The Love Library – 39+ Essential Reads on Relationship and Communication that Could Change Your Life

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Relationship wisdom that should be in your library.   These are the books that have been game-changers for my relationships, and those of my clients. I polled all of the therapists in my network and these are our favorite books to sharpen your relationship skills.

Communication Skills

Marshall Rosenberg authored one of my favorite books on communication of all time, Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life. It’s a very simple concept, learning to speak with observations, feelings, needs and requests.  This book changes a lot of people’s life.  Difficult conversations become much easier.

In this precise and practical guide, Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh reveals how to listen mindfully and express your fullest and most authentic self. With examples from his work with couples, families, and international conflicts, The Art of Communicating helps us move beyond the perils and frustrations of misrepresentation and misunderstanding to learn the listening and speaking skills that will forever change how we experience and impact the world. 

4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication in Love, Life, Work–Anywhere! is an excellent how-to guide for practicing the key skills that will help you identify and overcome communication barriers and achieve relationship success with the important people in your life–your spouse or partner, child or children, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, customers–everyone! Plus, there are Self-Review Questions and Action Items at the end of several of the chapters.  These skills will help you to:

 

  • Listen with greater empathy and understanding to what the other person is saying and feeling
  • Avoid listening blocks to effective communication
  • Engage in empathic dialogue to achieve mutual understanding
  • Manage conflicts and disagreements calmly and successfully
  • Nurture your relationships on a consistent basis
  • Experience the power of expressing gratitude and appreciation

Relationships Guides for Couples

If I were going to choose just one book  to give a couple, it would be The Conscious Heart by Gay and Katie Hendricks.   Topics discussed are:

  • Use conflict to create greater understanding
  • Overcome the fears and defenses that block intimacy
  • Resolve struggles for control
  • Increase generosity and appreciation
  • Deepen passion, commitment, and aliveness
  • Release the creativity of each partner

Also a fabulous read is their earlier book Conscious Loving.  Each page seems to have a useful nugget or tool for any couple. Topics:

  • Let go  of power struggles and need for control;
  • Balance  needs for closeness and separateness
  • Increase  intimacy by telling the “microscopic truth”
  • Communicate in a positive way that stops  arguments
  • Make agreements you can keep
  • Allow more  pleasure into your life.

In the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, 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. The Principals:
1. Enhance Your Love Maps
2. Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration
3. Turn towards each other instead of away
4. Let your partner influence you
5. Solve your solvable problems
6. Overcome gridlock
7. Create shared meaning

In The Relationship Cure Gottman reveals the key elements of healthy relationships, emphasizing the importance of what he calls “emotional connection”
– Introduces the powerful new concept of the emotional “bid,” the fundamental unit of emotional connection

 In Eight Dates he discusses 8 key conversations needed for a successful relationship:

1. Trust and Commitment
2. Addressing Conflict
3. Sex and Intimacy
4. Work and Money
5. Family
6. Fun and Adventure
7. Growth and Spirituality
8. Dreams

 

In Getting the Love You Want, Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt explain how to revive romance and remove negativity from daily interactions, to help you: · Discover why you chose your mate · Resolve the power struggle that prevents greater intimacy · Learn to listen – really listen – to your partner · Increase fun and laughter in your relationship · Begin healing early childhood experiences by stretching into new behaviors · Become passionate friends with your partner · Achieve a common vision of your dream relationship A workbook is also available.

Harville Hendrix has transformed our understanding of what makes us fall in love – and what makes it last. His Imago Relationship therapy, co-created with his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt, is a proven healing process now used by more than 2,000 therapists worldwide. With Finding and Keeping Love, this world-renowned relationship therapist brings you the most important practices and insights from Imago therapy distilled from more than three decades of working with singles, couples, and parents. Whether you’re still looking for that special person or you’re already in a committed relationship, here is a program to help you better understand yourself, your partner, and the vital ingredients for deep and lasting love.

