My wife and I are in couples therapy and things are really improving. We’re communicating better, we have more fun together, and we both feel hopeful about our future. What book do you recommend for couples who want to continue working on their relationship in between couples therapy sessions?
We’re so glad to hear that your experience in couples therapy is helpful and making a positive difference. This is the power of good help from a marriage counseling specialist! The experienced couples therapists and marriage counselors at Emily Cook Therapy in Bethesda, MD often recommend books to couples. Here are four recommendations for three books that will help you continue to repair and enrich your relationship in between sessions:
**This post is the third in our new monthly series, “Ask Our Therapists.” Even though each therapist at Emily Cook Therapy works from a similar overall counseling philosophy, we are also each unique in how we think about problems and offer support. We hope by reading our different answers to the same question, you get a better sense of who we are as individuals and how we each could help!**
Emily Cook, licensed marriage and family therapist: Once couples therapy is underway and we’re making progress towards initial goals like communication and having more fun together, I encourage couples to turn their attention to their sexual relationship. Sex is such an important part of marriage, and so much more meaningful that the physical acts. I often say to couples: “sex isn’t love making, love makes sex.” A book I consistently recommend is Dr. Emily Nagoski’s book, Come As You Are. Although it’s written about female sexuality and often addresses female partners, there is still tons of helpful information for male partners and couples together. Dr. Nagoski writes with a natural, light-hearted voice that can simultaneously clearly explain recent brain science research findings and make you laugh. Her metaphors are instantly helpful and applicable to changing stuck sexual patterns, such as thinking about desire in terms of its “accelerators” (what turns you on and gets your motor going) and its “brakes” (what turns you off and stops that motor cold). I highly, highly recommend Come As You Are!
Caryn Malkus, licensed marriage and family therapist: Hold Me Tight by Dr. Susan Johnson is a must–read for all couples, especially those who are looking to heal their relationship and sustain deeply fulfilling connections with one another. Dr. Johnson is a renowned clinical psychologist and the developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), the most empirically validated form of couples therapy. EFT is the technique I wholeheartedly endorse and use regularly in my practice. The book Hold Me Tight does an amazing job of explaining the theory behind EFT technique, but also provides practical strategies to bring couples closer together. Dr. Johnson expertly outlines seven conversations that partners can have to strengthen their emotional bond and transform negative moments into positively attuned ones. The book is nothing short of eye-opening, and it serves as an excellent resource for those going through the process of couples therapy!
Jocylynn Stephenson, licensed marriage and family therapist: There are many great books for couples looking to enrich their relationships. One of my favorites is Intimacy & Desire by Dr. David Schnarch. In the book, Dr. Snarch discusses an issue that many couples face — loss of intimacy. The brilliance of this book is the way that the concepts Dr. Schnarch discusses can be generalized to other common relationship difficulties. He talks about the tension between high- and low-desire partners in the context of physical intimacy, but his recommendations can easily be applied outside of the bedroom as well. The book is not a quick read, but what it loses in page length it more than makes up in readability. Dr. Schnarch writes about couples in easy, non-technical language. I recommend Intimacy & Desire to almost every couple I see.
Kaitlin Doyle, licensed marriage and family therapist: The book that I would recommend to almost any couple is Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson. I think this book is a good compliment to the way that I approach couple’s therapy in that it recognizes the importance of attachment in relationships and helps clients understand the recurring patterns or “dances” that plague their relationship. Another reason that I love this book is that it has something for everyone! Dr. Johnson makes use of relevant research for those who appreciate science, uses helpful metaphors to explain relationship dynamics, and offers exercises/activities at the end of each chapter to practice the concepts that you’ve learned. So, whether you’re feeling that you’ve made great strides in therapy or just starting out, Hold me Tight is on the top of my recommendation list!