Five Books to Read Before Getting Married
For all you couples out there getting ready to tie the knot — congrats! There are few pleasures greater than traveling life’s twists and turns with a beloved sidekick rolling right along with you.
Marriage is bliss! But marriage is also work.
And before you get hitched, you really should read up, study the great books on marriage and relationships with the same fervor you put into your search for the finest women’s wedding rings.
When you know what you’re getting into — when you go in with eyes wide open about all the good and all the ways you can navigate the tribulations — you’ll undoubtedly gain the skills to nurture your marriage, shaping it into that perfectly complex ball of love you’ve always dreamed of inhabiting.
What follows is a list of literary classics that will help your marriage thrive.
‘The Five Love Languages’
You’ll be hard pressed to find a book about pre-marriage must-reads that doesn’t include The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The classic tome was published in 1995 and has sold well north of 10 million copies since first hitting the shelves.
Chapman’s goal is to help couples fully understand how their partners express their love. “One of our deepest emotional needs is to feel loved by the significant people in our lives,” Chapman says. “ My book is designed to help you effectively communicate love. What makes one person feel loved will not make another person feel loved. We must discover and speak each other’s love language.”
Become fluent in Chapman’s “Love Languages” and you’ll find yourself in a happier marriage with more emotional depth.
‘Mating in Captivity’
If Chapman helps couples express love, author Esther Perel helps them openly express lust in her highly regarded Mating in Captivity, a guide to long-term sexual satisfaction for the mutually domiciled.
“We have, for the first time in history, a sexuality within long-term relationships that isn’t about having ten kids or a woman’s marital duty,” Perel says. “And in the process, we have linked sexual satisfaction with marital happiness; that is what has made sexuality an important element of modern marriages.”
Fulfilling your partner’s physical needs is perhaps the finest way to keep smiles on your faces. It’ll also help to keep those wedding bands on your fingers from feeling like shackles.
‘The Book of Forgiving’
Relationships suffer when slights pile up. Couples get into a bad habit of hanging onto grievance, which transforms into an insidious bitterness. It’s critical to develop the ability to let go and move on, as authors Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu argue in their seminal The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World.
“If I slap you after you slap me, it does not lessen the sting I feel on my own face, nor does it diminish my sadness over the fact that you have struck me,” Desmond Tutu says. “Retaliation gives, at best, only momentary respite from our pain. The only way to experience healing and peace is to forgive. Until we can forgive, we remain locked in our pain and locked out of the possibility of experiencing healing and freedom, locked out of the possibility of being at peace.”
In Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up, author Harriet Lerner, PhD, provides an essential guidebook — a how-to, if you will — on the basic practices and habits that keep relationships healthy and humming along.
Lerner argues that the basics are in fact common knowledge. We know what it takes to make relationships thrive. But it takes discipline to act appropriately toward your partner, and when things go south, they can snowball in a hurry. In her introduction, she lays out a solid plan and provides a helpful four-point bulletin to keep couples on track:
- “Goodwill and a genuine wish to create a better marriage.
- An openness to focusing on yourself (not self-blame but rather the capacity to observe and change your own steps in a pattern that is bringing you pain).
- A willingness to engage in bold acts of change.
- A willingness to practice, practice, practice.”
‘The Art of Loving’
Erich Fromm’s slim but powerful The Art of Loving is also commonly prescribed as a must-read for couples who are about to embark on the sacred bond of marriage. Fromm’s book, published back in 1956, describes love as a tool we can hone, a skill no different — apart from it being essential to a fulfilling life and marriage — from any other skill we can acquire and perfect through disciplined practice.
“Most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving, of one’s capacity to love,” Fromm says. “Hence the problem to them is how to be loved, how to be lovable.”
Fromm says the framework for our capacity to love properly starts with self-love, for if you don’t adequately love who you are, you’re unlikely to fully — and adequately — love those who are attached to you. The knowledge contained in this volume can propel couples through any obstacle that may arise. The skills will also go a long way toward preventing the obstacles from arising in the first place.