The 5 Relationship Books You Need To Read To Make Your Love Last
Unwifeable author Mandy Stadtmiller shares her picks…
If you’re a relationship self-help book junkie like I am, you’re perpetually on the hunt for that one amazing book you haven’t heard of before – the one that will tell you exactly what you need to know to fix your relationship, and possibly your whole life. Thinking that a book can explain what’s wrong with you (and/or what’s wrong with your partner) and lay out a step-by-step guide to healing your shit and creating lasting love might be unrealistic, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying.
So when Mandy Stadtmiller recently named her top 5 relationship self-help books, I wanted to know more. I became familiar with Mandy’s work when she was editor-at-large at xoJane and I was a contributor; I felt a certain kinship with her because we’re almost exactly the same age (born within a month of each other), we both write a lot about our personal lives online, and we’re both divorced. Or I should say, we were both divorced. In November 2015, Mandy got married again, to comedian Pat Dixon, and she’s currently at work on a book called Unwifeable, inspired by her popular New York Magazine column of the same name.
Since Mandy successfully accomplished what I hope to as well – getting remarried and living happily-ever-after (or at least, as close as it gets) – I hoped that reading the books that helped her find real, lasting love might help me find it, too. Here are her top five recommendations, and what she got out of each of them…
What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal, by John Gottman and Nan Silver
I’m familiar with Gottman’s most well-known book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, but hadn’t heard of this one; I asked Mandy why she recommended this one, in particular.
“I learn from example. Whenever I’m trying to understand how to change bad patterns (negativity, fear, name-calling, etc) to positive ones (non-judgment, selflessness, speaking in feelings), I like to read a lot of examples and sample dialogue of how to put healthy principles into practice. This book is chock full of it. Also, if you like rationality, the book relies heavily on the principle of game theory, or the strategic principle that in a conflict, someone else’s gain does not have to be your loss, and vice versa. He looks at how to build trust using game theory, whereby you are both gaining because one person is caring abut the other’s welfare, and it’s a win-win.”
Buy it here.
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts, by Gary Chapman
“What’s great about [this book] is that it helps you learn to understand how we all process love differently,” Mandy says. “I’m very in need of physical touch and words of affirmation, but mostly the touch. I need to be held and feel that physical connection. My partner knows this and makes sure to implement it when we’re disagreeing. It’s like seeing a pile of keys and realizing that it’s possible to know which one is for the right room. That’s what this book helps you do – know the most effective way to reach someone.”
When I wondered why I had to pick one love language – what if I want all of them? – she explained that while all of us probably speak all the languages, it’s about “understanding what will be most impactful so that you can achieve a rewarding level of intimacy most rapidly and effectively, rather than constantly throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what sticks.”
Find out what language you speak: order here.
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, by Sue Johnson
Psychologist Sue Johnson pioneered the Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy technique, known as EFT. It focuses on attachment, and aims to help couples form a more secure and loving bond. I wondered if this would be a good one for my boyfriend to read, too.
“Definitely read it together!” said Mandy. “I actually had it playing on my Alexa and was painting our apartment when my husband came home, and we listened to it together. She’s great because she labels a lot of fighting patterns, which in turn, lets your recognize them in their tracks.” When I asked whether she thought Johnson’s method was more effective than the Gottman method (see above), with which I’m more familiar, Mandy told me that Gottman actually heartily endorses this book, and recommends it to couples looking for a guidebook to EFT.
Order your his-and-hers copies here.
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love, by Amir Levine
I’m wary of attachment theory, because I always seem to come up as the disorganized/anxious/insecure type who is doomed to fail at relationships. But fear not, says Mandy.
“I’m the same style, and there’s hope. Being able to recognize your attachment issues allows you to transcend them. Once you recognize why you are doing something based on attachment issues and the impact that has on your partner, you can work to be aware of triggers so that you aren’t having an argument that is also dragging up an entire lifetime of issues. Meaning, you can concentrate on why you are so mad about the dishes not being done rather than hysterically screaming that people are always betraying you and letting you down. Seeing how the past has impacted you can be the key to getting beyond it and beating bad patterns.” Whew.
Don’t be scared: buy it here.
Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts: Using the Power of Pleasure to Have Your Way with the World, by Regena Thomashauer
This is the only book on Mandy’s list that I’ve never heard of before – and that seems a little out there, compared to the other, more scholarly books on the list. But the book’s description (Mama Gena wants you to identify your desires, have fun no matter where you are, indulge in sensual pleasure, befriend your inner bitch, and flirt up a storm) sounded strikingly like the place I was in when I met my boyfriend. I was just looking to have fun, I had no expectations, and I was feeling super flirty and confident – probably precisely because I had no expectations and was having fun. And voilà, we hit it off.
“There is nothing so hypnotic as someone who is truly okay with herself rather than constantly searching for other people to validate and make her whole,” confirms Mandy. “This is a great book for focusing on and nurturing yourself, rather than screengrabbing a text message from a guy and sending it on to 30 friends to psychoanalyze. You’re a fucking goddess, baby. Don’t forget it.” Thanks, Mandy. So are you.
Treat yourself and buy Mama Gena’s book here.
Mandy Stadtmiller’s Unwifeable is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books. To get the latest, follow her on Twitter: @mandystadt.
Image courtesy of Mandy Stadtmiller.
Comment: What are your fave relationship books?