Whether you have been in a relationship for a decade or just started getting serious, it is important to keep things on track. Although no relationship is perfect and everyone has problems once in a while, you have to know how to deal with these problems as they come up so you don’t say or do something that will cause irreparable damage. Marriage counseling books can be great for helping you through the tough times. Here are the top five marriage counseling books we recommend.
How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny
If marriage was a college course, this would be the essential textbook. Patricia Love and Steven Stosny make you think about why improving your relationship can be so difficult. In the first section, they talk about how the connection between partners can be broken and why we fight. It goes on to analyze what men think and feel, why women shame men, why men become distant, and how fear and separation can cause infidelity that may lead to separation or divorce.
Part two is all about your core values, how to transform the shame and fear in your relationship, using intimacy instead of words, connection skills you will need, how to forget your feelings and think about motivation, strengthening your relationship, and the power love formula. This second section also includes something called binocular vision. Most of us go through life with monocular vision. That means we only see what we have already seen, heard, or felt before. Binocular vision lets you see further ahead to new information. With binocular vision, you are looking through the eyes of your partner, so you see things how he or she sees them. There are self-tests you can take and exercises to help you develop these tools to make your relationship better.
Couple Skills by Matthew McKay, Patrick Fanning, and Kim Paleg
Sure, you may think you have mastered the skills of relationships a long time ago. But if you are reading this, chances are good that you need a refresher course. Some of the basic skills in this book do relate to the most basic like how to listen to each other, learning to express your feelings and needs, and reciprocal reinforcement, which are the activities we do to make each other happy. The advanced skills section takes you through four skills that we all think we know but may not really be doing them right. These include clean communication, identifying and changing negative thoughts, learning to negotiate, and problem-solving.
Anger and conflict have their own section in the book with four chapters. That is because these are the areas we really need to learn to make the relationship work. Things like aversive strategies, dealing with anger, dealing with an angry partner, and time out or stepping out for a minute. The last area of the book is about learning what is wrong and how to fix it. This part includes learning your partner’s schemas, dealing with defenses, fixing your couple system, the expectations and rules of the game, and the acceptance and commitment agreement for couples. There are workbooks, journaling, and exercises in each chapter that really help you relate.
Fight Fair by Tim and Joy Downs
What stands out first in this book is that it is written by a married couple. That is a good sign. Also, it is about fighting because all marriages have conflict and it is important that we know how to deal with it. There are ways to express yourself in a conflict that will not wreck your relationship so you can fight fair. Sometimes we say things that will irreparably damage our relationship and this book tells you how to not do that. Another bonus is that it is a casual book with interesting quotes, comics, and memes to keep your interest. Because some of us need motivation to read a book longer than one or two pages.
The lightheartedness of the book makes it easier to relate to and having your relationship referred to as “the game” is an interesting way to do it. Learning the rules of playing the game, the object of the game, playing fair, and tips on how you can both win the game together, rather than just one of you winning is an excellent way to look at things. The authors give you conflict resolution skills to improve your relationship with your partner as well as with everyone else you relate with on a regular basis. Because everyone fights, you just have to make sure you fight fair so you can both win the game.
The Relationship Cure by Dr. John Gottman
Dr. John Gottman has written several bestselling books about relationships so he can be considered an expert in the field. This book is a five-step guide to strengthen your relationships with your partner as well as friendships and family relationships. The book is full of activities and questionnaires to help you become better at fixing your relationship skills. Rather than focusing on how to get your relationship to work, this book really focuses on how to improve your own relationship skills so that all of your relationships will be better.
We know that we are not perfect, and that conflict happens in all relationships. It is how we handle the conflict that matters. Similar to the Fight Fair book by Tim and Joy Downs, this one also turns your relationships into a sort of game that Gottman calls emotional bidding. The bids he refers to include things like offering your partner comments and looks and waiting to see whether they accept your offer (bid). It is a very interesting and impactful way to look at how relationships can be improved with simple gestures.
47 Little Love Boosters for a Happy Marriage by Marko Petkovic
Because everyone always seems so busy nowadays, Marko Petkovic has introduced 47 ways we can boost our relationship without having to slow down. It is geared for any relationship, no matter whether it is fresh and new or if you have been married for years. However, the book is really impactful for those who seem to have gotten into a rut because they have been together so long that things have gotten more like a routine than a relationship.
An interesting and unique part of this book can be found online where the author leads you to a special website with a plethora of information on how to perk up any relationship. It also has many cheat sheets and checklists to keep track of how you are doing. This is not a book to read and then put back on the shelf. This is a guide to keep with you throughout your lifetime with skills and tips to keep things interesting all the time, so you don’t fall into that rut again.
Reaching Out for Help
Of course, sometimes you may need more than just a book or a website to work things out in your relationship. If you and your partner just cannot seem to click lately, or you cannot talk without arguing about even the smallest things, talking to a relationship counselor can really help. With ReGain.us, you can do it online and don’t even need an appointment. Easy and fast, whenever you want. In fact, you can try it right now.
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