The Best Relationship Books of All Time - A Your Story Therapist's Guide
Updated: Apr 3
Clinician Approved and Recommended books to transform and improve your communication skills with your partner(s).
Relationships are the most important thing in our lives.They are a key factor in overall well-being and even longevity in life. More than our careers, our bank accounts, and even our health! Our relationships determine how happy we are and how much we enjoy life. But why do so many of us find it so hard to make them work? Why do we keep making the same mistakes in love over and over again? And how can we be sure our relationships will last a lifetime?
These days, there are books about relationships on almost every store shelf. Feeling overwhelmed and unsure of which one will actually help? My name is Judy Lui, I’m the clinical director and supervisor for Your Story Counselling Services, A Psychotherapy clinic in Concord, Ontario providing online and in-office therapy support. My team and I offer individual, couples, family, trauma, and sex therapy. We’ve spent countless hours providing support to folks wanting to strengthen and improve their relationships with their romantic partner(s). Let us help you take the guesswork out of choosing the right resources for yourself!
The following is a list of three amazing resources to add to your personal library and get you started on your path to better communication, deeper conversations, and stronger relationships. All three of these relationship books contain insight and wisdom helpful for couples at any age, and any stage of their relationship.
🥉Number Three: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work- John Gottman
About the Authors
John Gottman and Nan Silver are the authors of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert. John Gottman is a psychologist who has studied married couples his whole career. He is recognized as one of the most cited researchers in his field. Nan Silver is an experienced writer with a long history of writing about family issues and relationships. She has written for a wide variety of publications, including Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Self, Vogue, Working Woman, New York Magazine, and the New York Times Book Review. Together, they have published several books that take research from Gottman's studies and present them in practical ways for people who want to improve their relationships.
About the Book
In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, readers are presented with a practical guide from the country's foremost relationship expert. The authors lay out seven principles that can teach partners new approaches for resolving conflicts, creating new common ground, and achieving greater levels of intimacy.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work has revolutionized the way we understand, repair, and strengthen marriages. John Gottman’s unprecedented study of couples over a period of years has allowed him to observe the habits that can make—and break—a marriage. Straightforward yet profound, these principles teach partners new approaches for resolving conflicts, creating new common ground, and achieving greater levels of intimacy. Compassionate yet practical, The Seven Principles offers a step-by-step guide to building a robust marriage full of trust, support, affirmation, and affection.
This book gives couples the tools to communicate better about their problems and to learn how to repair their issues after a fight has occurred. This is not a book for people who are having serious issues in their marriage, but it can be an effective tool for those who need guidance on some smaller problems that may occur during the course of a marriage or long-term relationship.
If you are looking for support around serious conflicts and miscommunications within your relationship(s), we’d recommend seeking out a mental health professional. Most therapists offer a free 15-minute consultation to determine if they would be the right person or fit for your needs. Most of us don’t realize that reaching out for help before things get ‘really bad’ or really out of hang is when therapy is most effective. Seeking help only when things are at a breaking point often means longer periods of repair work and thus longer periods of time in therapy and treatment. Have some questions about therapy? Visit our FAQ page, contact us to ask questions, or learn more about our team of therapists before signing up for a free 15 minute consult!
Our biggest takeaway
The most important message you can learn from this book is how important it is for couples to create an atmosphere of trust, respect and affection when they are dealing with marital issues. This mutual ground will eventually lead one towards finding solutions together rather than fighting against each other. This book helps its readers realize that having an open dialogue about problems within the relationship is essential to understanding each other better and working through those difficulties together as well as individually seeking out resources outside our own relationship if needed (i.e., individual counselling, couples & relational counselling).
Some of the main takeaways from reading this book include:
There is no secret to having a successful marriage — instead, the key is hard work.
A good marriage often means being open to change and trying new things while also holding onto what works.
The key to having better communication in a marriage is to understand each other's points of view.
