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Portland Marriage and Couples Counseling

 
Bernard McDowell, LCSW
Psychotherapist & Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  811 NW 20th Avenue, Suite 104, Portland, Oregon 97209
503-234-9904
Couples Bibliography
The first series of books below specifically address couples.  However, below that is a list of other books which may be more important because they more concretely map out ways and even scripts for navigating conflicts-- including specific examples and the structures of responses that work during conflicts.  Whether you're considering counseling or not, note I am not so much recommending specific books than recommending you take advantage of what others have learned and the increasing amount of scientific research on relationships.  
Why Marriages Succeed Or Fail
John Gottman, PhD
This is the popularized version of Gottman's "research based" conclusions about what it takes for couples to be "successful".  His team put EEGs, blood pressure gauges, heart rate monitors, and video taped thousands of couples in conflict and then studied successful couples vs unsuccessful.  They are able to predict divorce 93% of the time in 5 minutes!  His work in general is often praised for its "scientific" basis.  It offers some surprises while emphasizing common sense approaches:  Complain about specifics rather than globally criticize your spouse's character; offer acknowledgment at a "5 to 1" ratio over complaints -- something successful couples do whether they argue a lot or very little.
The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work
John Gottman, PhD
This book contains much of the same as Gottman's other books though very condensed and very easy to read.  As with the other Gottman books, I recommend them more as the rice and beans of reading about relationships.  The Gottman group's research may not turn you on with sexy insights you've never thought about but the weight of the research can serve as baseline for good relationship hygiene, at least, for all couples whose ego strength can turn over the reigns to their common sense to deal with repetitive conflicts.  
10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage
John and Julie Gottman, PhD
More of the same from the Gottmans.  I categorically believe these books will do minimum harm and may very well help you someday stop from making a mess of things in a critical moment (when there just isn't a clean sock available to get in you mouth).
How To Get The Love You Need
Harville Hendricks
This book emphasizes how patterns formed in our family of origin play out in adult relationships.  Indeed, this book insists on an old view of the psyche assuming your personality is frozen in early childhood.  In light of recent decades of developmental research, this book doesn't account for the human capacity to keep developing into ever more refined patterns of relating to others.  Hendrix is stuck on the need for primary relationships to heal early childhood wounds.  In any case, many psychological theories resonate with the basic theme of this book, though let it be noted that John Gottman, the author of the first book listed here, adamantly disagrees with Hendricks communication advice.
Passionate Marriage
David Schnarch
On the surface this book focuses on conflicts couples have over sexual issues and their struggle to regain a vibrant sex life.  At some points it may read like soft porn, but the substance of the book teaches how critical it is for couples to "differentiate"--learn to allow our partners to have different opinions, tastes, etc. while maintaining a sense of connection and love.  We might say that is the crucial skill for all couples whether about sex, money, in-laws, raising kids, etc.--and that is why I recommend this book; if you do read it, keep your eye on the ball--differentiation--more than on the sexual content which may or may not appeal to your particular predilections.
After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust
Janis Abrahms Spring, PhD
This book attempts (and succeeds to a significant degree) at meeting the searing pain and devastation that typically come along with affairs.  Here you'll find how others navigated these waters; and you may want to borrow some of Spring's practical guidance when you're so crazy from the pain of it all you just can't think straight.
Tell Me No Lies 
Ellen Bader & Peter Pearson
This book isn't a complete guide by any means and I only recommend it for the many valuable examples of alternative dialogues to the ones most couples use (to make a mess of things).   This book may grab your attention by using the word "lies" but the many examples here are, once again, better understood as difficulties in healthy differentiation.
In Quest Of The Mythical Mate
Ellen Bader & Peter Pearson
Used as a textbook for professionals in training, this book may be of value to savvy readers (it is expensive). It attempts a theory of how couples move from one stage of relationship to another.  Definitely not for the casual reader but, if you are passionately interested in the evolution of relationships, you may well be able to navigate through unnecessary theoretical points and glean something important for yourself.
