Relationship books

All relationship books I have reviewed (marriage, preparing for marriage, singleness, men and women) can be found via the links on this page. Some include brief summaries (usually the best ones or the ones with no full review). Note: I re-read many of these books in 2020, and some reviews have been updated to reflect this.

(These are generally in order of my favourites)
  • What did you expect? Paul David Tripp (Crossway, 2010). Excellent. Challenges you to consider why you are married and how you can grow together as a result. With a strongly Christian framework, he asserts the biggest problem in marriage is that it’s made of two fallen people both trying to build their own kingdom, rather than God’s. He then gives six commitments to aim towards: regular confession and forgiveness; growth and change; a study bond of trust; building love; appreciating differences with grace and working to protect the marriage. Couples willing to put in the time and energy with this book will reap great benefit. 
  • The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman and Nan Silver (Harmony Books, 2015). An excellent secular book on marriage outlining Gottman’s extensive research on the key problems in marriage and seven principles that will help. Full of good advice and principles, and provides many activities and questionnaires to do with your spouse. If you are both willing to work on your marriage, these tools are indispensable.
  • The Meaning of Marriage, Tim & Kathy Keller (Hodder and Stoughton, 2011). The Kellers lift our vision of marriage much higher that just the husband and wife, placing God squarely at the centre of every marriage. They consider: What is meaning of marriage? Why does marriage exist? What does it mean to enter a covenant? What is Christian friendship, and how does it find its fullest expression in marriage? How then shall we view singleness? Strongly grounded in the word of God, and provides a framework of marriage being a relationship of Christian friendship, promised in a covenant of love, powered by the Holy Spirit. Raises the standard of what a marriage can be. Detailed 3 part review: 12 and 3. 
  • Gospel Centred Marriage: Becoming the Couple God wants you to be, Tim Chester (Good Book Company, 2011): Succinct introduction to what Christian marriage should be based on, how we approach various issues (grace, conflict, forgiveness) and then how we to view sex. There are other in-depth books, but for those who want to start simply or for those who do not like reading, this is good. Could be used as a series of bible studies / sessions to work through together, for both engaged and marrieds. 
  • Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy MarriagesShaunti Feldhahn (Multnomah, 2013): A short, easy-to-read book that presents research in a very accessible form. Feldhahn identifies 12 simple things common to couples who are very happy together including: recognising the power of small actions, believing each has the best intentions, being in control of feelings, spending time together and being committed no matter what. It will encourage you to press on to make your marriage great, not just good. Can overplay some gender stereotypes.
  • With These Words, Rob Flood (New Growth Press, 2019). A focused look at communication in marriage, grounded first in the gospel and then considering five practical tools to communicate in ways that love each other and honour Christ. Contains insightful questions to work through at the end of each chapter.
  • Married for God, Christopher Ash (IVP, 2007). A book about what God wants from marriage, rather than what we want, considering what God's purpose is for marriage and how we serve Him through it. It is a more theological exposition of marriage, with some practical application thrown in. This contrasts with most other Christian books on marriage - practical with a Christian gloss over the top. Highly recommended reading as it will make you think, and raise the standards of what your marriage could be. Detailed chapter reviews here.
  • Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change through Ordinary Moments, Winston T. Smith (New Growth Press, 2010). Focused strongly and continuously on God’s word and how a relationship with Jesus defines, strengthens and challenges us in marriage; this book is not only rooted in Scripture, it’s overflowing with it. Smith’s premise is that change is found in the ordinary moments of marriage, and that all problems stem from a wrong relationship with God, whereas the solution is found through love, worship and grace. There are very good chapters on communication with honesty, conflict and forgiveness.
  • I Still Do, Dave Harvey (Baker Books, 2020). A helpful treatment on marriage into later life. Harvey has emphasised the gospel of grace and mercy and how that can affect all aspects of marriage and life together. He is honest about the challenges some marriages face over the years, using the idea of 'defining moments' to consider them. 
  • Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married, Gary Chapman (Northfield, 2010). Deals with some misconceptions couples face at the beginning of marriage, which if not prepared for or willing to talk about can quickly require serious attention. These include: extended family relationships, communication issues and matters of faith and forgiveness. Worth reading to ensure you have thought about the usual problems that couples face, and how you are managing them.
