For many of us, going to therapy or seeking relationship wisdom comes at a time of necessity. We need to fix something that’s broken, and urgently seek out a “how to”. We have a child on the way and scramble to learn up on as much as we can in 9 months. While this may work some of the time, this style of acquiring wisdom or learning can come with an awful lot of pressure.
After reading a book, it may take many months, or even years for the learning to truly sink in. Gathering information, sorting it with what feels right and true for each of us as individuals takes time. What if doing therapy or learning how our relationship patterns play out in present day was more common? Imagine what the landscape of romantic relationships might be if as a culture, we became devoted to seeking to understand ourselves and others as a normal step of transitioning into healthy adulthood.
By taking an active approach to nurturing our relationship and communication skills, we’re showing our partners (or potential partners) that we are not only committed to having a great relationship, but that we’re invested in ourselves too.
Once we’re in a relationship, our commitment must extend throughout the entire life of that relationship, not just in the beginning. Opportunities for growth are endless and each day we have to make a conscious choice to grow together or apart.
These books are gateways to a more conscious relationship, and communication that can support deep inner work, connectedness, and a relatable understanding inside of a romantic union. I clipped some of my favorite quotes and excerpts to give you an idea of the tone and theme of each one.
Inside the pages of these gems, you will discover:
- More about yourself and your childhood wounds that could be impacting your ability to have a great relationship with someone.
- Conscious communication skills.
- How to give and receive love in the languages both you and your partner understand.
- How to nurture a long-term relationship or marriage.
- How to re-ignite or deepen the sexual chemistry between you and your partner.
- How to fight in a healthy way with your partner.
- Conflict resolution skills.
- How your own unique life experiences have shaped your perceptions and how you express yourself when you’re angry, sad, or afraid.
- How to understand your partner better, so conflict resolution becomes easier.
- The spiritual journey of conscious partnership, and the philosophy behind committing to growth over a relationship that is just there to fill a need.
1. Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix
There’s another good reason to stop negativity: the negativity that we express towards our partners comes back like a boomerang and affects us as well. That’s because the old brain does not know whether the negativity is being directed outwards or inwards. This theory has been backed up by research. For example, studies show that when one person yells at another, the person being yelled at produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. That’s to be expected. But, surprisingly, the same increase in cortisol is seen in the angry person as well. One could say that any negativity that we direct toward others is a form of self-abuse.
2. Conscious Loving by Gay & Kathlyn Hendricks
Willingness to learn from each moment–as opposed to defending ourselves by stonewalling, explaining, justifying, withdrawing, blaming–is much more important than IQ, family background or education. The great advantage of openness-to-learning is that you’re in charge of it at all times. You can choose to shift out of defensiveness into genuine curiosity at any moment.
Withdrawal and projection are the natural outcomes of withholding. When you withhold, you keep inside yourself things that should be expressed. The very act of hiding these things takes you one step back from the relationship. A result of this withdrawal is that you will begin to project. In other words, you will begin to attribute to other people things that are actually issues of your own.
3. Mating in Captivity by Ester Perel
“For [erotically intelligent couples], love is a vessel that contains both security and adventure, and commitment offers one of the great luxuries of life: time. Marriage is not the end of romance, it is the beginning. They know that they have years in which to deepen their connection, to experiment, to regress, and even to fail. They see their relationship as something alive and ongoing, not a fait accompli. It’s a story that they are writing together, one with many chapters, and neither partner knows how it will end. There’s always a place they haven’t gone yet, always something about the other still to be discovered.”
4. Embracing the Beloved by Stephen and Ondrea Levine
For most, in the initial impact of bodies and minds, there arises an intensity and elation that draws each to the other. We have literally “fallen in love”. We have stepped off the ground and swooned into deep desire and broad emotions. But this chemical euphoria does not last, the phenylethylamines (PEAs) become chemically neutralized after a year or two of being metabolized, like any drug. The natural high of romantic love falls away.
The chemical component of this delightful hysteria gets our attention. But it is what we do with that attention that invites or discourages deeper involvement. Indeed it is the depth of its focus on what remains “unconscious” that makes a Relatiobship conscious. Romantic love revels on the physical and mental planes, dreaming future paradises in orgies of projection. But exploring together the subtle tug-of-hearts, which trembles at the edge of commitment, we move from the romantic to the harmonic.
This is not the delicate struggle of romance but a harmony of hearts, which includes the sympathetic pains of our ongoing births. And the sympathetic joy – one of the Buddha’s “great faculties of the heart” – which is the happiness at a other’s happiness. An attuned, compassionate caring. Romantic love is full of confessions and deceits. Harmonic love is a deep attunement in which self and “other” tend to merge in the Beloved. Romantic love is impulsive and filled with illusions and grief. Harmonic love is present and awake. Romantic love relates to (rather than with) another as it imagines them to be. Harmonic love experiences them within, as is.
5. Attached by Amir Levine (Author), Rachel Heller (Author)
Adult attachment designates three main “attachment styles”, or manners in which people perceive and respond to intimacy in romantic relationships, which parallel those found in children: Secure, Anxious, and Avoidant.
Basically, secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving; anxious people crave intimacy, are often preoccupied with their relationships, and tend to worry about their partners ability to love them back; avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness.
In addition, people with each of these attachment styles differ in:
• their view of intimacy and togetherness
• the way they deal with conflict
• their attitude toward sex
• their ability to communicate their wishes and needs
• their expectations from their partner and the relationship
All people in our society, whether they have just started dating someone or have been married for forty years, fall into one of these categories, or more rarely, into a combination of the latter two (anxious and avoidant). Just over 50 percent are secure, around 20 percent are anxious, 25 percent are avoidant, and the remaining 3 to 5 percent fall into the fourth, less common category (combination anxious and avoidant).
Adult attachment research has produced hundreds of scientific papers and dozens of books that carefully delineate the way in which adults behave in close romantic ties. These studies have confirmed, many times over, the existence of these attachment styles in adults in a wide range of countries and cultures. Understanding attachment styles is an easy and reliable way to understand and predict people’s behavior in any romantic situation. In fact, one of the main messages of this theory is that in romantic situations, we are programmed to act in a predetermined manner.
6. Receiving Love by Harville Hendrix
Experiencing empathy, the freedom to explore, trust, and insight can reset your default reactions to a more curious, tolerant, and confident stance. Because our brains are plastic, consistently positive experiences do stimulate existing neurons to adapt and connect in different pathways. Nurturing relationships help us grow psychologically and neurally in ways that are not possible in nonnurturing relationships. As adults, our most important opportunity for a nurturing relationship comes through committed partnership. It’s a breakthrough to realize that the purpose of committed relationship is not to be happy, but to heal. And then you will be happy!
7. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Our spouse will usually interpret our message based on our tone of voice, not the words we use.
People tend to criticize their spouse most loudly in the area where they themselves have the deepest emotional need.
Quality time does not mean that we have to spend our together moments gazing into each other’s eyes. It means that we are doing something together and that we are giving our full attention to the other person.
We forget that marriage is a relationship, not a project to be completed or a problem to solve. A relationship calls for sympathetic listening with a view to understanding the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and desires.