I'm so glad you're interested in reading more about healthy relationships skills. I have divided my reading recommendations into four categories.
Click the links below to skip to the one that resonates most with your learning goals.
RECOMMENDED BOOKS ON HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
No matter what kind of intimate relationship you're working on, a healthy baseline is critical to the long-term well-being of a couple. The books below are my all-time favorite reads to set up and nurture a healthy relationship foundation.
If you ever work with me I promise you'll hear me quote John Gottman. He's arguably the most established researcher in the world of intimate relationships and marriage therapy. He studied couples at their best and worst for nearly forty years in an effort to tabulate the basic behaviors that determine of a couple will stay together. And he cracked the code.
This book outlines the basic practices you need to have in place if you really want to stay together AND it expands the research to look at other relationships (friends, co-workers, family etc) and build strong trustworthy bonds all around you. Order a copy here (you won't regret it).
Even if your relationship isn't steeped in high-conflict odds are good no one taught you how to handle conflict well in intimate relationships. I have yet to hear a negative review from a client (and I recommend this one ALL THE TIME). This book will walk you through how to interrupt the most damaging communication patterns and help you create new healthy patterns even in the most challenging arguments. Order a copy here.
Y’all, this book is gonna rock you. If you’ve wondered about patterns that keep showing up in your relationship, or why you and your sweetie just seem to have different defaults this book is the one for you. It’s breaks down the basics of our attachment styles (defaults) in super easy to understand ways and it gives you lots of ways to shift your responses. I loved it (and many clients have too). *This book is not particularly supportive of consensual non-monogamy.
If you're going to stick with someone you're going to fall into communication patterns- some of which will be unheatlhy. This book outlines some of the most common unhealthy communication patterns for couples and helps you shift them with useful reflection questions and applications in each chapter. Read more here.*This book is not particularly supportive of consensual non-monogamy.
Most couples struggle with a push-pull dynamic (sometimes called pursuer-distancer) at some point and most of us struggle to understand why. If we want relationships, why do we have trouble committing? And if we know balance is important, why do some of us struggle to give partners ample space?
Reac this book to better understand how life as a young child may inform your relationship patterns today- and what to do with that awareness. Read more here.
RECOMMENDED BOOKS ON OPEN RELATIONSHIPS & POLYAMORY
Yes, this is a book about non-consensual non-monogamy and NO consensual non-monogamy is not the same thing as infidelity. BUT most folks come to me looking to avoid the pitfalls of affairs so knowing more about affairs is a great place to start.
Plus Esther Perel is one of the only relationships out there who actually affirms polyamory as a valid option and there's a LOT of great information for folks considering open relationships, really valuable bits on jealousy and insecurity, and powerful ideas about what happens when we feel drawn to a new lover. A must-read for folks rethinking traditional relationship structures. Order a copy here.
This is my favorite foundational book on open relationships because Tristan does an incredible job outlining the major relationships folks choose in non-monogamous connections AND the benefits and pitfalls of each. Based on thousands of interviews, she shares real-life stories of couples, thruples, and polycules making non-monogamy work for them. Order a copy here.
Okay, this one is NOT for everyone. Lots of folks come to consensual non-monogamy wanting purely sexual or play-based connections with more than one person, but hope to reserve deep emotional or long-term connections just for one partner. BUT if polyamory (more than one love) is what you're thinking about this book will help you think through common concerns like no other. Order a copy here.
Here's the guide to individual clarity, boundary setting, and consent negotiations you're looking for. If you have a history getting tangled up in other people's emotions, putting their needs before yours, or you're thinking about practicing solo polyamory (ethical intentional dating- with yourself as your primary partner) this book is here to help you. Order a copy here.
RECOMMENDED BOOKS ON LASTING DESIRE IN RELATIONSHIPS
If you're facing desire fatigue (the idea that we lose desire the longer we're in a relationship) this is the book you need to help you understand why desire wanes- and what needs to shift to regain it. You can catch a little snippet of the ideas in this book in her TED Talk or order a copy here.
This is one of the best-loved sex therapy books among relationship professionals, so if you're willing to read a VERY long book (or just jump to sections that speak to you) this is a great book to help you shift decreasing or differing desire patterns between you. Order it here.
If you're looking to rekindle things and jump-start with some action this book has helped many couples. Like Passionate marriage, it is largely heterosexual and monogamy-centered, but does provide some helpful information for couples willing to try anything to bring the fire back. Check it out here.
Most of us don’t have a great background in sex education, partly because the information most of us learned is WAY outdated- especially when it comes to arousal, intimacy and desire. This book is a perfect gateway to being a better lover through better sexual understanding. You can check out the author’s incredible TED Talk here if you want to get a taste before ordering the book.
Let me be completely honest here, I’m only halfway through this one and I’ve already been recommending it like MAD. It’s that good. Anyone partnered with a woman or identifying as one needs to read this. Again, it’s that good.
RECOMMENDED BOOKS ON INFIDELITY & AFFAIRS
This is THE BOOK you need to read if you've been through an affair. It's the most informed look at relationships and why we stray around and while it's filled with accountability for the affairing partner, it's not super shame-laiden like other books on affairs.
Let Perel walk you through the most common concerns that show up for folks who've been betrayed, the issues that set couples up for deceit and failure, and the ways folks move through the pain of infidelity.
If you want a sample of her work check out her podcast, Where Should We Begin where she shared actual recordings from couples therapy sessions with people who are healing from infidelity. Order a copy here.
If you're looking for a step-by-step sort of guide to walk you from considering if you should stay together to reconnecting and rebuilding trust this is it. This book follows the most traditional train of thought that works for LOTS of couples as they uncover deceit and rebuild trust. Check it out here.
If you're looking for a helpful guide to support you through the process of untangling all the emotions that arise when an affair is discovered, and the basic strategy for repair, look no further. This book will help you decide what steps to take together to heal after infidelity- plan and simple.
Plus you'll read helpful vignettes from couples struggling with the same things you're facing now. You are not alone. Check out the book right here.
If you're struggling with the forgiveness part of life after an affair this may be the right book for you. Yes, the title is dramatic, but for most folks life after an affair is a little dramatic. This book was intended for survivors of trauma and abuse to work through when and if they want to forgive perpetrators, but the information is useful no matter who you're working to forgive. Order a copy here.