Can I add one that has changed my life? (and hopefully my future marriage)..... ''The Meaning of Marriage" by Tim and Kathy Keller is full of truth, love and wisdom that cuts through argument to the bone. There are few things I've read that have left me both full of Holy inspiration AND a real world plan for carrying out life while NOT making me feel entitled but equal and humble. A mouthful, I know, but try it. You won't be sorry.
Must Read Marriage Books
These books provide the basic tools needed to be an awesome husband. I am pretty good at fixing things without the right tools, but doing well so it is long-lasting, and doing the job without hurting yourself or doing damage to anything requires using the right tools. That is what this list of books is about: giving you the tools you need to be an awesome husband for the long haul, without hurting yourself or breaking anything!
A few thoughts and disclosures up front:
- Not all of the books are about marriage. A couple are more about life, but teach something you must know to be a good husband.
- Not all of these books will be Christian. I am not going to list anything at serious odds with Christian doctrine, but there is great stuff out there that comes from people who are not followers of Jesus. Truth is truth, and wisdom is wisdom.
- I am going to include affiliate links to the books when possible, but my motivation is not making money; I really think you need to read these books! If you can borrow the books from a friend or get them for the library that’s great. You can find many of these books at used book stores. If you know a low-cost source for any of the books I mention, please post it in the comments.
- If time is a problem for you or if you just hate reading, you might try audio-books. I will list audio-book sources when possible.
- If you are a pastor, or have the ear of your pastor, I highly suggest you make sure that all these books are in your church library.
- There are some great books I will not mention because all their ideas are found within the other books I mention.
Changes That Heal
by Henry Cloud
In this book, Dr. Cloud discusses the four things we must do to become mature: Bond to others – Separate from others – Sort out good and bad in ourselves and others – Become an adult. This can be a painful read, but it can also be life and marriage changing.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
by John M. Gottman
Gottman is a research-based guide to a better marriage. Gottman has spent decades watching couples and examining what works and what does not. Many of his findings are contrary to conventional wisdom, but they are backed by both research and success stories from couples who have applied his principles.
The book includes questionnaires and exercises designed to help you find the problems in your marriage and work on change. While much of it focuses on what you can do, it also gives solid advice for dealing with your spouse’s problem behaviours.
You will see both yourself and your wife in this book, and you will find ways to make changes if you are willing to do the work. It is not a fast read, but it is a book that can change your marriage if you apply what it says.
Grace Filled Marriage: The Missing Piece, the Place to Start
by Tim Kimmel
One of the best marriage books I have ever read. The writing is excellent, the stories are great and sometimes funny, but what makes the book exceptional is the concept behind it. Grace is all too rare in our modern society, and sadly, this is especially true in marriages. A marriage without grace will be miserable – at best.
Beyond just convincing us our marriages need more grace, Kimmel gives some easy to understand and apply ways to do that very thing. Of course easy to apply does not mean easy to live 24/7/365, but at least he tells us how to do it.
I have seen several people say, “If you read one marriage book this year, make it this one.” I cannot think of any other book more deserving of that claim. If your marriage is less than perfect, this book is for you!
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature
by Peter Scazzero
I talk a good deal here about “growing up”, and that is what this book is about. Author Peter Scazzero suggests that learning the facts of the Bible does not bring about emotional health, and this can deeply limit our spiritual life. We cannot learn our way out of our past and our immaturity, we have to do the work required to grow up.
This is a very challenging book. You will see truth about yourself you do not like. You will realise you are not as mature as you want to think. If you have the courage, you will also find the tools to make changes; real, life altering changes.
I think this would make a great group study (planning to do that this fall) as long as you have a group that is committed to the process and to each other. I would suggest only taking those who have read the book into such a study.
For Men Only, Revised and Updated Edition: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women
by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn
For men only is a follow up to the very popular for women only by Shaunti Feldhahn. This book, by Shaunti along her husband Jeff, is designed to help men understand their wives. Insights into what women think (as well as just how much they think) give you a good starting place. You will also find information to help you decode her oddest behaviour, and suggestions for how to avoid or recover from common mistakes. Among other things, this book explains just how different male and female brains are, and it does a good job of turning complicated brain science into everyday English.
Every woman is unique, so you cannot read this and walk away an expert, but you will walk away with tools that will help you learn your wife.
The Irresistible Husband
by Jason Gratehouse
I have been through this e-book twice, and I am working through it with a friend. I have become fully convinced this is one of the twelve best marriage-enriching books I have read. This book is simple, brilliant, and biblical. The lessons are easy to understand, and you may already know much of it on some level. Doing these things will not be easy, and you will no doubt stumble a number of times, but if you can do most of it fairly well you will become irresistible to your wife.
