Books that shaped your viewpoint on relationships?
April 16, 2017 11:11 AM   Subscribe

What books have you read that changed how you think about your relationships?

I searched and found a handful of threads on relationship trouble, communication help, dealing with rocky relationships, etc.

But I'm specifically looking for books that shape HOW you think about relationships, intimate and otherwise. E.g.

- What are the goals of the relationship
- How you measure a relationship's success
- Identifying good and bad relationships
- A framework for thinking about what you want to get out a relationship

Or, in less words, books that made you say "I've been thinking about this all wrong."
posted by graphtheory to Human Relations (30 answers total) 90 users marked this as a favorite
Intimate Connections by David Burns. Changed my thinking about relationships (before I got married).
Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne Dyer. Changed my thinking about myself.
Good Husband, Great Marriage by Robert Mark Alter. Changed my thinking about my marriage.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 11:41 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]

Oh yay-- I get to be the first to rep John Gottman's Seven Principles for Making Marraige Work. GAME CHANGER. Particularly, that 70% of marital conflicts are non-solveable. Yes, realizing the central tenet of marriage is not communication but actually loving defeatism totally saved my marriage and now it's a super fun great thing.
posted by athirstforsalt at 11:58 AM on April 16 [20 favorites]

Can't find the title right now, but a book that changed my view on relationships-- all relationships -- was one by a hospice volunteer. It made me think a lot about the sacred ties between me and the people I love, and about the importance of forgiveness (and avoiding deeply hurting someone else in the first place), and about honoring each person for the unique and beautiful self they are, and about the joys found in a single moment. None of us knows how many moments we have on earth, so it's a helpful perspective to keep in mind.
posted by salvia at 12:11 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]

On the way in: Peer Marriage - How Love Between Equals Really Works by Pepper Schwartz.

On the way out: Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum.
posted by cocoagirl at 12:36 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]

The dance of anger by Harriet Lerner. Triangles! Who knew....?
posted by SyraCarol at 1:03 PM on April 16 [8 favorites]

The Road Less Traveled - M. Scott Peck.
posted by bunderful at 1:07 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]

Galsworthy 's The Forsyte Saga; Five Love Languages, the Waiting Years by Enchi and other works whose lessons have been bitter like Aloe.
posted by jadepearl at 1:13 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]

Eric Berne's Games People Play, which I first read in high school.
posted by carmicha at 1:25 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]

How to Be an Adult in Relationships, by David Richo. Reframes romantic relationships in a way that can help you determine, as you say, if the candidate you have in mind is a 'good' candidate, if you are ready for a relationship, and how to address relationship conflict.
posted by tooloudinhere at 1:27 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]

Hugh Prather, any of his books, but he has one just on couples.

John Bradshaw has helped me too, although sometimes he seemed creepy on his tv specials, but the insights he has are great. I read a bunch of Alanon stuff at times, because that program is only about relationships, but I can't take them in person. Seconding Wayne Dyer. I also used to like Terry Cole Whittaker.
posted by chocolatetiara at 2:24 PM on April 16

Another vote for that Gottman book.
posted by griphus at 2:44 PM on April 16

I have often mentioned The Husbands and Wives Club, which follows a couples counseling group therapy group for a year. I found a lot of really good information in there, framed in a way new to me.
posted by janey47 at 3:14 PM on April 16

Surprisingly, the Self Esteem book has helped a lot. A lot of times, people enter relationships not realizing the gaps in their self-esteem and how that impacts the relationship, so I found this to be very healthy and helpful.
posted by yueliang at 4:07 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]

Thirding or fourthing the Gottman book. Plus Harville Hendrix, "Getting the Love You Want".
posted by bluespark25 at 6:04 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]

This is fiction, but I was surprised when I read We Need to Talk About Kevin how much it hit me in the gut in regards to the relationship between the narrator and her husband. It was such a vivid portrayal of a husband and wife slowly failing to have each other's backs in a relationship. People have vastly different opinions on the narrator (fantastic book club book for that reason) and there's the whole what-is-a-psychopath theme concurrently so YMMV but I was surprised by how much it got me thinking about long term intimate relationships.
posted by hotcoroner at 6:53 PM on April 16

Does nobody else here read fiction? I think about Jane Austen a lot, not because I think my relationships are particularly like the relationships she describes, but because I think the question, "Do I believe this person I'm interested in is a noticeably good person?" is worth asking.

(My other fictional models are more idiosyncratic-- Melissa Scott's Burning Bright was useful to me as a teenager, in thinking about ways casual relationships can turn serious, for example-- but Austen is a classic for a reason.)
posted by yarntheory at 6:54 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]

I got a bunch of good answers when I asked a related question here. I posted pocket reviews of all the books I ended up reading in-thread. You'll notice that a few of them have already been mentioned here.

I would add to that list: Getting to Yes and Parent Effectiveness Training. Both books talk about ways to find creative solutions that meet the needs of both people, rather than aiming for compromise positions that are halfway between two existing solutions.
posted by clawsoon at 7:11 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]

I got a lot of good from Tiny Beautiful Things.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:13 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]

I read Parent Effectiveness Training around 35 years ago and I still use some of those concepts today so here's another vote for that. I see from your profile that you aren't very active here, so I would add the huge post on the blue about emotional labor if you haven't already. Hard to link on my phone, just search for it.
posted by raisingsand at 7:15 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]

Emily Nagoski's Come As You Are
posted by fritillary at 8:27 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]

I've heard a lot of good things about Hold Me Tight.
posted by chicainthecity at 8:50 PM on April 16

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead is also really important. Vulnerability is so crucial, especially in relationships where a lot of emotional wounds can get really exposed.
posted by yueliang at 11:11 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]

Hold Me Tight
posted by Violet Hour at 1:31 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]

This one is kind of a curveball, but I really think everyone should read Taking Charge of Your Fertility, even if you're not trying to have a baby with your significant other.
posted by GatorDavid at 6:55 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]

Intimacy and Desire, David Scharch

The Queen's Code, Alison Armstrong
posted by trinity8-director at 11:49 AM on April 17

2nding David Schnarch. His article in Psychology Today, "How to Grow Up," was my intro to his approach, which focuses on individuation within relationships, and breaks down the barrier between sex therapy and relationship counseling. . Really changed the way I view and act in intimate relationships.

(Please excuse weird link only on one of the words in the article title; not sure how to do it right on my phone, or how to make this parenthetical appear in the tiny type)
posted by mabelstreet at 3:15 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]

After the Honeymoon (though I bought it used and I think the one I read was an older edition).
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 3:18 PM on April 17

The books that changed my relationship (by guiding me towards the end of it), and my life:

A few were mentioned above:

Emily Nagoski's Come as you Are (debunks myths around women's sexuality)

Mira Kirshenbaum's Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay

And lastly: Andrea Dworkin's Intercourse
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:44 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]

I liked Alain De Botton's work e.g. The Romantic Movement (1994) and more recently The Course of Love (2016). Both books describe a relationship over time which I thought was interesting to relate back to my own relationship history.
posted by wolfr at 12:07 PM on April 18

Come as you Are - another vote for that one. Also, not a book but a video - "Dating your Species" by Reid Mihalko which you can find on his site It's not a free video but it changed my life. Here is a trailer for the video: Link
posted by jopreacher at 3:42 AM on April 24 [1 favorite]

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