Passage To Intimacy
Lori H. Gordon
Spells out some practical strategies based on relatively informal research on hundreds of couples--quite accessible but possibly hard to get a copy.  Many of these books go through a printing or two. 
The Ship That Sailed Into the Living Room: Sex and Intimacy Reconsidered
Sonia Johnson
Sonia Johnson's take on relation-ships (yes that ''ship' in the title is the same 'ship' as in relation_ship) told through the perpective of her own lesbian relationship and applicable to everyone.  I include this here not for it's modeling of relationships but because, for an attentive reader, it's central metaphor and concomitant stories implicitly feature the concept of differentiation--a necessary and healthy alternative to the two broadest mistakes we swing between--enmeshment and expectation on the one hand to distancing, dissociation, and closing the heart on the other.
How To Be An Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys To Mindful Loving
 David Richo
Don't be put off by either the "how to" in the title or the reference to adulthood.  This book, though simply written rings with truth.  It does begin with a rant on the wounds of childhood that most will be familiar with but it doesn't stay shipwrecked there.  With a lot of insight, practical wisdom, and love, this book throws responsibility for a meaningful relationship life back to each individual person's capacity to be aware and learn.
Conscious Loving:  The Journey to Co-Commitment
Gay and Kathlyn Hendrick
Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?
Margaret & Jordan Paul
Not a great book but it certainly has value.  Note that the title captures the basic dilemma of psychological growth: How to stay connected while maintaining a sense of autonomy.

Embracing Each Other:  Relationship As Teacher, Healer & Guide
Hal Stone & Sidra Winkelman
Related books helpful for handling conflicts in relationships
For people with problems maintaining self esteem or expressing anger (too much or too little) learning a repertoire of skills to handle interpersonal conflicts is crucial.  Since our very identity only forms in relationship to others, self esteem is almost always at stake in relationship conflicts.  The following books, then, include at least some sections with examples of specific dialogues to navigate such conflicts.  I actually recommend these at least as much as books specific to marriages or couples. As noted, I only recommend reading sections of these books-- selectively turning to the pages modeling out what to say when you feel attacked, slighted, ignored, etc.  There are many similar books, it won't be hard to find them.
When I Say No I Feel Guilty
Manuel Smith
Skip the cheerleading about how you deserve self esteem.  It's easy to page through to the few tried and true chapters on easy reliable dialogue skills for what to say when you're under attack or feeling pressured by a partner. Again, there are no miracle instructions here and this book isn't aimed at couples per se, but the dialogue skills implicitly entail 'differentiation'--essential to navigate conflicts in relationships.  There's a reason this self help book has stuck around for 35 years; it's because of those skills.  
Feeling Good:  The New Mood Therapy
David Burns
 This is one of the all time best selling books on beating depression by changing your thoughts. But just like quite a few successful self help books there is inevitably chapter on specific dialogue skills.  I say go directly to that chapter entitled Verbal Judo; his model for dialoguing is better than most, so these "techniques" apply across many different contexts (home, work, etc.).  Ironically this chapter attests to the critical aspect of the interpersonal over your own thought habits though the theory behind the book purports that your depressive thoughts cause depression. Of course, much of psychology emphasizes how interpersonal dynamics are internalized into how we think about ourself and the world. It works the other way too.
Crucial Conversations:  Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler
If nothing else, this book underscores that very, very successful people keep learning how to navigate conflict at high level of priority.  Further, they don't just read one book or take one course on the matter.
The Gentle Art Of Verbal Self Defense
Suzette Haden Elgin
This book is NOT inspirational.  For those who are willing to work with this book, it offers step by step learnable instructions for responding to verbal attacks, pressuring comments, and manipulations without sinking to those levels.  In effect, these are verbal "differentiation" skills, invaluable for successful relationships.
How To Be An Adult: A Handbook on Psychological and Spiritual Integration
David Richo
This is book doesn't emphasize dialogues.  I'm including it because despite the clunky title, the message isn't preachy.  It's is refreshing and simple enough for many people to accept.