What readers are saying about it
"This book is the real deal, a true classic. If you are in a relationship, this book has the power to change your life." (Dr. Phil McGraw)
"Sensible, realistic advice for revitalizing a relationship. A great tool for marriage guidance counseling." (Library Journal)
🥈Number Two: The State of Affairs - Esther Perel
About the Author
Mating in Captivity is a book written by Esther Perel, a couples therapist and psychologist. Perel was born and raised in Antwerp, Belgium to Polish parents who survived World War II. After attending a French-speaking high school, she studied psychology at the University of Paris, and moved to Israel in 1974. She then worked as a psychologist at Beit Lessin Theater in Tel Aviv before moving to New York City in 1984. She has been a resident psychotherapist of the International Trauma Studies Program at Columbia University since 1996 and maintains a private practice in New York City. She has appeared on US television programs including TED Talks and The Oprah Winfrey Show. In 2007 Time Magazine named her one of the most influential people in the world.
Perel has published two books, Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence and The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. She also has a podcast called Where Should We Begin? where she records sessions with real couples who are struggling with their relationship. Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence is Perel's first book. It discusses the paradoxical nature of loving, intimate relationships; that is, the fact that such relationships require both close familiarity and vigorous novelty, and how ultimately these two states cannot coexist.
About the Book
Mating In Captivity is an exploration of how to keep desire and passion alive within a committed long-term relationship. The book is based on Perel’s 15 years of experience listening to couples, who have come to her when their relationships have hit a crisis point.
Mating in Captivity delves deep into the dynamics of eroticism in committed relationships and how it can be nurtured in order to keep the long-term relationship alive. Through a series of personal reflections and antidotes, alongside case studies that Perel brings in of real couples and the conversations she has had with them in therapy, Perel brings the reader into the journey of how relationships can keep the balance of love and tenderness alongside the desire for more erotic and sexually intimacy (i.e. erotic intelligence).
Erotic intelligence is not a given. It needs to be cultivated and nourished through an understanding of the erotic mind, and the skills and practices that support it. Erotic intelligence requires one to understand the difference between sex and eroticism, as well as being able to address the false dichotomies such as freedom vs. domesticity; passion vs. commitment; lust vs. intimacy.
Perel’s work essentially breaks down into two parts: safety/security (the world of “I”) and eroticism (the world of “We”). In our intimate relationships, we try to have both – we want to feel secure and safe but also have erotic feelings for our partner. These two worlds often come into conflict with each other because they are opposites. In fact, Perel says that being too close can kill desire. She argues that to maintain desire in a long-term relationship we need to find ways to maintain this tension between safety/security and eroticism.
Some of the main takeaways from reading this book include:
1) Passionate relationships require space.
2) Eroticism requires mystery.
The book is a guide on how to bring the spark back into relationships. It’s not about how to get people together, it’s about how to keep them together and make the relationship more fun, passionate and exciting. Couples often will come into therapy complaining of the lack of sexual intimacy and eroticism that once was a part of their connection with each other.
Life can throw a lot at us and the business of life can make it hard sometimes to figure out how to reconnect and find the deeply intimate and erotic (and fun!) parts of ourselves and with our partners. Couples therapists are trained to also help with finding and reigniting that spark. Therapy can give you a space to explore what have been the factors that have gotten in the way, and help you through tough and hard conversations that ultimately have been the roadblocks towards you and your partner getting back to intimacy. Does this sound a little like what you are going through? Get support before it gets to a point of no return. Not sure where to start? visit our FAQ page. contact us to ask questions, or learn more about our team of therapists before signing up for a free 15 minute consultation.
What readers are saying about this book
“The book was a recommendation from a friend, who is a therapist. I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. The content itself is great, but the way the author writes about sex, relationships and marriage makes you feel like you are sitting in her office and she is talking just to you. She speaks with such honesty, wisdom and compassion. It's truly stunning.”
“I think we all have issues in our relationship - some big and some small - that aren't easily addressed or talked about with our partner(s). This book addresses many of them in a straight-forward, non-judgmental way that allows for self reflection without feeling shame or guilt. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand their own relationship better and what they can do to make it stronger!”