You could read this book in a few sittings, but I suggest taking it slow. Try a chapter a week for three months. Then go back a few months later and read it again.
Doing these things will be hard work, but it is not complex. You can do this if you put your mind to it, and you, your wife, and your marriage will benefit greatly.
The Irresistible Husband
by Joshua Becker
Inside-Out Simplicity is about living a simpler life. Not simple as in boring, this is about being focused and intentional. Joshua talks about many of the things I regularly say here: generosity, kindness, forgiving and serving. Healthy relationships are a major part of a simplified life, and Joshua talks practically about marriage and family.
This is probably the least expensive ($2.99) and shortest (90 pages) book I will list. That does not make it a light read! As with many e-books, Inside-Out Simplicity cuts the fluff to pack a great deal of excellent content in a small package.
Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together
by Mark & Grace Driscoll
One of the great things about Real Marriage is the focus on friendship – something conspicuously missing from many marriage books. The Driscoll’s also do a very good job dealing with sexuality (an area where I am not easily impressed!). Then there is “taking out the trash” – an excellent chapter you will likely find yourselves repeating.
This book works very well for a small marriage group/class. Lori and I participated in a group that used just the book and the participant’s guide, and the results were excellent. I have also talked to those who used the DVD course as a group, and I hear that is also very good.
For yourself, as a couple, or done as a group, this book will challenge you and point the way to a better marriage
Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives
by Richard Swenson, M.D.
I have mentioned this book a number of times, and the ideas in this book show up regularly in my posts. The bottom line of this book is that we are too busy, and lack necessary margin, or uncommitted time. Richard Swenson, an M.D., says that life happens in the margin, and without margin, we don’t have much of a life. Swenson is convinced that more margin results in greater physical and mental health, better financial stability, more fulfilling relationships, and being able to do what God calls us to do. I could not agree more! I realise that many of the marital problems I see are a direct or indirect result of a lack of margin. I would also say a lack of margin is a major underlying factor in the majority of divorces – if nothing else a lack of margin prevents (or is used as an excuse) working out the problems.
Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs
by Dr. Emerson Eggerich
Lori and I used the book as the basis for a marriage study group a number of years ago and that went very well. I have had people tell me this book saved their marriage, and others tell me it is what started them on the path to a better marriage. I have heard both men and women express excitement about the book. I agree with others that the book can be a big help to most marriages; those that are in trouble as well as couples with good marriages who want great marriages.
The basic concept of the book is seen in the title – he is looking for true respect while she is looking for unconditional love. Eggerichs explains what these look like in real life, and shows couples how to move from the Crazy Cycle of conflict to the Energizing Cycle of change
Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World
by Bob Goff
Bob Goff has written a wonderful book aptly named Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World. While Bob clearly loves his wife deeply, and is generous in showing his love to her (and anyone looking on), the book is not about marriage. Bob is all about whimsy, with a distinctly Christ like flavour. Bob does not see people as projects, he sees them as an opportunity to love and give. Problems are chances to learn, and closed doors sometimes need to be kicked in.
Bob sees faith as simple and real; you don’t have to be a scholar to feel the truth and depth of the Bible, and you don’t have to go to seminary to touch lives with the power and love of Jesus. Bob is also a total nut, in the best sort of way, and he enjoys life in a way most of us cannot even imagine. Love Does is wonderfully written, with a beautiful mix of humour, passion, and deep truth. You will laugh, and you will likely cry too. The must know idea for marriage in this book is grace; not “greasy grace”, but real, Christ like grace.
My bride and I so enjoy this book we have bought copies for a number of family and friends. Lori is on her second read, and I expect to read it several more times this year (I have never reread a book the same year!) I recommend this book most strongly!
The Five Love Languages
by Gary Chapman
In this book, Chapman explains that we all hear love in one of five different ways. If you are not speaking love the way your wife understands it, she will not feel love no matter what you doing or how well you do. Learning the five love languages and figuring out which are your wife’s primary love language(s) makes it far easier for you to bless her and to be an awesome husband. This is a short easy read and I highly recommend that you read it multiple times.
@michaeljohnk I know Keller, but not this book. Have it on my wish list. Thanks!
No problem, i want you to know that your series on men facing divorce helped me keep my hope through my divorce, and that I'm having dinner with my ex-wife (the love of my life) tonight after not seeing each other for four months. I've used this time to truly get into the word, and work on me. I don't know what will come of it, but I'm allowing it to happen. Not trying to make it. And I'm praying without cease! You are doing God's work brother. Keep it up.
@michaeljohnk Thanks for sharing. I have that on my wish list as well. God bless.
@michaeljohnk Joining you in prayer!