
The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman
If you’re not familiar with this concept, the idea is that people express love in 5 primary ways. And if you are a “hugs and gifts” person while you’re partner is a “words of affirmation” person, both parties can feel neglected since they are not getting the reciprocation they want. This book helps foster these important conversations so we can see the feelings that are really there. These problems don’t go away unless we talk about them.
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus – John Gray
This book is a little dated, but there’s still great things to learn from it. I think of it as a user’s manual to show me my blind spots. For example, I didn’t know that many people like myself see independence as competence, and when others try to help us it feels like they think we’re incompetent. That’s bad if they just want to help us! If we can see things from other perspectives then life gets much easier. Said differently: it’s not about us – and that’s a good thing.
Codependent No More – Melody Beattie
Codependency has been described as “when each person in a relationship is responsible for the other person’s happiness.” What is hard is that often it feels like you’re helping and saving them from themselves, but that emotional dependency is not sustainable. This book really helped me escape the turmoil and resentment that characterizes codependency. If you’re not content alone you won’t be content in a relationship.