In Passionate Marriage, David Schnarch explores the ways we can keep passion alive and even reach the height of sexual and emotional fulfillment later in life. A guide towards greater intimacy with proven techniques developed in his clinical practice and worldwide workshops. Chapters―covering everything from understanding love relationships to helpful “tools for connections” to keeping the sparks alive years down the road―provide the scaffolding for overcoming sexual and emotional problems. This inspirational book is sure to help couples invigorate their relationships and reach the fullest potential in their love lives.
In Keeping the Love You Find,  Harville Hendrix Ph.D. and Helen LaKelly Hunt Ph.D., discuss finding a dream partner in life. It’s a natural human instinct and your dream is perfectly achievable. However, even the most well-adjusted people can have unresolved conflicts that make them seek out unsuitable romantic partners, unwittingly sabotage their relationships, and run from commitment without ever knowing the reasons why.   Identify your Imago — the fantasy partner in your unconscious mind, which has a hidden agenda of its own, has chosen for you.
  • Break free from those patterns in your parents’ marriage that you have unknowingly accepted as your relationship model.
  • Create hope in place of despair, companionship instead of loneliness.
  • Develop communication skills to turn conflict into contact — and togetherness.
  • Transform every past relationship into a source of positive growth.
  • Discover the rewards of real love — and the little things that make it last.

Wired for Love by Stan Tatkin is a complete insider’s guide to understanding your partner’s brain and enjoying a romantic relationship built on love and trust. Synthesizing research findings on how and why love lasts drawn from neuroscience, attachment theory, and emotion regulation, this book presents ten guiding principles that can improve any relationship.

Strengthen your relationship by:

• Creating and maintaining a safe “couple bubble”
• Using morning and evening rituals to stay connected
• Learning to fight so that nobody loses
• Becoming the expert on what makes your partner feel loved

By learning to use simple gestures and words, readers can learn to put out emotional fires and help their partners feel more safe and secure. The no-fault view of conflict in this book encourages readers to move past a “warring brain” mentality and toward a more cooperative “loving brain” understanding of the relationship. This book is essential reading for couples and others interested in understanding the complex dynamics at work behind love and trust in intimate relationships.

In We Do, Tatkin provides a groundbreaking guide for couples. You’ll figure out whether you and your partner are right for each other in the long term, and if so, give your relationship a strong foundation so you can enjoy a secure and lasting love. Highlights include:

Create a shared vision for your relationship, the key to a strong foundation

• It’s all about prevention―learn tools and techniques for preventing problems before they occur
• Understand how to work with the psychological and biological influences in your relationship―neuroscience, arousal regulation, attachment theory, and more
• Numerous case studies with helpful examples of healthy and unhealthy interactions, sample dialogues, and reflections
• Dozens of exercises―the newlywed game, reading facial expressions, and many more fun and serious practices to develop intimacy and security
• Handling conflict―how to broker win-win outcomes
• Build a loving relationship that helps you thrive and grow as both individuals and a couple

The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman helps you translate how to express your love so that someone else can receive it.  The five languages are:

Words of Affirmation
Quality Time
Receiving Gifts
Acts of Science
Physical Touch

Undefended Love, a book written by two lesbian therapist authors Jett Psaris and Marlena S. Lyons.  It  precisely maps a unique journey that turns the problems and conflicts that inevitably arise in relationships into opportunities for deeper connection. Illuminating case studies, guided self-inquiries, and challenging exercises help you discover how to engage your partner in a deeper dialogue and find ways of expressing the most profound and untamed aspects of your nature.

In Celebrating Partnership, Allison Armstrong unique understanding of how differently men and women think, speak, listen, collaborate, and approach planning and implementation.

  • Honor the strengths, challenges, and needs of both sexes
  • Heal past hurts and insults that prevent you and your partners from participating completely
  • Skillfully incorporate each other’s genius and passions in consciously designing The Plan for your relationship, family, or business
  • Set conflict and compromise aside.

Use Alison’s “Let’s Make a Deal” method to leave everyone grinning in unprecedented satisfaction.