🥇 1st Place
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a lifetime of love (2008) - Sue Johnson
About the Author
Hold me tight recognize that love is never easy, but it can be learned. The author Sue Johnson is the founder of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT), one of the most effective forms of couples therapy in the world today.
This book is based on Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), a short-term form of therapy that focuses on adult relationships and attachment/bonding. Together with compelling case studies from Johnson’s work as a couples therapist, Hold Me Tight invites the reader to think more deeply about why we say things the way we do and why we react to others in the way that we react.
About the Book
Hold Me Tight is a series of conversations, guided by Dr. Sue Johnson and based on cutting-edge science and theory. These conversations have been tested and proven to help couples reconnect effectively together.
Over millions of years, we have evolved a deep emotional need to bond and connect with others, but we are not taught how to create and maintain these bonds. In this book, you will learn how to work with your partner to achieve secure attachment – the sense of safety and trust that comes from feeling accepted just as you are.
Johnson supposits that most problems in relationships come from deeper underlying issues stemming from childhood, saying that these issues arise because we are not taught how to form secure loving bonds and/or attachments. She states that the way we treat our partners is simply an extension of the way we were treated as children by our parents and others. If we seek validation from our partner, then it means that we might have lacked these experiences as children. If we criticize our partner or are overly critical in general, it could be because we were criticized as children or have learned this behaviour from the adults in our lives.
This book provides couples with “communication tools” they can use to get their needs met without hurting each other. It teaches couples how to show each other they care through nonverbal and verbal communication and begin the process of healing our previous wounds by learning how to ask for what we need.
These days, almost all couples and relational therapists utilize Emotion Focused Therapy in their work with clients. While it is a highly effective therapeutic model, it can be a tough one for couples to wrap their heads around, especially when learning about such theories for the first time ever. If you are finding yourself overwhelmed or unsure of how to practically enforce some of the ideas in this book, we would recommend seeking out a couples therapy to help guide you through this journey. Not sure where to start? visit our FAQ page. contact us to ask questions, or learn more about our team of therapists before signing up for a free 15 minute consultation.
The most common reason that couples drift apart and no longer feel connected to each other is because they're unhappy with the way their relationship has changed over time. They may feel that their partner doesn't understand them anymore or isn't interested in spending time together anymore. These feelings can lead them to believe that their marriage isn't working out anymore so there is no point trying hard at it anymore.
If you are feeling down in your relationship then take action right now! Figure out what your partner needs from you (and vice versa!) and get back in sync and harmony with each other. Too often do we step away thinking that the other person may not want us, too often do we miss the opportunity to truly hold each other tight.
Hold Me Tight is the best researched and most comprehensive book on relationship science. According to Dr. Johnson, it is not only the most important book on relationships but also the most important book you will ever read. The book explores the tools of love and how we can use them to achieve a lifetime of happiness in our relationships.
What readers are saying about this book
"This book explains why we do what we do in our relationships, and how to fix it."
"An excellent book for all relationships, especially for those couples who feel like the love is gone and need a second chance."
"A must-read for people who are in a relationship or want to be in one!"
Judy is the founder and clinical director of Your Story Counselling Services, A private practice clinic in Vaughan Ontario servicing individuals, couples, and families across the Greater Toronto Area. As a Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor, Judy is passionate about creating change and making mental health services more safe and accessible to the public. Judy believes in working collaboratively with others so that they can get back to themselves and their preferred way of life and living.
To learn more about the Your Story Counselling Team and the services we offer click here.
If you have additional questions regarding the contents of this article please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to answer you.
Should you have questions or inquiries regarding counselling and the process of counselling, please visit our FAQ page. contact us to ask questions, or learn more about our team of therapists before signing up for a free 15 minute consultation.
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The information provided in this article is intended to be general knowledge and does not constitute as professional advice or treatment. This information is not intended for the use of diagnosis or treatment. Please do not share or distribute this article without the proper referencing or written/verbal consent of Judy Lui. Additional information can be found at www.yourstorycounselling.com or requested via email@example.com
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