The 15 books included below represent some of the best self-help books on the topic of marriage. There are general guides, guides for couples going through crisis, and communication-specific guides. Regardless of the underlying issue or issues for partners, many of the techniques to heal and grow are the same. It’s up to you to determine the best format for you and your spouse to receive the advice.
General Guides for Marriage
The following are general guides on marriage. They focus on some of the common issues married couples face: lack of communication, lost intimacy, and showing love.
1. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert
Author John Gottman has observed married couples through a scientific lens for many years. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is the culmination of his research, filled with questionnaires and activities. If your relationship is under general strain and you want to get back on the path to harmonious living and loving, this is the definitive guide for you.
2. Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples
Co-authored by Harville Hendrix, PhD, and Helen LaKelly Hunt, PhD, Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples has provided millions of readers with practical steps to forge a more satisfying relationship. Using research based on behavioral science, social learning theory, Gestalt therapy, and interpersonal neuroscience, Getting Getting the Love You Want covers how to reignite failing intimacy, reduce negative interactions, and resolve power struggles. Additionally, Hendrix and Hunt delve into subjects like how to become better friends, laugh more in the relationship, achieve a common vision, and listen more closely to each other.
3. Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up
Marriage Rules: A Manual For The Married And The Coupled Up uses a unique format to reach people who may want to improve their relationship. As a list of more than one hundred rules, it’s the perfect guide for today’s world of social media-sized attention spans and bite-sized content. It offers solutions to old and new problems, practical advice to navigate road bumps, and fuel to begin meaningful conversations that are necessary to building a successful partnership.
4. The Normal Bar: The Surprising Secrets of Happy Couples and What They Reveal About Creating a New Normal in Your Relationship
The Normal Bar is based on survey data from roughly 100,000 people. It offers readers a baseline for what could be considered “normal” in a relationship, helping them to achieve higher levels of understanding and engagement. Beyond providing a baseline, it also presents a peek behind the curtain, so to speak, helping readers in relationships get out of ruts and stay out. Author and wellness entrepreneur Chrisanna Northrup, along with sociologists Pepper Schwartz and James Witte, have designed an interactive look into how to preserve romance and trust, regardless of background.
5. Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts
This book is specifically for serious couples and the newly engaged, although it’s still applicable for partners in a long-term marriage. Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts, written by relationship experts Drs. Les and Lesli Parrott, is an award-winning approach to self-guided premarital counseling that comes with companion workbooks for men and women. Readers will learn about conflict resolution, money management, marriage misbeliefs, and more.
6. The Art of Loving
Author, psychoanalyst, and social philosopher Erich Fromm candidly explores all kinds of love in The Art of Loving. In addition to romantic love, he also touches on familial love, self-love, and, for religious readers, a love of God or some higher power. He believes all capacities for love feed into one another, so if you’re able to strengthen one relationship, it can help you naturally strengthen them all. Primary topics include maturity, self-knowledge, courage, and understanding.
7. Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
The New York Times and Time both claim that Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversation for a Lifetime of Love has the highest rate of success in the category of self-help for married couples. Author Dr. Sue Johnson uses emotionally focused therapy to help readers re-establish emotional bonds and preserve a healthy level of attachment. Two specific topics she covers are “Recognizing the Demon Dialogue,” and “Revisiting a Rocky Moment,” offering practical tips, exercises, and touch points for transformative conversations.
Self-Help Books for Marriages in Crisis
All marriages need maintenance, but sometimes, there is a specific issue or underlying problem—a crisis that requires focused attention. The next three books are helpful for partners going through decidedly tough times.
8. Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away: Real Help for Desperate Hearts in Difficult Marriages
This is the book for people in marriages who feel like giving up. Author and experienced marriage and family counselor Gary Chapman believes that in a troubled marriage, both partners can “take positive steps that have the potential for changing the emotional climate in their marriage.” He teaches readers how to recognize and reject marriage myths, understand their partner’s actions, and take responsibility for their own. Whether you’re learning to communicate and connect with a partner who is uncommunicative, a workaholic, unfaithful, or depressed, Loving Your Spouse can help.
9. Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage
For some partners, toxic in-laws are a problem. From New York Time bestselling bestselling author Susan Forward, ToxicToxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage presents a powerful opportunity to help couples cope with troublesome in-laws like “the critics” or “the controllers.” Forward shares real-life stories of men and women struggling to manage these frustrating, sometimes hurtful relationships. Her aim is to give readers the tools they need to find peace within chaos.
10. Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
Authors and leading marriage researchers John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman present readers with eight conversations on key topics like money, sex, and trust. Their step-by-step guide draws on forty years of the Gottmans’ research on make-or-break issues including spirituality, curiosity, and sense of adventure. Readers will encounter interactive prompts and activities, skills needed for intimate conversations, validation of their efforts, and encouragement to either fix what’s been broken or make stronger what is already strong.
Communication-Based Self-Help Boks for Marriage
Good communication is the foundation on which to build any marriage, but we’re not all born with skills in that area. It takes work to understand your own style of communication, your partner’s, and how you both could improve.
11. Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship
Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT, uses neuroscience to explain how our brains process the concepts of security, attachment, and rituals differently. From there, he teaches partners how to rewire their brains to be more loving and attuned to each other’s methods of communication. Readers will learn Tatkin’s ten principles to creating a lasting relationship built on trust. He also explores concepts like the “couple bubble,” morning and evening rituals, and “the loving brain.”
12. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
Since this book from Gary Chapman was published, the term “love language” has become ubiquitous. Chapman’s approach to showing and receiving love in a personalized way has helped couples everywhere to connect, communicate, and discover more intimacy. As a #1 New York Times international bestseller, The 5 Love Languages includes a personal profile assessment, so readers can determine their love language and that of their significant other.
13. On Love: A Novel
On Love is a bestselling debut novel by Alain De Botton. While it is fictional, the profound storytelling presents an underlying truth in the way that only fiction can. De Botton explores each stage of a relationship, illuminating universal issues like communication, and celebrating mature conflict resolution in the face of hardship. Couples counselors and therapists have been recommending this book to their clients since it came out, recommending it as timeless reading for those who are in love and want to communicate that love with their partner.
14. The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work
The New Rules of Marriage embraces the fact that times have changed and so has marriage. Women are no longer subservient in a marriage, and men are no longer expected to be absent in the name of providing. Author and therapist Terrence Real offers tools for both women and men to create the relationship they crave and deserve, and repair any damage that might have been done in the past. At the end of this book, readers can expect to know more about setting limits, articulating wants and needs, listening and responding, and seeking outside help.
15. Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted
The secret to building a long-lasting relationship is fairly simple according to author, psychotherapist, and clinical social worker Marcia Naomi Berger. She says you need to have weekly meetings—a designated time to show appreciation, coordinate chores, discuss new ways of having fun with your partner, and manage healthy conflict resolution. Her tips and techniques have helped hundreds of couples develop a deeper and more meaningful connection.
For Further Reading
- Check out our in-depth review of the Lasting App
- Looking for someone you can talk to? Check out the best online therapy services available today.
- Read the best books for better communication