John Sanford, in The Invisible Partners, helps explicate the positive and negative sides of the complex animus and anima shadow personalities that complement women’s and men’s conscious personalities. Sanford, in his quite accessible style, shares examples of how we project our shadows as well as how our shadow projections are often inner callings for us more fully living our own under lived wholeness.

Dating and Finding Love

In Calling in “The One, Katherine Woodward Thomas shares her own personal experience to show women that in order to find the relationship that will last a lifetime, you have to be truly open and ready to create a loving, committed, romantic union. Calling in “The One”shows you how.

Based on the Law of Attraction, which is the concept that we can only attract what we’re ready to receive, the provocative yet simple seven-week program in Calling in “The One” prepares you to bring forth the love you seek. For each of the 49 days of Thomas’s thoughtful and life-affirming plan, there is a daily lesson, a corresponding practice, and instruction for putting that lesson into action in your life. Meditation, visualization, and journaling exercises will gently lead you to recognize the obstacles on your path to love and provide ways to steer around them. At the end of those 49 days, you will be in the ideal emotional state to go out into the world and find “The One.”

In Attached, Psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller scientifically explain why why some people seem to navigate relationships effortlessly, while others struggle in a discussion on attachment theory. 

Most of us  behave in three major ways:
• Anxious people are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back

   • Avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness.
   • Secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving.

 

Attached guides readers in determining what attachment style they and their mate (or potential mate) follow, offering a road map for building stronger, more fulfilling connections with the people they love.

Sex and Intimacy

Mating in Captivity, Unlocking the Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel invites us to explore the paradoxical union of domesticity and sexual desire, and explains what it takes to bring lust home.

Drawing on more than twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, Perel examines the complexities of sustaining desire. Through case studies and lively discussion, Perel demonstrates how more exciting, playful, and even poetic sex is possible in long-term relationships. Wise, witty, and as revelatory as it is straightforward, Mating in Captivity is a sensational book that will transform the way you live and love.

In Resurrecting Sex, Dr. David Schnarch helps to resolve sexual difficulties and the relationship problems they cause. He reveals complicated emotional interactions hidden within couples’ most private moments. Resurrecting Sex speaks of compassion, partnership, generosity, and integrity in adult sexual relationships, offering hope to millions of people — golden-anniversary marriages, newly formed couples, and singles alike — who are struggling with sexual difficulties.

Uplifting, provocative, and heartfelt, the book is organized into four sections:

  • A crash course in sex
  • Explanation of how sexual relationships really work
  • Medical options and bionic solutions
  • Vignettes of couples changing their sexual relationships

Addresses all major sexual issues, including male erection problems such as rapid orgasm and delayed orgasm; women’s problems with arousal and lubrication, difficulty reaching orgasm, and low desire; full coverage of Viagra (for both men and women); and other sex-enhancing drugs and medical options. Rather than dwelling on sexual techniques, this sympathetic book shows how to cure the rejection, hostility, and emotional alienation that often accompany sexual problems. Its unique method helps couples develop the love, affection, and commitment that prevent divorce and strengthen families.

Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski Ph.D.is an essential exploration of why and how women’s sexuality works—based on groundbreaking research and brain science—that will radically
transform your sex life into one filled with confidence and joy.

The first lesson in this essential, transformative book by Dr. Emily Nagoski is that every woman has her own unique sexuality, like a
fingerprint, and that women vary more than men in our anatomy, our sexual response mechanisms,  and the way our bodies respond to the sexual
world. So we never need to judge ourselves based on others’experiences. Because women vary, and that’s normal.

Second lesson: sex happens in a context. And all the complications of everyday
life influence the context surrounding a woman’s arousal, desire, andorgasm.

The most important factor for women in creating and sustaining a fulfilling sex life, is not what you do in bed or how you do it, but how you feel about it.
Which means that stress, mood, trust, and body image are not peripheral factors in a woman’s sexual wellbeing; they are central to it.