  • It Takes One to Tango, Winifred M Reilly. Subtitled “How I Rescued My Marriage with (Almost) No Help from My Spouse – and How You Can, Too”, Reilly addresses the misconception that both partners need to be willing to change for change to occur. She draws on Bowen family theory and encourages people to take responsibility for themselves to make change happen in their marriage. Will appeal to a wide audience, is non-Christian, and honest about the conflicts that many couples are mired in.
  • Creating an Intimate Marriage, Jim Burns (Bethany House, 2006). Honest, open and full of examples. He considers how to have a marriage of affection, warmth and encouragement, by looking at intimacy, communication, fun and friendship, forgiveness and our attitude. Each chapter finishes with some questions to consider. This looks at the whole marriage and how it’s going, which may also help to address some intimacy issues.
  • Rescue Your Love Life, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (Thomas Nelson, 2005). The subtitle: Changing the 8 dumb attitudes and behaviours that will sink your marriage does lead me to wonder if many would pick this up. Covers many assumptions which can lead to trouble such as: my lover should change, my lover should make me happy, my lover should read my mind and we should never fight. Practical, sensible and helpful, although the books listed above are better.
  • Love and Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs (Thomas Nelson, 2004). His premise is that women particularly desire their husband's love and men especially crave their wife's respect. While I once recommended this book, I no longer do. See the review to explain why. 
Intimacy in marriage
  • A page reviewing a number of books on intimacy in marriage, including Sheet Music (Leman) & A Celebration of Sex (Rosenau) and The Best Sex for Life (Weerakoon)
  • see also 'preparing for marriage' below
  • The Great Sex Rescue, Sheila Wray Gregoire, Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach and Joanna Sawatsky (Baker Books, 2021). This is a challenging and insightful book that encourages Christian marriages to great, passionate, other person-centred sex that is enjoyable for both spouses. It includes lots of research about the things that Christian women experience, enjoy and struggle with in the bedroom, as well as tearing apart the teaching in a range of Christian books on sex and marriage.
Preparing for marriage / dating
  • 10 Great Dates Before You Say "I Do", David & Claudia Arp and Curt & Natelle Brown: Designed as a workbook, this book covers 10 conversation topics prior to marriage. Including topics such as expectations, differences in personalities, communication, finances, leaving & cleaving, intimacy, roles and family, it is a comprehensive look at the practical issues that will face a married couple.  It is designed so that each partner read the chapter, fill in a worksheet and then both come together to discuss. A useful tool, for those who are willing to make it work.
  • 101 Questions to ask Before You Get Engaged, H. Norman Wright: This comprehensive book is designed for a couple to look at together, to ask each other questions and bring up conversation topics. Both people have to be committed to doing it together. He covers topics such as personal life, health issues, the future, finances, Christian growth, values, habits, family and expectations. He also has a chapter for those who have been previously married, formed as a questionnaire.  
  • Letters to a Romantic: On Dating, Sean Perron and Spencer Harmon. Helpful book for people wanting to consider a godly approach to dating. It covers marriage and singleness, practicalities of dating, warning flags to be aware of in relationships and thoughts about physical affection while dating. Gospel focused and grace driven.
  • Now that You're Engaged, H. Norman Wright (Regal, 2005). Structured around the idea of commitment: each chapter has a particular focus, eg. commitment to be free from the past, commitment to change, commitment to love, commit yourself to control anger, commitment to build positive in-law relationships and commitment to forgive and pray together. It deals with marriage issues openly and realistically. Starting to feel a bit outdated, and more detailed and complicated than needed.
  • Ready or Knot? 12 conversations every couple needs to have before marriage, Scott Kedersha (Baker Books, 2019). Great resource covering the purpose of marriage, communication, having faith as your foundation, personality differences, family of origin, sex, financial stewardship, friendship, biblical roles, children and church community. Each chapter has questions to work through and a prayer to finish with. The strength is that each topic is addressed both biblically and practically, enabling couples to consider how to serve God and each other in their marriage. Now our first recommended resource. 
  • She's Got the Wrong Guy, Deepak Reju (New Growth Press, 2017). For single women, challenging them to consider who they date and whether they would be tempted to settle in marriage to the wrong type of man.  
  • Tying the Knot, Rob Green (New Growth Press, 2016). An excellent resource for couples to do together, ideally with a mentor alongside them. Green presents a clear gospel truth of living with grace and then thinks about how to apply that to various aspects of marriage, always managing to keep Jesus at the centre. 
Note also - a DVD review on an ABC series - Making Couples Happy