The Real Thing, by Ellen McCarthy
A former wedding reporter for the Washington Post, McCarthy shares the insights she gained from research, personal experience, and interviews with hundreds of couples. In 63 short chapters, McCarthy offers advice on how to find love (time to suck it up and get online, if you’re not already), how to know when you’ve found, well, “the real thing” (do you feel safe and at ease?), and how to make it last (be nice and say “please and thank you.”) There’s plenty to take away from this sweet, but realistic, portrait of modern love.
To buy: $18, amazon.com.
The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman
First published in 1995, this guide outlines the different ways people feel loved: words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service (e.g., washing the dishes), quality time, and physical touch. According to Dr. Chapman, each of us has a primary love language that makes us feel loved, and that we typically use to show our love to others. Unfortunately, more often than not, we don’t speak the same language as our partners. This New York Times bestseller will help you understand which language you—and your spouse—speak and give you tips on how best to make one another feel loved and appreciated. This self-help book is a classic for a reason.
To buy: $10, amazon.com.
The Art of Communicating, by Thich Nhat Hanh
How often do we hear that good communication is the key to a healthy relationship? Opening this book with a beautiful metaphor, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh sees the words and language that we use (and choose to listen to) as food. To have a strong relationship, you must feed it nourishing, compassionate sustenance. Using examples from his own experience working with couples, families, colleagues, and international conflicts, Nhat Hanh reveals five steps to truly mindful communication that teach us to be better listeners, and in turn, better communicators.
To buy: $12, amazon.com.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman, Ph.D.
Researcher John Gottman writes that he can predict whether a couple will live happily ever after or end up divorced based on watching them interact for 15 minutes. And he’s accurate 91 percent of the time. The couples who survive tend to be what he calls “emotionally intelligent.” They have found a dynamic that keeps their negative thoughts and feelings about each other (let’s face it, all couples have them) from overshadowing their positive ones. To achieve this goal, Gottman outlines seven principles that guide couples on a path towards a long-lasting relationship. A sampling: know what makes each other tick, want and choose to make each other happy, and turn towards each other rather than away. After all, at the heart of a strong marriage is a strong friendship.
To buy: $11, amazon.com.
The Couple's Guide to Financial Compatibility, by Jeff Motske
From combining finances to retirement planning, certified financial planner Jeff Motske offers his guidance to keep you and your spouse from having the timeless fight over money. Motske urges you and your partner to ask each other tough questions like: What if one of us loses our job? Can we afford kids? How do we care for our kids and our parents at the same time? The conversations may not be easy, but they are worth it.
To buy: $12, amazon.com.
The Marriage Book, by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen Adler
A married couple culled hundreds of letters, jokes, songs, novels, plays, movies, and poems to examine every aspect of marriage, from Adam and Eve to Jealousy to Zoloft. Spanning centuries, this 560-page tome features the thoughts of great minds like Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, and even Louis C.K. Both moving and shocking—but always hilarious—this dictionary is a crash course in marriage and what we think of it.
To buy: $27, amazon.com.
Newlywed Cookbook, by Sarah Copeland
Inspired by cooking at home with her husband, Real Simple’s food director, Sarah Copeland, shares more than 130 recipes for you and your loved one to share together. With personal stories, tips for stocking your pantry, and meals that are perfect for a table of two, this cookbook is a delicious gift for any couple. As Copeland writes, “Fresh food, prepared with love, is a key ingredient to happy, healthful, and playful relationships. It’s much easier to laugh through a disagreement when your bellies are full of delicious, nurturing food.” Bon appétit!
To buy: $21, amazon.com.