Also with workbook.

Sex at Dawn is a controversial, idea-driven book that challenges everything you (think you) know about sex, monogamy, marriage, and family. A wonderfully provocative and well-written book which completely re-evaluates human sexual behavior and gets to the root of many of our social and psychological ills.

Spirituality, Self-Inquiry and Love

At once practical, playful, and spiritually sound, this book is about creating a new love story in your life. Drawing from Christian, Buddhist, Sufi and other spiritual traditions, If the Buddha Dated shows how to find a partner without losing yourself. Kasl, a practicing psychotherapist, workshop leader, and Reiki healer for thirty years, offers practical wisdom on using the path to love as a means of awakening.

If the Buddha Dated teaches that when you stay loyal to your spiritual journey, you will bring curiosity, fascination, and a light heart to the dating process.

In the Vortex, Abraham Hicks work on how the Law of Attractions affects your relationship to your partner and describes how to affect your experience from the inside.

This book uncovers a myriad of false premises that are at the heart of every uncomfortable relationship issue, and guides you to a clear understanding of the powerful creative Vortex that has already assembled the relationships that you have desired.

In I Need Your LoveIs That True? Byron Katie examines a universal, age-old source of anxiety: our relationships with others.  Katie helps you question everything you have been taught to do to gain love and approval. In doing this, you discover how to find genuine love and connection.

Katie helps you illuminate every area in your life where you seem to lack what you long for most—the love of your spouse, the respect of your child, a lover’s tenderness, or the esteem of your boss. Through its penetrating inquiry, you will quickly discover the falseness of the accepted ways of seeking love and approval, and also of the mythology that equates love with need. Using the method in this book, you will inquire into painful beliefs that you’ve based your whole life on—and be delighted to see them evaporate. Katie shows you how unraveling the knots in the search for love, approval, and appreciation brings real love and puts you in charge of your own happiness.

In A Thousand Names for Joy, she encourages us to discover the freedom that lives on the other side of inquiry.

Stephen Mitchell–the renowned translator of the Tao Te Ching–selected provocative excerpts from that ancient text as a stimulus for Katie to talk about the most essential issues that face us all: life and death, good and evil, love, work, and fulfillment. With her stories of total ease in all circumstances, Katie does more than describe the awakened mind; she lets you see it, feel it, in action.

In Being in Love, Osho—one of the most revolutionary thinkers of our time, and a famous dead guru—challenges us to question what we think we know about love and opens us to the possibility of a love that is natural, fulfilling, and free of possessiveness and jealousy.

Intimacy and Solitude  allows us to understand our relationships with others through a deepened and more self-accepting relationship with ourselves. Why do we behave as we do, if it doesn’t get us what we want? Can we balance our needs for closeness and for independence? Can we understand our emotional history and go beyond it? How do we negotiate our needs with those of other people? Can we become the lover, partner, or friend we long to be? Gay, straight, old, young; we want our relationships to “work.” Through a variety of moving, personal stories, a rare breadth of well-founded ideas, and her own inspiring belief in the rewards of love, Stephanie Dowrick shows how possible it is to experience the pleasures of self-acceptance—and the lasting joy of satisfying connections with others.

Healing Dysfunction and Addiction

Is someone else’s problem your problem? If, like so many others, you’ve lost sight of your own life in the drama of tending to someone else’s, you may be codependent–and you may find yourself in this book–Codependent No More.The healing touchstone of millions, this modern classic by one of America’s best-loved and most inspirational authors holds the key to understanding codependency and to unlocking its stultifying hold on your life.

With instructive life stories, personal reflections, exercises, and self-tests, Codependent No More is a simple, straightforward, readable map of the perplexing world of codependency–charting the path to freedom and a lifetime of healing, hope, and happiness.

