As a relationship therapist I am frequently asked for recommendations of thought provoking books on personal relationships that can help open up discussion.


Therapy offers both individual clients and couples the chance to examine issues from a different perspective, and the opportunity to deepen their understanding of what is, sometimes, a tangle of issues. It can lead to the development of new relational skills and, as a result, trigger a curiosity and desire for further knowledge. Relationships are complicated and challenging – whether it is with romantic partners, family, children, friends, colleagues, neighbours, the wider community. Our engagement with the array of relationships that change and develop throughout our lives, is central to our sense of self, our sense of well being, and to feelings of fulfilment. Relationships are precious – and sometimes fragile – and the wisdom contained in these books suggests how we may maintain and take care of them. 

’RELATIONSHIPS’ by The School of Life (2016)


A wonderful little book that opens up a discussion about what we actually mean and understand by the concept of  ‘a relationship’. “To fall in love with someone feels like such a personal and spontaneous process it can sound strange…to suggest that something else (we might call it society or culture) may be playing a covert but critical role in governing our relationship in its most intimate moments…

‘We don’t particularly notice it day to day, but the stories our culture presents us with, concerning love and relationships, have a major subterranean influence on how we think and feel. They shape our sense of what is ‘normal’ and, troublingly, ‘abnormal’. They seed hopes and expectations and can foster disappointments, indignations, and even alarm…

‘Few things promise greater happiness than our relationships – yet few things more reliably deliver misery and frustration. Our error is to suppose that we are born knowing how to love and that managing a relationship is intuitive and easy…

‘Love is a skill to be learnt… and this book takes us around such key issues as arguments and sex, forgiveness and communication… Success in love need never again be just a matter of luck.”


‘KEEPING THE LOVE YOU FIND’ Single person’s guide to Achieving Lasting Love by Harville Hendrix (1995)


‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ (Chinese proverb)


‘“This is not about how to snare the ‘perfect’ mate, because the ‘perfect’ mate is a myth. This book is about relationships and how to prepare now, as a single person, for lasting love… It is about opening a door to growth and change and to an awareness of the potential for healing and happiness inherent in a modern love relationship… You will know yourself better, you will understand what relationships are really about, and you will be able to work on the things in yourself that need to change in order to have the partnership you want…”


‘WE DO’ Saying Yes to a Relationship of Depth, True Connection, and Enduring Love by Stan Tatkin (2018)

An excellent book for those looking for pre-marital preparation.

“Major life endeavours, such as marriage, require preparation.

Many people think that it should come naturally – as if we are born with a road map on how to do it well… This book is intended to prepare a couple for a life together on the long road ahead by learning that, to become secure-functioning partners, it is a process of ‘we do’ and not ‘I do’…

Tatkin encourages a couple to get to know one another more deeply so they ‘become experts on one another’. As they do so, he explains they are creating a secure base for their relationship; a trusting and loving partnership that will help protect them from life’s vicissitudes.  Feeling safe in each other’s care they will be more able to initiate conversations that could prevent damaging misapprehensions and misunderstandings in the future, to negotiate ‘tricky’ discussions about sensitive topics such as money, family, religion, fidelity, individual pursuits.



‘THE LOVE SECRET’  The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships by Dr Sue Johnson (2014)


This fascinating book by the founder of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy focusses on strengthening the emotional connection between partners and explains how to develop the ability to build long-lasting relationships.

Love is not the least bit illogical or random, but is actually an ordered and wise recipe for survival… Romantic love is an attachment bond, just like the one between mother and child. Emotional interaction with your partner buffers you from stress and makes you stronger in the face of life’s challenges. Touch and intimacy spurs the growth of motor neurons, which help us ‘read’ and ‘respond’ to our partners…

A good relationship is the best recipe for happiness and good health…”


‘MAKING GREAT RELATIONSHIPS’ Simple Practices for Solving Conflicts, Building Connection, and Fostering Love by Rick Hanson (2023)


This book is a wonderful resource for confirming that the power to create change lies in your hands. Dr Hanson offers fifty suggestions for ways to create an opportunity to enhance and enrich a relationship: fundamental tools and skills which will foster healthy, effective and fulfilling interactions.

Relationships are a cornerstone of happiness and key to living a full life… But relationships are not given, they are made…’

Bringing together the latest findings in neuroscience, mindfulness, and positive psychology, this book shows how to handle conflict, repair misunderstandings, deepen romantic partnerships, and ultimately build a happier life.



EIGHT DATES’ Essential Conversations For a Lifetime of Love by John Gottman & Julie Schwartz Gottman (2018)


‘Happily ever after is not by chance, it’s by choice’


Whether you are already in a long-term committed relationship or just starting one, ‘Eight Dates’ is an essential guide to building a lasting love relationship…”

It is generally accepted that programming ‘date nights’ into a couple’s busy schedule is demonstrably effective in maintaining their bonds of closeness and connection. Taking the idea of this special ‘our time’, this book offers a step-by-step guide to focussing in on in-depth conversations that will nurture intimacy and understanding.



HOW CAN I EVER TRUST YOU AGAIN?’ Infidelity: From Discovery to Recovery in Seven Steps by Andrew G Marshall (2011)


‘Trust, honesty, compassion: good relationships are built on these three building blocks’


There are few things in life more traumatic than discovering your partner is having an affair. Feelings can overwhelm. This book explores what makes people vulnerable to affairs, explains the different kinds of affairs, and how understanding your partner’s affair may be key to deciding whether you should stay or go. Andrew Marshall offers a road map for recovery and the processes for healing. He explores why some couples emerge stronger but others get derailed.He provides exercises that provide a bridge to greater understanding, suggestions for managing reactions and responses, and insights into the dynamics of infidelity itself.”



‘THE BOOK YOU WISH YOUR PARENTS HAD READ’ (and Your Children Will be Glad That You Did) by Philippa Perry (2019)


This is not a straightforward parenting book…

This book is about how we have relationships with our children, what gets in the way of a good connection, and what can enhance it…

It’s about how we were brought up and how that has a bearing on how we parent, about the mistakes we’ll make – especially those we never wanted to make – and what to do about them…”


‘LISTEN’ How to Find the Words for Tender Conversations by Kathryn Mannix (2021)


We explain our world through stories. Being able to tell our story helps us make sense of it’ (Kathryn Mannix)

Having the right conversations can transform our relationships with loved ones’ (Julia Samuel)

‘Listen’ gives invaluable advice on how better to handle tender conversations… more honestly, more confidently, and with less regret.

With so many couples citing communication problems as a reason for seeking therapy, this book is essential reading. So often a partner will complain in acute distress that they do not feel heard by their partner. It can cause such feelings of isolation that it can break a relationship. How we listen, and explain ourselves to each other, can make or break a relationship and this is a book full of insight.


Kathy Rees