May 012014 9 Responses

5 Books Every Married Couple Should Read

When Jenny and I were dating, we spent several months one thousand miles apart. She was working in Montana while I worked in Phoenix and then moved to Birmingham for graduate school. (See: Dating to Break Up–a Unique Perspective)

We entered the distance not sure of the nature of our relationship, but very quickly the separation proved our desire to be together.

One of the most meaningful activities which assisted our relationship during that time was reading books together. I would buy a book, read it, and then mail it to her. She would read the book and then we would discuss. This process forced us to talk about our relationship.

What we found is that one of the best ways to improve our relationship is to read a book.

Reading:

  • teaches us new information
  • provides topics for discussion
  • forces us to focus on our relationship
  • unearths unresolved issues
  • provides tools for solving conflict (See: Don’t Seek Conflict, But Do Embrace It)
  • reminds us why we love one another

While reading any book can provide many of these benefits, reading the best books is almost guaranteed to help your marriage.

Here are 5 books which I believe every married couple should read:

1. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman If you can only read one book on marriage, it should be this one. Just being aware of Gottman’s Four Horsemen is worth the price of the book. I refer this book to nearly every couple I see. It points out the universal signs of an unhealthy marriage. Gottman says,

“Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind—but it cannot be done. This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values. By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their relationship.”

I quoted Gottman in a previous blog post: Respect: a necessary ingredient for marriage

2. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller This is my favorite book which looks at marriage from a Biblical perspective. Keller is my favorite pastor/writer of today and The Meaning of Marriage is a masterpiece. The gospel changes everything, including marriage. Keller looks at marriage with a gospel focus and the result is a feeling of both gratitude and challenge when it comes to marriage.

“One of the most basic skills in marriage is the ability to tell the straight, unvarnished truth about what your spouse has done—and then, completely, unself-righteously, and joyously express forgiveness without a shred of superiority, without making the other person feel small.”

3. Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson This book also made my list for my Top 5 books, but it has a special relationship with marriage. Couples who learn to communicate can tackle any problem. While it seems as though communication would be easiest in marriage, many people find it the most difficult relationship when it comes to communication. Patterson’s main emphasis is on the feeling of security. He believes when a person feels secure, they can talk about anything to anyone. This is one of the few books I re-read on a regular basis. (See: 10 Communication Posts Your Co-workers Should Read)

“You have to agree to agree. To be successful, we have to stop using silence or violence to compel others to our view. We must surrender false dialogue, where we pretend to have Mutual Purpose (calmly arguing our side until the other person gives in). We Start with the Heart by committing to stay in the conversation until we come up with a solution that serves a purpose we both share.”

4. Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend Few people have a good understanding of a healthy relationship where the two people maintain their identity while also becoming a couple. Cloud and Townsend help to clarify this nuance. Boundaries help identify who we are. They distinguish what we will take responsibility for and what is the responsibility of another.

“Taking responsibility for someone’s anger, pouting, and disappointments by giving in to that person’s demands or controlling behavior destroys love in marriage. Instead of taking responsibility for people we love, or rescuing them, we need to show responsibility to them by confronting evil when we see it. This is truly loving our partner and the marriage. The most responsible behavior possible is usually the most difficult.”

5. I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi  Money is a major issue for couples. A majority of broken relationships list money as the top stressor. While I love Dave Ramsey and encourage couples to read his books, I prefer the model of Ramit Sethi. Instead of worrying about budgeting every expense, I prefer to get the big issues right and not think about the rest. If a couple is currently in financial distress, they should follow the Ramsey model. If a couple is just starting out or isn’t in major financial trouble, I would automate all the important issues and spend whatever is left over. (See: People Do Not Get Divorced Because of Money)

9 Responses to 5 Books Every Married Couple Should Read
  1. May Bohon (@maybohon) Reply

    Thanks for the recommendations! “Boundaries” changed my life and is probably my book I recommend to most. I’m a Ramsey fan and am always open to more advice on marriage and money. Going to check out Ramit Sethi’s book! Thank you!! 🙂

  2. Rose Goulet Reply

    I was forwarded your recommended reading list by a family member. Curious if you have any feedback on this title and reference. The Mystery of Marriage 20th Anniversary Edition: Meditations on the Miracle.

  3. Denise Laraiso Reply

    What do you think of Real Love by Greg Baer? I have applied a lot of his principles into my dating since divorce. My marriage was silent, you were dead on with that one. We didn’t talk, I was afraid to say anything, ever, so I didn’t. We lasted 22 years then had a 3 year divorce. Now he won’t speak to me.

  4. […] We must be very careful in how we respond to criticism of our relationships. It could be that people... kevinathompson.com/criticize-your-marriage
  5. Nalini Singh Reply

    Hi Kevin,

    I’ve been really into Dan B Wile’s work on Collaborative Couples Therapy, which seems to be the most unique approach I’ve seen yet on couples’ communication. What are your thoughts on it?

    Nalini

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