One of the most common questions I get is about what marriage book I might recommend. That is a tough question in some ways because there are so many books out there, and every person responds to a certain book differently. So it’s hard to be too prescriptive on this topic.
But I can tell you there are about 7 books that I recommend a lot, and have been recommending for a long time. And the reason I recommend these books is because they have not only transformed my life and marriage, but they are the books that couples consistently report as being the most helpful and life-transforming for them.
So in this episode I briefly talk about these 7 books. Each book is pretty different from each other. Some are Christian and faith based in their approach, while others don’t come with any faith perspective. Some are pretty prescriptive in their approach, listing out steps and tools to use in your marriage, while others take a more philosophical and theological approach, but it’s up to the reader to figure out how and if that applies to their marriage. Some talk about sex (one in pretty specific and graphic ways), while others don’t even mention it. Some are more academic, while others are an easy read.
So check out these books and see what may most apply and be helpful to you.
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson — Great read by the founder of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. Her seven conversations provide great insight and direction for couples working on their connection.
Restoration Therapy: Understanding and Guiding Healing in Marriage and Family Therapy by Terry D. Hargrave and Franz Pfitzer — This is perhaps my favorite book on marriage because it is the therapy model founded by my mentor and friend Dr. Hargrave. It’s the model that I use in therapy with my clients and what I teach in churches and organizations. More of a technical read for therapists and practitioners, though helpful for couples who do want to dive into the theory. I talk with Dr. Hargrave about his model here, and discuss it’s concepts here, here, here, here and here.
5 Days to a New Marriage by Terry D. Hargrave and Shawn Stoever — this is the book that was written by the developers of the 4-day marriage intensives at The Hideaway Experience where I was on staff for four years. It’s a simple, awesome read that walks couples through was is essentially Terry Hargrave’s Restoration Therapy model.
Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships by David Schnarch — This book was probably one of the biggest life changing books for me individually, and in my marriage. It introduced me to the concept of self-differentiation in marriage, and it’s ideas on anxiety and self-soothing are some of the most helpful concepts I use with couples. Schnarch is also a sex therapist, so this book will be the most graphic of the selection in terms of it’s content.
The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family: A Leadership Fable About Restoring Sanity to the Most Important Organization in Your Life by Patrick Lencioni — though this is not a “marriage” book per se, it is super helpful in marriages. My wife have worked through this book and it has been marriage transforming for us. I have written about this here, and did a podcast about it here.
The Mystery of Marriage: Meditations on the Miracle by Mike Mason — This was really one of the first books that I read on marriage. I read it in seminary when I wasn’t even dating anyone, and yet, it is a book I keep coming back to time and time again. One of the things I like about it the best is that it is not a marriage book with how to’s or step by step instructions. It’s more of a poetic and theological look at marriage.
Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy, More Than to Make Us Happy? by Gary L. Thomas — One of the premises about this book that I think is so helpful is the concept that marriage is a refining process that is more about making us holy than happy. That is a tough sell in today’s culture.