Five great books for building better and healthier relationships
Updated: Feb 19
Dr Liza Chervonsky, Clinical Psychologist & Director of Inlight Psychology
So you want to improve your relationships, but where do you begin? You're not necessarily thinking about therapy but you do want to improve your understanding and find better ways to relate to others. So where do you turn? There are books, magazines, articles, podcasts, videos, online forums, TV shows, documentaries, parents, friends… the list goes on. But how does one know which resources are reliable? Often, "common sense advice" can perpetuate and only further reinforce unhealthy and toxic messages about relationships, communication, and expectations. Sometimes the advice out there can encourage partners to play games and manipulate interpersonal situations, which just creates more problems and confusion in the future. Other times people can also be encouraged to take on an unhealthy level of independence in their lives, which makes it harder for them to relate and depend on others in times of need. We often see forums encouraging people to leave relationships at the first sign of trouble, without ever teaching people how to live with differences and overcome challenges that naturally arise in even the healthiest relationships. In short, the advice isn't always great.
Below is a short list of books that cover some of the key topics in relationships, including attachment styles, connection, communication and conflict. Most importantly, these books encourage a healthy and balanced approach to relationships. There are no quick fixes or short-cuts, but there is some sound advice on ways to make long-lasting and meaningful changes in your relationships.
A great place to start is by taking some time to understand yourself and how you relate to your romantic partners. Books that look at attachment styles help one reflect on their level of comfort in closeness or separation from their partner and how this plays out behaviourally. For example, some people crave closeness and experience anxiety about their relationship when they aren’t with their partner. Others feel much more comfortable being alone or tend to find it hard to get attached to potential romantic partners. Attachment books can be very valuable in understanding your behaviours, as well as your partner’s behaviours, and can help you gain insight into what a healthy or “secure” relationship can look like.
There are two great books that cover this topic well.
Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner's Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship
This book gives a great overview of the different attachment styles. It is balanced in its focus and provides suggestions and strategies on how to build closeness and healthy attachments. It helps you understand yourself and your partners better, and gives great insight into attachment styles that may be different to your own. It also contains guides on “fighting well” and managing conflict in a way that helps to maintain your relationship.
Amir Levine & Rachel Heller
This is a great book that focuses on people with anxious or insecure attachments. It is easy to read and very relatable for those who identify as insecurely attached. It also has a strong focus on the unhealthy relationship cycles that an anxiously attached person can form with an avoidant person (otherwise known as the anxious-avoidant relationship). However, be warned that the book strongly encourages an anxiously attached person to form a relationship with a securely attached individual rather than someone with an avoidant style. It does have some tips on how to make a relationship work with an avoidant person, but you may feel strong pressure to avoid this kind of relationship altogether. Nonetheless, it is a great book and can really help build awareness and understanding of yourself and the people around you.
Building healthy relationships
The Relationship Cure
John Gottman is a well-known researcher and clinician and provides extensive information about what makes relationships work well or poorly. There’s a strong focus on how to increase connection and how to “turn towards” rather than “turn away from or against” your partner. It can be a valuable book for someone who is wanting to develop stronger connections with others and is relevant not only for romantic relationships, but for friendships and family relationships too.
Hold Me Tight
Sue Johnson is another very important author and clinician in the relationship therapy domain. This book is excellent at describing common unhealthy patterns and helping people understand how arguments and fights can spiral out of control. She encourages healthy and honest communication and highlights the importance of vulnerability in helping rebuild connection.
The Dance of Anger
While this book is addressed to women, the ideas in it are interesting and valuable for everyone. One of the important messages in this book is that you cannot change your partner and venting about it without addressing the key problem, will keep you in a state of anger. This is a powerful and empowering book, encouraging one to take positive and healthy action in their lives to improve their relationships with others.
Dr Liza Chervonsky, Principal Clinical Psychologist and Director
Dr Liza Chervonsky is the principal clinical psychologist and director of Inlight Psychology in Bondi Junction. She has a Doctor of Clinical Psychology and a PhD. Her therapy style is relational and attachment-informed, and she balances strategies with deeper core work. She works at a cognitive, emotional, behavioural, relational and experiential level.
Inlight Psychology has a team of psychologists trained in the treatment interpersonal and relationship difficulties. To book an appointment, call our reception on (02) 8320 0566 or email to email@example.com.
If you would like to learn more about the team at Inlight Psychology, click here.