Lots of dudes are embarrassed about reading relationship advice books, or self help books in general. They shouldn't be. Nobody is born with all of the necessary wisdom you need when you're making your relationship work. There's nothing wrong with seeking outside help to improve your relationship. In truth, there are times in all of our lives when we stumble around helplessly, wondering "what is a normal relationship supposed to be like?"
It's true that there are a lot of terrible self-help books. There are sappy, treacly marriage help books, and badly-edited compilations of bizarre sex tips. But the best relationship books offer real insight. We've read a whole bunch, and we've weeded out the saccharine nonsense so you don't have to — we've assembled some of the best relationship books of all time. These will help you.
John Gottman – The Relationship Cure
Best for: Everyone
This is one of the top relationship books, and for good reason. Gottman isn't some wacky, hippy-dippy relationship blogger — he's a legitimate scientist who has carefully studied the psychological underpinnings of successful relationships. Repeatedly he's demonstrated that he has the ability to predict the long-term health of a relationship with scary accuracy. Although his advice is all-around solid, he's especially known for identifying the kinds of healthy communication that can help you avoid divorce. You can't really go wrong with John Gottman books, but this is a good place to start — it's a concise summary of his most important findings. May keep you out of marriage counseling. This is undoubtedly our editor's pick.
$12.80 at Amazon.com
Robert Glover – No More Mr. Nice Guy
Best for: Guys who need to be more assertive
This is a great one for guys. Although its title might make it sound like a book about how to be a chest-beating, selfish jerk, it's actually not like that at all. Glover shows that many men who act like "nice guys" are really men who ignore their own needs — which makes you prone to codependency, manipulativeness, and resentfulness. Sound familiar? If so, he shows you how to break out of those patterns, and be a decent person without being a doormat. It's pretty unique among books on relationships, and even codependency books specifically. Given its male appeal, this is our runner up.
$7.40 at Amazon.com
John Gray – Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus
Best for: Confused couples
This is a cliche among books about relationships. But there's a reason why it's one of the best selling relationship books of all time. Although it consists of generalities about gender that aren't necessarily true of everyone, its central thesis is totally reasonable — that men and women tend to be different, and that you'll have a better relationship if you acknowledge these differences and work with them. This is a good one for couples to read together.
$10.15 at Amazon.com
Greg Behrendt & Liz Tuccillo – He's Just Not That Into You
Best for: Men who need another perspective
A book for women about male disinterest might not be first among your chosen books on love. But it's good to know how male signals are interpreted by the opposite sex. In fact, it's probably one of the best relationship books for singles — you'll get a lot of insight into women's anxieties about dating.
$11.29 at Amazon.com
Gary L. Thomas – Sacred Marriage
Best for: Newlyweds
If you're not Christian, you might be thinking "what the hell is this Sacred Marriage book doing on your list?" Well, it's included because it's one of the best books on marriage whether or not you're religious. Basically, the message — which is delivered in a strongly religious context — is that couples shouldn't avoid struggle and change and stay in their relationship just because it's comfortable and nice. It's one of the best marriage books because it reinforces an absolutely necessary guideline: that marriage should be about something deeper than moment-to-moment jollies. Trust me: even if you're not into the whole Jesus thing, this is a book to read before marriage.
$10.15 at Amazon.com
Michele Weiner Davis – The Sex-Starved Marriage
Best for: Low-libido couples
This is one of those marriage books whose title provokes a certain kind of dread. Because we all think/hope that our marriages will be filled with awesome, meaningful sex. But often that's not quite what happens. And a lack of physical affection can poison a whole relationship. It's embarrassing to confront, but you've got to, and this is one of the marriage counselling books that can help. It deals with both human halves of the equation — the partner with the lower sex drive, and the partner with the higher sex drive — and focuses on having a more empathetic as well as a sexier relationship. Read this, even if you're embarrassed to carry it around in public.
$12.16 at Amazon.com
Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton & Sheila Heen – Difficult Conversations
Best for: Men who have trouble with conflict
Sometimes, the best books on love and relationships aren't exclusively about romance. This is a book on communication in general — how to resolve situations of conflict comfortably. This is a huge skill that'll help you in every arena of life, but it's especially consequential in romance. One of the crucial parts of a good relationship is the ability to fight well: you and your perfectly wonderful dream girlfriend are going to piss each other off eventually, so you'd better learn to do it in a healthy way. And if this sounds like softball reading for wimps, you should know that it's written by teachers at the Harvard Negotiation Project. This is systematic, well-researched stuff.
$13.65 at Amazon.com
Gary D. Chapman – The Five Love Languages
Best for: Men who have trouble communicating affection
Unfortunately, people are really complicated in terms of what makes them feel loved. Some people enjoy being endlessly complimented, whereas others think words are a shallow vessel for the communication of true affection. Some people like spontaneous presents, but some people think they're gross manifestations of capitalism, or whatever. This book will help you tackle this subject. It help you identify what kind of love your partner needs — what their love language is, as the lingo of the books goes — and it helps you communicate in that language if it's not your own. If your girlfriend is telling you that she doesn't feel appreciated despite your constant efforts to be appreciative, this is the book for you.
$6.66 at Amazon.com