The Best Marriage Books

I have been working on a new blog post in my head for quite some time now, so I guess I should finally share it.  I have been trying to make a list of books that I would recommend all married or engaged couples read.  Here is what I have, though it is very difficult to narrow it down to just a few:

  1. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman & Nan Silver
    1. I read this in graduate school, and one aspect I enjoyed was that it is written in a way that is useful both for couples and for counseling professionals.  I am skeptical in general about research, but the conclusions and suggestions from this book are practical and pragmatic.  Though not a substitute for martial counseling, I feel this book will benefit the reader especially in the area of conflict resolution.
  2. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
    1. The basic principle of this book is to learn how you and your spouse express love and how to show love to your spouse.  If you speak your spouse’s love language (words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, physical touch), you can reach deeper levels of intimacy and connection.  This is a bit overly simplistic, as people’s needs are often more complex and not everyone fits neatly into one of these boxes.  Still, this is a quality read and worthwhile to happy and struggling couples.
  3. Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy by Gary L. Thomas
    1. This might not be a fit for everyone’s world view, but I wanted to include it for those who are of the Christian faith.  It is a very interesting premise, even if one is not a Christian.  The crux of the book is that the true purpose of marriage is self growth and a greater connection with God.  I think all too often we pursue constant happiness and pleasure.  Then when our spouse does not meet our expectations, we jump to the erroneous conclusion that we married the wrong person.
  4. His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard F. Harley
    1. This book reviews the top five needs of both men and women, and then it suggests the way to keep a relationship strong is by meeting the needs of your partner.  Again, it might be oversimplified, but I do think it is very important to have an awareness of your spouse’s needs and attempt to meet them.  I agree that people whose needs are being met are less likely to have an affair, though they are responsible for their own behavior either way.  I also wanted to mention that your spouse’s needs might not match the five listed in this book, so study your spouse.  Learn about his or her world.  Ask what makes them feel loved or affirmed.

To all you counseling professionals and married folks out there, what marriage books to you recommend to others?  I always love finding a new book to read.  My nightstand is empty right now.

Check out Summit Family Therapy in Peoria, IL to learn more about Dr. Courtney Stivers’ professional work. 

About Courtney Stivers, PhD (25 Articles)
Courtney Stivers, PhD, LMFT, is a subject matter expert in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her professional experience includes residential addiction, school-based therapy, community mental health, teaching, research, public speaking, professional consultation, and several administrative roles. She is currently the Executive Director of Summit Family Therapy in Peoria, IL. Please learn more on her practice website,

6 Comments on The Best Marriage Books

  1. Cara Marion // August 31, 2015 at 9:50 am // Reply

    I agree with all your recommendations and with the person who said “Boundaries in Marriage”. I would add to that the entire Cloud and Townsend “Boundaries” series and also “Love & Respect” by Eggerichs. For the non-readers, the movies “Fireproof” and the newly released movie, “War Room” are excellent faith-based movies addressing marriage and healthy vs unhealthy couples dynamics. Happy reading and movie-going! (and yes, I am the Liberty Univ LMFT grad student who commented on your post last week).

    • Ha, ha! Glad to see you back! We love Fireproof and have the Love Dare book. I haven’t seen War Room yet. We don’t get out as often with two little ones. I’ll definitely try to catch it on video! Thanks for the tips!!

  2. Don’t shoot me, but I actually have not read that one. I know, that is terrible. I do have Becoming an Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist book and it has some great stuff. I will have to add it to my reading list. I have not done much reading for fun since I have had children, unless you count Thomas the Tank Engine stories. Thanks for commenting and I look forward to checking out your blog soon.

  3. I sometimes give couples the first chapter from Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight. It explains attachment responses in couples really clearly.

  4. Boundaries in Marriage by Cloud and Townsend

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