|The first series of books
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.
Marriages Succeed Or Fail
John Gottman, PhD
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
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.
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.
The Seven Principles For Making Marriage
10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage
and Julie Gottman, PhD
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).
To Get The Love You
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.
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
After the Affair: Healing the Pain and
Abrahms Spring, PhD
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.
Me No Lies
Bader & Peter Pearson
isn't a complete guide by any means and I only recommend it for the
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
Quest Of The Mythical Mate
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
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.
That Sailed Into the Living Room: Sex and Intimacy Reconsidered
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.
To Be An Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys To Mindful Loving
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.
The Journey to Co-Commitment
I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?
Margaret & Jordan
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.
Each Other: Relationship
As Teacher, Healer & Guide
Hal Stone & Sidra
books helpful for handling conflicts in relationships
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
relationship to others, self esteem is almost always at stake in
relationship conflicts. The following books, then, include at
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.
I Say No I Feel
about how you deserve self esteem. It's easy to page through to
the few tried and
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
in relationships. There's a reason this self help book has stuck
around for 35 years; it's because of those skills.
Good: The New Mood Therapy
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
how we think about ourself and the world. It works the other way too.
Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
McMillan, and Switzler
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
Art Of Verbal Self
Suzette Haden Elgin
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
sinking to those levels. In effect, these are verbal
"differentiation" skills, invaluable for successful relationships.
To Be An Adult: A Handbook on Psychological and Spiritual
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.