In this revised and updated version of Facing Love Addiction, Pia Mellody unravels the intricate dynamics of unhealthy love relationships and shows us how to let go of toxic love. Through twelve-step work, exercises, and journal-keeping, Facing Love Addiction compassionately and realistically outlines the recovery process for Love Addicts, and Mellody’s fresh perspective and clear methods work to comfort and motivate all those looking to establish and maintain healthy, happy relationships.

In Facing Codependance, Pia Mellody creates a framework for identifying codependent thinking, emotions and behaviour and provides an effective approach to recovery. Mellody sets forth five primary adult symptoms of this crippling condition, then traces their origin to emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical and sexual abuses that occur in childhood. Central to Mellody’s approach is the concept that the codependent adult’s injured inner child needs healing. Recovery from codependence, therefore, involves clearing up the toxic emotions left over from these painful childhood experiences.

Beyond Monogamy

The Ethical Slut is the classic guide by Janet Hardy to love, sex, and intimacy beyond the limits of conventional monogamy has been fully updated to reflect today’s modern attitudes and the latest information on nontraditional relationships.

In recent years, as more people have discovered polyamory as a legitimate and desirable option for how they conduct their relationships, Franklin and one of his partners, Eve Rickert, saw that there was a growing need for a comprehensive guide to the lifestyle. More Than Two is that guide.

This wide-ranging resource explores the often-complex world of living polyamorously: the nuances (no, this isn’t swinging), the relationship options (do you suit a V, an N, an open network?), the myths (don’t count on wild orgies and endless sex but don’t rule them out either!) and the expectations (communication, transparency and trust are paramount). More Than Two is entirely without judgment and peppered with a good dose of humor. In it the authors share not only their hard-won philosophies about polyamory, but also their hurts and embarrassments. Living poly is not always an easy road, and they hope that by reading this book, you’ll avoid some of the mistakes they’ve made along the way.

Ending Relationships

Coming Apart by Daphne Rose Kingma covers Divorce, the Break Up, and a Broken Heart. 

I first read this book in 1997 and it helped me deal with end of my life’s first significant relationship.   Whether going through a divorce, separation, or break up, Kingma offers the tools and validation needed to move forward.

Bad breakups and stressful situations. Love is great; a broken heart, not so much. Usually accompanied by insomnia, loss of appetite, and depression, the end of a relationship is a hard time for anyone. Getting over a break up requires grit and understanding. This breakup first aid kit helps you get through heartbreak without falling apart and with your self-esteem intact.

Uncoupling and understanding. While only time can heal wounds, understanding what transpired in each of our relationships is what allows us to finally let go and move on. With a refreshing perspective on relationships, Coming Apart helps us understand that all relationships come with lessons to be learned. So, rather than obsess over your ex, explore the critical facets of relationship breakdowns:

  • Why we choose who we choose
  • What relationships are really about
  • The life span of love
  • How to get through the end
  • A personal workbook to process and move forward

Conscious Uncoupling by Katherine Woodward Thomas – We enter our romantic relationships with great love, hope, and excitement–we’ve found the ‘one’, so we plan and forge our futures together.  But sometimes, for many different reasons, relationships come undone; they don’t work out. Commonly, we view this as a personal failure, rather than an opportunity. And instead of honoring what we once meant to each other, we hoard bitterness and anger, stewing in shame and resentment.  Sometimes even lashing out in destructive and hurtful ways, despite the fact that we’re good people at heart. That’s natural: we’re almost biologically primed to respond this way. 

Yet there is another path to the end of a relationship–one filled with mutual respect, kindness, and deep caring.  Katherine Woodward Thomas, author of Calling in “The One” and creator of the groundbreaking method, Conscious Uncoupling, provides the valuable skills and tools for you to travel this challenging terrain with these five thoughtful and thought-provoking steps:
Step 1: Find Emotional Freedom
Step 2: Reclaim Your Power and Your Life
Step 3: Break the Pattern, Heal Your Heart
Step 4: Become a Love Alchemist
Step 5: Create Your Happy Even After Life

This paradigm-shifting guide will steer you away from a bitter end and toward a new life that’s empowered and flourishing.

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